Many people know the term Art Therapy, but few understand the depth and breadth of the discipline. Art therapy can range from colouring in ready-made images for pleasure and relaxation to a deep plunge into the unconscious via the body. How to use the practice safely and therapeutically takes education, training and lots of experience.
I was first grabbed by the possibilities back in South Africa aged 18. Invited to a Waldorf watercolour class, I fell into a kind of swoon with the joy of allowing pure colour pigments to swirl and blend freely across the paper. What a change from art training involving painstaking reproduction of something in the visible world. What a sense of freedom in my imagination and my body.
In England in the 1980s I heard about Art Therapy training at Goldsmiths College. Alas, my enthusiasm outstripped my qualifications – I wasn’t accepted, having had no psychology in my undergrad, nor any experience in the field. I was just an artist with a yearning for free expression of what was locked within.
It took many years and twists and turns of the road for art therapy to find me again. The first course available for me to take after being accepted to the MA in Counselling Psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology (now Adler University) happened to be Group Art Therapy. The heavens opened – A profound and surprising sense of homecoming, pleasure, familiarity, excitement, freedom, subtlety as well as richness in the experience. From then on I took every elective in Art Therapy I could manage, and have never looked back. Symbolic language is my mother tongue. Art Therapy has given me creative freedom in my art and my life. Therapeutic art is a faithful friend. Stay tuned for more musings on this journey.