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How do we talk about the work that I produce? – do you interpret it?

The art process itself is therapeutic, but talking about it can allow you to develop a deeper connection with the images and experiences expressed in the artwork. The sharing of ideas and feelings is guided by the artist and insightfully developed with the therapist. In groups, everyone can exhibit at the end of the session, during which time you can receive extra support from those around you. How you treat art often reflects how you treat people in your life. Talking as the image and ‘hearing its viewpoint’ can become challenging because your images may be part of you. The reflection of the art is just as important as the creation of it. By becoming involved in your artwork you can come to a deeper understanding of the experiences that have been expressed in the creative process.

Who can benefit from art therapy?

Art therapy is suitable for pre-school children, adolescents and adults, either in groups or individually. It is especially useful in helping people to deal with life changes, trauma, eating disorders, palliative care, illness, stress and relationship issues. Children who have been bullied or who display troubling behaviours can tell their story through images, which is less threatening than having to talk or organise their thoughts into words. It is often much easier for children and adults alike to express their ideas as a ‘blurt map’ or picture, releasing their inner thoughts when, where and how they arise.

The transition from childhood to adulthood can be particularly challenging and art therapy can help deal with some of the confusion. People with Asperger’s syndrome can particularly benefit, as art therapy allows them to express themselves and process their deeper emotions without having to make eye contact with the therapist. Adults with anger issues can use various art media to express their anger such as clay or paint, and feel calmer afterwards (see Case Study # 1). People can use art therapy to gain more insight into to why they may find it difficult to make decisions on a daily basis, or to organise themselves.

Art therapy offers many options for people with disabilities, even if one has poor fine motor skills, or is wheel-chair bound. If it is hard to control a fine paint brush, a sponge with water colours could be used, or simply hands and fingers. Indeed, people often begin with their story of how they are physically limited – “I have no strength in my right hand” or “I can’t really see out of my left eye because of my tumour”. Yet as they lose themselves in the art, they tend to lose their old story. For instance, they discover strength in their right hand, or they may compensate with their right eye. They feel a special satisfaction and joy at the end of the session.

Art therapy can help people release buried emotions and cope with fear, anxiety and depression. Children of cancer patients, can use art and creative activities to help them sort out the huge emotions that come with a parent being sick. Children who are unable to express themselves can often have difficulties in school and concentrating in class. Younger children can even regress to earlier stages of development, expressing their inner confusion as to why Ima or Aba is so distracted.

Do I need to have any prior art experience?

No – even people with no experience or obvious artistic talent can benefit enormously from art therapy. It is not the product or end result that counts, but rather the process of creating it.

Art therapy can take many forms, including:

  • Drawing, painting and sculpture work
  • Meditation & creative movement
  • Collage
  • Engaging with one’s artwork

What if I come to a session and I have a complete block?

There are no rules with art therapy – each session has a character of its own, as it depends on how you feel at the time. If you arrive at a session and can’t get going, we can work with your block. You may find that choosing a different art medium to work with helps to move things along, or we may work with relaxation techniques. Sometimes, silence itself can be healing.

How do I know if I need it?

Art therapy could be the answer if: traditional counselling methods seem monotonous because you do not feel like talking a lot; you feel that you have an artistic side within you that hasn’t been given the chance to come out; there is place for spirituality in your healing that perhaps the traditional psychiatric model does not address; other forms of healing have not worked; you would like to gain insight through more creative methods. It may be very helpful for people who feel uncomfortable with ‘touch’ or ‘talk’ therapies.

Do clients refer themselves or through GP/ school counsellor?

You can make contact on your own without needing a referral.

How long does a session take?

An individual session is one hour and a group session with 5-10 people takes about 90 minutes. You can choose whether to take part in group art therapy sessions or one-to-one appointments, depending on your needs.

How many sessions are required before you see results?

On your first visit, the art therapist will ask several questions about your problems or illness. They will then work with you to design a program of therapy that suits your particular needs, problems and expectations. This includes how often you have therapy. Your therapist may encourage you to do some artwork at home between sessions. You may have regular therapy for weeks or months.

