Friday, July 23, 2010

GW Art Therapy Students in India

The GW Art Therapy Department takes students abroad each summer for a multicultural diversity class. The class went to India for their 2010 trip (follow details from their trip here), and a local journalist interviewed members of the class about their time providing art therapy services in Chennai and surrounding areas. I am pleased to note that my intern from last year, Lauren Hayes, was interviewed for the article, and has the opening quote!!


SHADES OF UNITY: Students and women from The Bambino School, with their work. Photo: R. Ravindran
THE HINDU SHADES OF UNITY: Students and women from The Bambino School, with their work. Photo: R. Ravindran

“The only rule,” says Lauren Hayes, “is that there are no rules.”

Around us, the other students from the George Washington University are crouching contemplatively over as many circles drawn in white chalk, sometimes sprinkling fistfuls of shimmering blues, rich vermilions, and flagrant greens of rock salt into them. “Koe-laam”, some of them mouth, tentatively. Today's a day-off for them, after more than a week of work.

The 16 women, all students of art therapy, have been quietly helping ease the pain of cancer patients, differently-abled children in schools, substance-abuse victims, and the homeless and mentally-challenged women of The Banyan. And they do it all with nothing more than pots of paint, and handfuls of clay.

“So,” continues Lauren, “we tell them that the art doesn't have to be good or bad, that the sun doesn't have to be yellow, or the water blue.” Sometimes, they specify what they'd like them to draw. “It helps us understand the level of their cognitive development, the way they think,” says Karie Schwartz.

“An art therapy session gives you a snapshot of the person; how they're feeling, what they're thinking and what's going on in their subconscious,” says Lauren. “Everything they might have found difficult to admit, even to themselves.”

There are several ways to know. “The colours they use, the energy with which they paint, and how much of the paper they use, for instance,” says Monica Salinas. “It's also hard to convince the children that the glue is not to be eaten!” she laughs.

But these women come from around the world — cultural markers and symbols that mean nothing there might mean everything here. How do they understand?

“Through trips such as these,” smiles Anne Hurley. “There is so much art here. On your fabrics, the floors, the ceiling — everywhere! You live, thrive in it. This would make the people here very receptive to art therapy.” In fact, one of its primary concepts is the mandala, Sanskrit for ‘circle' or ‘completion', which abounds in Tibetan, Buddhist, and Hindu cultures. “Besides, we have had art since we were living in caves; there's something in it that resonates with everyone,” says Karie.

Art therapy is now used around the world in hospitals, prisons, education centres, mental health clinics and for the sexually-abused. Its effectiveness may also lie in the distance it allows between the person and the problem — you can work your way through using symbols, metaphors and abstractions. Which is why the differently-abled usually find great respite in it. