Art Therapy: Creating a Safe Space for Self Expression

7 February 2024by Oqea Cares0

The term art therapy is often referred to as “an activity that completely engrosses the mind” (as well as the fingers). This week we delve in to Jasmin’s art therapy journey who has benefitted immensely from participating in art on her own mental health journey. Facing a range of personal challenges she was first introduced to Creative Expressions Centre for Arts Therapy at Graylands Hospital. She now helps other people going through their own mental health struggles as an art therapist by delivering art therapy programs for children and adults. This is Jasmine’s story.

What is Art Therapy?

The term “Art therapy” was coined by British artist Adrian Hill in 1942, who famously said art therapy “completely engrosses the mind (as well as the fingers)”. Art therapy is thought to “release the creative energy of the frequently inhibited patient”, which allowed the patient to “build up a strong defence against his misfortunes”. Although this doesn’t capture the full scope of modern art therapy it does provide a peak into its therapeutic value.

So what is art therapy? Is it angrily scribbling evil faces onto a piece of paper? Is it exploring your social support network with sand? Is it role playing an argument you had from anothers’ perspective? Well, its all of these things, and more.

 

Jasmine Edwards : Art Therapy in Action

Enter Jasmine, a local art therapy warrior who was generous enough to share her stories and experiences in the area. Currently finishing her Master’s of Art Therapy at Queensland University, Jasmine utilizes a broad range of modalities in her practice including sand, elements of drama and dance therapy and clay to name a few. However, the core of her art therapy practice lies within painting, the modality that once spoke to her so powerfully.

Jasmine herself once benefitted immensely from art therapy on her own mental health journey. Facing a range of personal challenges she was introduced to Creative Expressions Centre for Arts Therapy at Graylands. Although ineffective initially, over time painting invited her explore the potential for new opportunities within her life. She attributes art to giving her the inner motivation and drive to reinvest in herself and find new meaning. For her, this was to connect and help people in the same way art therapy had done for her. She was inspired and quickly started studying the topic. From there she worked in a young women’s rehab centre and has experienced how moving and impactful it can be first hand.

“It’s amazing seeing the difference art therapy can make in people. They way the light re-enters their eyes or the new found confidence they hold their shoulders up with.”

– Jasmine, Art Therapist and Mental Health Advocate

 

Today, while completing her studies, she supports a range of clients including cancer patients, drug-affected youth and sessions with disabled housing groups. For each of these groups their care differs immensely. Art therapy for clients with a disability is focused on encouraging them to take ownership and feel confident in their skills, often involving clay for example. While cancer patients can be more about exploring deeper emotions and experiences.

On the topic of cancer patients, Jasmine discussed her work with Solaris Cancer Care, a WA born organisation that offers complimentary care services to cancer patients of any form to them help deal with their cancer treatments and unique journeys. Here she runs both solo sessions and group art therapy sessions.

“Art therapy for cancer patients can be especially powerful. There are so many different emotions, experiences, and changes occurring for someone experiencing cancer. Understanding and accepting these elements of their life can be so powerful in improving their day to day”

She continued, explaining how group sessions were especially meaningful for these clients. Allowing them to not only express their inner thoughts and feelings but doing so with a group of people that can relate and understand far more than most. Making their experiences feel not only normal but manageable, compared to how isolating cancer can be for so many.

When asked about common misconceptions of art therapy she was quick to respond.

“First off, a lot of people think art therapy is for kids. It’s not just for kids, I actually enjoy art therapy with adults so much more, the changes they experience are far more powerful. Secondly, people think you need to be artistic or have experience with art. You don’t at all. I didn’t have any artistic knowledge before the therapy found me.”

Jasmine expressed her hopes that as mental health systems and providers in Australia become more connected, more people will see the value art therapy holds.

Art History : The Context

Art therapy has  officially been recognised by Britain, America and Europe since the 1940’s.¹ Its roots stem from “moral therapy” treatments in the 18th century³, but fortunately, our understanding of the practice has developed considerably since then.

Today over 30 art therapy association bodies exist globally.⁴ Our peak body ANZACATA, originally called the Australian National Art therapy Association, was formed in 1987 and since then has become the peak body for the New Zealand and Asian Pacific.⁵ They receive NDIS funding, along with funding from several New Zealand organisations, and in conjecture with the ACA (Australian Counselling Association) and PACFA (Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia) to provide accreditation for Art Therapy coursework and  develop ethical, professional, and educational standards for the profession.⁵

To become an art therapist in Australia you must complete a minimum Arts Therapy Masters degree, complete 750 hours of supervised clinical placements, and receive a professional membership with ANZACATA. From there you can work across a range of health settings including private practice, community health, education, hospital, mental health facilities, rehabilitation facilities, the disability sector, aged care and palliative care. Art Therapists may also work in private practice or be part of a multidisciplinary team.

1. Hogan, S. (2001). Healing arts: The history of art therapy. London: Jessica Kingsley. p. 135.

2. Regev D and Cohen-Yatziv L (2018) Effectiveness of Art Therapy With Adult Clients in 2018—What Progress Has Been Made? Front. Psychol. 9:1531. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01531

3. Directory, Therapist (2017-04-16). “Art Therapy”. Therapist Directory. Retrieved 2020-04-30.

4. Art Therapy Alliance, 2021. Global Art Therapy Resources | Art Therapy Alliance. [online] Arttherapyalliance.org. Available at: <http://www.arttherapyalliance.org/GlobalArtTherapyResources.html> [Accessed 23 August 2021].

5. ANZACATA, 2021. ANZACATA – About ANZACATA. [online] Anzacata.org. Available at: https://www.anzacata.org/About-ANZACATA [Accessed 23 August 2021].

6. Reynolds, M. W., Nabors, L., and Quinlan, A. (2000). The effectiveness of art therapy: does it work? Art Ther. 17, 207–213. doi: 10.1080/07421656.2000.10129706

7. Regev D and Cohen-Yatziv L (2018) Effectiveness of Art Therapy With Adult Clients in 2018—What Progress Has Been Made? Front. Psychol. 9:1531. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01531

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