Eva has always been a tactile child, with art being her absolute favorite activity to do at home and school. For this reason, it was a natural path for our family to explore Art Therapy to allow Eva to work through the challenges she faces as a child with a vision impairment. Typical feelings of fitting in, finding the right friends and making the right decisions are what every 10-year-old deals with. This, together with her lack of vision makes for some challenging times, so we wanted Eva to find a safe, objective space to work through her feelings whilst also having fun.
I had very little idea of what Art Therapy entailed and honestly believed it was simply a bit of painting using colour to discuss feelings and emotions. Boy was I wrong!
Our Art Therapist, Mel, initially took a lot of time out with Eva to understand where she was at in terms of her thoughts on school and social areas. By taking this time with Eva, she was able to identify what challenged her; this was crucial in how she and her team would tackle each session in order to get to the heart of Eva’s challenges and how to overcome them. These ‘heart-to-heart’ sessions were also a way to identify what forms of art would help Eva and in what way. As I mentioned above, I thought it was simple paint and colour, but soon learnt that different mediums held different values in working through Eva’s challenges: clay helped Eva with her frustrations whilst ‘sandplay therapy’ allowed Eva to role play scenarios and come up with her own solutions. There was also exploring fun things such as the first time Eva saw a rainbow and transferring this to canvas.
Eva has also had the opportunity of working with other girls her age at Art Therapy. Having sessions with girls that are also struggling with identity and place, reinforced that the challenges she faces everyday are not just her own; all 10-year-old girls have the same struggle and by talking about it amongst themselves, they grow their own community and feel not so alone.
Art Therapy has now become a staple of our routine. We visit Mel and her team fortnightly and constant communication between team and parents help us understand Eva better and of course, how to nurture her development.
Mel Wangmann – Founder of Ipsarty
Arts therapy is so much more than just creating art. The art itself acts as the third in the therapeutic relationship, which helps to tell the story of its creator. Every time we create, we put a part of ourselves into it, not for others to see or to analyze, but to witness ourselves. We can interact with ourselves this way while safely held within the image. Hence the power of arts therapy; respecting agency. This is such a different way of delivering therapy compared to the conventional modes because we aren’t intervention and solution focused. Our sole focus is supporting the client to access their sense of self. In essence our approach is based on giving autonomy and agency to the client. Empowering them to problem solve, challenge inner stories, build confidence and find comfort in who they are.
Arts therapy is a gentle approach that flexes with the needs arising for the client in front of us. Art buffers the vulnerable experience of sharing our inner world with another. Talk therapy can be intimidating and for children it doesn’t necessarily support their natural ways of being and learning in the world. Play, imagination and creativity are how children process their inner and outer worlds, but words and feelings don’t always match. Especially complex thoughts and feelings. Arts therapy moves to a more fluid expression where judgment of finding the right words or fear of being misunderstood is lifted through play. Through the arts each client explores who they are, how they see themselves in their relationships, their environment and how they see themselves in the big wide world. Afterall, it is only through understanding ourselves that we may then learn to communicate our wants and needs effectively.