I’m an artist. Art is my life, my passion and my healing … it’s my ultimate therapy, and my way of helping others.
I think what I love most about art as therapy is that you don’t need words.
Words are often problematic. For one – we don’t all share a language. I may speak fluent English, but was born in Russia and first learned words and the feelings associated with them in Russian. The word ‘mother’ may not awaken the same emotion in me as it does in you. Through our lives, words become tangled, complicated, filled with new meanings, based on our experiences. Basically – any two people can sit in a room and have two very different conversations.
Then there are emotions which are hard to put into words too. I’m sure we’ve all felt those. I personally struggled with emotions, so I would create a spontaneous artwork to actually see my emotions from the outside and to relate to them.
Art uses our dominant sense – sight, our most direct way of relating to the world. Art taps into a major factor that separates humans from the animal – our ability to create, to transfer what happens in our mind outwards, to create meaning.
Art therapy harnesses that creativity as a therapeutic technique, and it was such a powerful eye opener for me on a personal level that I wanted to share it with others.
I first started facilitating art therapy sessions a few years back at the Foundation Clinic drug rehab centre. I worked mostly with addicts in their first month of recovery and really got to see the power of art in action. I had the privilege to hear their stories, learn their struggles and share their joy. I got to see the light come on in their eyes as life returned. And I got to see that all expressed in their art too. I think I learned more from them than they ever could from me.
Since then I’ve facilitated sessions in various venues for different crowds, working with various mediums – paint, clay, chalk, found materials, working on individual pieces, creating art together as a group. Sometimes I choose a topic, sometimes we leave it open. No two sessions are the same.
Art therapy is suitable for everyone.
I’ve facilitated art therapy at orphanages, I’ve worked with mental health patients, addicts, children, and people with an interest in expressing themselves in a new way. I’ve worked with so many interesting people from all walks of life.
You don’t have to be ‘good at art’, nor is there such a thing. Many of my clients don’t think of themselves as ‘artistic’ – and tend to surprise themselves. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to expression. It’s about the experience of making it, and making it your own. The value lies in the space between your feelings around creating it and my feelings (as the therapist and an outsider) around seeing and interpreting it.
It’s so transformative that I want to bring it to more people. I’m working on starting online courses, and am currently working on getting the sponsorship I need to create free therapeutic environments for those who can’t afford it.
I’ve seen how art therapy can heal unspeakable traumas, I’ve seen tears unleashed and laughter unlocked. I’ve seen people find peace, strength, clarity, joy. I’ve seen them find themselves.
I’ve seen the power of what art can do.