I was a below average art student back in high school and the idea of taking on an art project in my 30s made me a little uncomfortable. Maybe because the memories of my draconian and disengaged art teacher made me question my ability to create something worthwhile or maybe because being alone in a room with nothing but a blank canvass and some paints made me feel inadequate, like a beginner all over again.
None the less, I had made a commitment to create, to create something outside of myself, something I could use as meditation practice, reflecting during and after. And, probably the greatest motivator is the fact that there is something about colours, paints, pencils, crayons that make me happy in my soul.
As part of the Wellness Issue, I decided to do some research about a profession that had always intrigued me, Art Therapy, and I resultantly ended up with some really great resources, a cup of ginger tea and an old Adult Colouring Book someone had gifted me about 6 years ago but remained untouched. I figured, I had taken some strain during the Lockdown, I was 6 months pregnant, a recovering smoker with some mood issues and undergoing quite a lot of change in a short period of time. I started to colour.
“Art therapists are trained to understand the roles that colour, texture, and various art media can play in the therapeutic process and how these tools can help reveal one’s thoughts, feelings, and psychological disposition.”
American Art Therapy Association
A little closer to home, my research journey led me to find Lefika La Phodiso,‘The Rock of Holding’, Africa’s first psychoanalytically informed Community Art Counselling training centre. Lefika La Phodiso facilitates interprovincial community outreach projects through recognising the need for psychosocial health. Offering a part-time Community Art Counselling which is supervised by psychotherapists from the Institute of Psychoanalytic Child Psychotherapy and the South African Psychoanalytic Confederation, in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture, the Training Centre gave me the boost I needed to start.
My research was telling me to pick up that colour pencil. It was also telling me that there are a lot of things I didn’t understand about myself when I was sitting in that high school art class and maybe that was why I stayed. I wanted to understand more about Art Therapists and their role when it comes to wellbeing and health. As healthcare professionals who are specifically trained to work with those with medical illnesses, art therapy uses the creative process as an exploratory one, making room for patients to engage their interests, concerns, conflicts and feelings through art expression. Rehabilitation centres, hospitals and community centres often facilitate art therapy as a means to provide an alternative structure to traditional therapy.
“Making art…may be as important to your health as balanced nutrition, regular exercise, or meditation. Art therapy can give you another avenue of communication of feelings, thoughts and experiences and can help you to use your own creativity to increase your sense of well-being.”
Cathy Malchiodi, PhD
Backed by new studies, this statement seems less audacious as we extend into the swinging 20s where radical wellness initiatives such as water fasts seem far more questionable. Cathy’s work continued to be an excellent resource; by the time I had taken cognisance of my progress, my colouring book (still under construction) had been joined by 4, 40 x 50 cm blank canvasses and my colouring pencils now sat alongside some oil paints and a jar of linseed oil. I had been influenced to create and whether or not that contributes to my wellness, I have initiated a practice which makes me feel more connected to myself.
- Drawing a Picture of Health: An Art Therapy Guide Psychology Today – Cathy Malchiodi (March 2017)
- Art Therapy Centre – Lefika La Phodiso, a registered NPC established in 1994
- Does Art Therapy Work for Anxiety? Creativity and Comprehensive Treatment Program Bridges to Recovery – Avery Tauber (October 2018)
- Art Therapy for Anxiety, Stress and Creativity Youtube – Hayes Art Therapy (October 2018)
- How to Draw Your Feelings + Painting Emotions Youtube – Thirsty For Art (July 2019)
- 100 Art Therapy Exercises Shelley Klammer
- Udemy Courses
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