You may come with a desired result in mind or an issue that is not allowing you to move forward in life. Depending on the issues and your willingness or openness, you may find results even after 1 session. Others simply enjoy the process of letting go and increasing their awareness and may come regularly for a long period of time. There can be no end to self-discovery. It can be a life long process if you want it to be.

What do you do with the issues revealed by the therapy?

All art therapists are obligated to confirm to the ACA (Australian Counsellors Association) standards of practice. These include client confidentiality and mandatory reporting. Records of each session are kept for every client. If necessary, clients may be referred to other health professionals. Generally the art therapy sessions come toward a healing close for the client, and no further referral is necessary.

What training/ experience do you have that qualifies you to be a therapist?

In 1994 I completed a double degree with a Bachelor of Business in Accounting and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I worked as an accountant for 15 years before I changed directions to combine creativity and helping people. Since then, I have completed a Diploma in Theta Mastery and a Diploma of Transpersonal Art Therapy. I am also a member of the Australian Association of Holistic and Transpersonal Counsellors (AAHTC). I am covered with professional indemnity insurance.

Your relationship with your art therapist is important. They will not teach you to draw or paint. They will encourage you to use art to explore your feelings, develop your own confidence and be more self aware and in doing so, will help you to enhance your general wellbeing and quality of life. Your therapist is responsible for creating a safe and interesting setting for you to work in. This can mean that over time you’re able to express powerful emotions that would otherwise stay bottled up. Therapy may bring up some very powerful and at times uncomfortable feelings. But if you do this in a safe environment with the support of a professionally trained art therapist it is usually quite a positive process.

If you don’t feel comfortable with anything that your therapist suggests, it is important that you feel able to say so, and discuss this with them.

Finding an art therapist

It is important to assess if your art therapist is properly qualified;

Ask the therapist what training they have received, how many years of training they’ve had, how long they’ve been practicing, and which kind of patients they have worked with

Ask if they have indemnity insurance (in case of negligence)

Case Study # 1 – An angry person with stress at work

This patient came to me through a Psychiatric Unit that he had been admitted to many times before. He had attended the unit’s outpatient training program for 12 months. He had trouble at work and felt that the whole world was “stacked up” against him. Within the first few moments of our session, in a safe and gentle setting, he began to tell me his story. His mother had sexually abused him each night in her bed. As he told his story his rage began to appear. He had “murderous thoughts” and was ready to break the furniture in the room. I encouraged him to release his anger in the paint. He began hesitantly but within seconds he was accessing his pain and anger, touching emotions “that I have never ever touched before”. Within two weeks of this session, the patient had changed jobs, decided to shift homes and joined a sexual abuse support group. He said he felt freer than he ever had.

Case Study # 2 – A terminally ill father

Working in the Palliative Day Care centre, I was told that my patient “has no use of his hands, and tires easily”. I quietly approached him. In the first few sessions I helped him hold a paint brush. We sat together as he chose images that I then glued into his album. At that time his energy lasted about half an hour. Months later, for a full two hour session, he was colouring in canvases with fine textas and with both hands completed a detailed mosaic. He chose coloured tiles, cut them with a tile cutter, glued them and then varnished his art. Amidst his chemotherapy and blood tests, the art therapy returned the quality and smile to his life. His artistic release made him more enjoyable to be around. His 5 year old son began spending more time with him, doing activities together that he had not done since he became unwell, such as fishing and creative activities at home.

Why the name Indigo?

INDIGO, the colour of the BROW chakra or third eye, relates to being responsible to yourself to follow your soul’s path and trust your own intuition. It refers to the ability to see things from a ‘higher’ viewpoint. Intuitive messages are unique to you and are for your own personal growth. I invite you to join me in Art Therapy to realise a more integrated sense of yourself, authenticity and self-acceptance in a creative and safe space.

The key to healing is in the name…. indigo : Go IN DIGout And let GO