So what is Art therapy? I often get that question, along with puzzled looks from people unfamiliar with the profession.
Unlike other mental health and allied health professions, art therapy has a uniquely visual component. It utilises the psychotherapeutic process between therapist and client as they dialogue, express, create and explore during an art making process.
Therapeutic arts practise can also include dance, sand-play, movement, sound and voice – whatever resonates most for the client. It's an integrative approach to treatment, using the expressive component of art making as a tool for supporting mental health and well-being.
You don't need to be good at art, or even have well developed fine motor skills, it's purely a tool of expression.
Rainbow Muse works with all ages and has a high volume of NDIS participants as clients.
In one my last blog posts I spoke about the use of Art Therapy with children on the Autism Spectrum. While this remains one of the areas of specialisation in my practice and an integral part of my work, I thought I would broaden the discussion of the benefits of art therapy.
I also work with many young people and adults with psychosocial disabilities, as well as intellectual disabilities, as part of NDIS plans. Most clients have a multidisciplinary team with different health professionals focusing on different areas of their care.
In the NDIS Art therapy comes under Therapeutic Support as an allied health profession. Depending on the needs of the participant and their goals, it adds value by giving a creative approach to supporting their mental health needs and goals for wellbeing.
Sometimes talking alone doesn't work for clients and providing other ways to connect, process, be heard and learn positive coping strategies is helpful. Doing so in a relational psychotherapeutic process that feels less confrontational due to the creative, colourful and fun processes involved, creates safety and can remove some of the barriers to progress.
When working with younger clients, child-centred play therapy is incorporated into sessions.
As we role play, use our imaginations, take turns and collaborate in the creation of magical worlds there is the experience of attunement. This includes empathy, presence, mindful interactions and active response.
There is dialogue but also a deeper non-verbal communication through body language, facial expressions, gestures, mirroring and entrainment.
Aside from NDIS clients, Rainbow Muse also takes a number of referrals through the Victims of Crime Tribunal.
Using art therapy and child-centred play therapy with children who have been impacted by crime allows them an opportunity to process with a degree of separation. This is helpful for insuring there isn’t re-traumatisation.
Using toys and drawing characters and allowing those creations to traverse the challenges – instead of the child – can be helpful.
Art therapy is also helpful as a general counselling tool for clients who just want to improve their mental health and wellbeing and work on things such as self-esteem, navigating change, body image, low moods, feelings of anxiety, grief and loss, past trauma, identity and more.
If you were one of the people with a puzzled look at the beginning, hopefully it's a lot clearer now.
Rainbow Muse is taking new referrals for 2020 and there will be therapeutic groups starting up too. For more information visit www.rainbowmuse.com.au and watch the Rainbow Muse Facebook and Instagram pages for regular updates.
After reading this you get a reward: do something that makes your heart smile! Hopefully it involves some colour and fun.
M.A AThR, Grad Dip FDR, B.A, RYT 200