We interviewed Laura to learn more about this expressive arts modality.
Santé: What is Art Therapy?
Laura: Art therapy is a modality for self-expression which integrates psychology and the creative process of art making. Feelings, ideas and experiences that are often difficult to express through language come to the surface and may be externalized through imagery, colour, symbol and metaphor. Creating art within a safe space and therapeutic relationship provides an opportunity to explore and express our rich inner experiences and allows for personal insight, empowerment, and increased well-being.
Santé: What does a typical session look like?
Laura: For an individual session I provide a safe space and a range of simple art materials for the artist-client to choose from, including drawing and painting materials, collage, and natural and recycled materials. We begin by checking in and grounding, and then move into art making where I hold space and witness the artist-client’s creative process. Finally, the artist-client is guided to look at his/her art and explore personal associations, feelings and narrative that arise. The art is viewed as an extension of the artist, having its own story to tell.
Santé: Who would benefit from this form of therapy?
Laura: Everyone can benefit from art therapy, whether it be to work through specific issues, or to tap into one’s creative potential. I work with children, youth, adults and elders. Some of the issues that art therapy can be supportive for are: grief and loss, trauma, coping with stress, fear and anxiety, transition, relationship dynamics, low self-esteem, personal identity, chronic pain and disease, and addictions.
Santé: Do you need to be an artist to benefit from art therapy?
Laura: A misconception that I often hear in my work is that a person needs to be an artist to benefit from art therapy. In fact, no previous art experience is necessary. The emphasis is placed on the process of art making, rather than the finished product. There is no right or wrong way of making art. Art therapy is a non-verbal approach to telling one’s story which bypasses the linear, thinking mind.
Santé: What role has Art Therapy played in your own life?
Laura: As children we innately express ourselves through art, but as we move into adulthood we often leave art behind due to other interests, lack of time, or because we feel we are not good enough as artists. I personally pushed art aside as an adolescent in order to focus on academics, which was emphasized to be much more important. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties after completing a degree in Biology that I finally chose to acknowledge the long-ignored yearning to create which had always been simmering on the edge of my consciousness. A profound shift occurred for me when I committed myself to the practice of art making. This includes an intentional practice of letting go of perfectionism and embracing my own personal style. Training as an art therapist supported me to go deep into my personal process, identify patterns, explore my personal identity, integrate life experiences and past traumas, and reframe my own narrative. Art therapy has given me a tool to explore and express my inner world, and to know myself more deeply.