What is art therapy? CKUT radio interview

Last Wednesday I received a phone call from Portia Larlee, from CKUT radio 90.3 FM who asked if I could to do a phone interview on the subject of creativity and mental health. The questions provided however had more to do with art therapy and my work here at the Douglas. I prepared my answers in accordance, but ended up being asked  fewer questions than what I had prepared for. I am posting their questions and my answers here.

IMG_0109  The questions and answers

1) What is art therapy? How does it work?

Art therapy is an approach to therapy, that uses art mediums and methods to support change and/or insight into problematic areas of living with the goal of re-establishing or enhancing wellbeing.

It works in numerous ways. The short answer: Making art, externalises the various issues, either through the process of making the art or through the subject matter of the images or 3D shapes, even when the image or shape is abstract. Seeing them out there makes the issue more accessible to work with. It can be fun, however it is SERIOUS and ‘deep’ fun!

2) Do you find it beneficial for patients at the Douglas hospital?

I work in child psychiatry, with children and families. The children I work with often have difficulties expressing their thoughts and feelings into words; many times there are NO words to express what is going on. Pictures in this respect become a different kind of language that makes dialogue more accessible. At times they tell metaphorical stories of their issues when superheroes rescue someone from the bad guys, or they build hospitals to cure the nice lady who is sick all the time. Other times it is much less straight forward. Though we can find clues to what is going on in a picture, pictures and 3d shapes usually serve as a support to expand their story telling abilities.

To answer your question; art making is beneficial in a number of ways, it is usually enjoyable, and often times a non threatening means of communicating between therapist, child, and family. Making art, with practice, enhances self-esteem, develops executive functions such as problem solving abilities, adaptability and tolerance for ambiguity and supports creativity, a most useful ability that can be useful in many areas of life.

2) Where did you get your training to be an art therapist?

At Concordia University, here in Montreal. Professional art therapist must complete a 60 credit master’s degree to practice in Quebec. If anyone is interested in knowing more they can contact the AATQ, the association of art therapists in Quebec. Web site: AATQ.org

4) I found art therapy to be a relaxing and productive endeavour. It was a way to release all of my inner emotions and thoughts. What does it mean to you? Do you find art therapy to be meaningful?

I first encountered art therapy without knowing what it was. I was making art that not only made me feel better but it was a way to find a path of understanding in otherwise confusing areas of my life. However, it was only when I first sat with a professional art therapist that I understood that another person was essential in helping me better understand the meaning and sense of my images; basically we could jointly search and piece the puzzle together. This type of art therapy is an insight oriented type of therapy; the art (process and product) provides visual clues to make sense of the issues.

There are also studio approaches where the therapeutic goal is not about understanding problems, but about developing and enhancing self-worth. This approach provides an art making experience within a group format; the space and materials made available are very important. In contrast to an insight oriented approach, there are often public exhibitions of the works. A well known community service called <Les Impatients> is such a place.

There are many other approaches and theories that inform art therapy; too many to enumerate here.

5) How do you know when art therapy is successful or not?

As in any therapy, change becomes visible when the issues we are working on begin to show movement. That means that the feelings, behaviours or problematic thoughts or thinking, are shifting. But what is more interesting, is the fact that the changes usually begin to show up in the art making process and product, even before they become obvious in their lives. Images tend to lead the way.

6) What are some of the different art therapy projects you are working on? What kind of art therapy do you do?

I work with a wide age range (0-18) and variety of difficulties. I can work with learning disabled children, ADHD, trauma, depression, eating disorders, phobias, conduct disorder, and many more complex issues. Each requires an art therapy approach adapted to the child’s abilities, developmental level, and tailored to address their specific difficulties. The first goal is always about reaching the child and engaging him in the process; and second, supporting change and better adaptation.

In my work I mostly do individual art therapy. I also provide parent-child art therapy in small groups, where we mostly work on relationship issues; I also work with families to help them better understand the family dynamics at play. I also consult, teach and supervise. … and blog when I have a bit of time.

The broadcast should air, I was told, some time mid-December. The radio show is called Radio-Moon which broadly covers topics about mental health and mental illness. They provided the following introduction. 

Radio Moon is a collective radio show that broadcasts on CKUT 90.3 FM once a month. We at Radio Moon try to do a lot of different things: educate ourselves about mental illness, educate others, tell our stories, share our work, in the hopes that we can help to reduce stigma against people with mental illness while having fun and learning about how to make radio. Radio Moon is brought to you by Forward House, a community based organization dedicated to helping adults working on their mental health. For more information on upcoming radio moon shows, please visit www.forwardhouse.org or www.ckut.ca.

You can listen to the 5 min recording from this link.

Classé dans , , , , .

Catégorisé dans Autres, Interviews and presentations.

Publié le 20 nov 2012

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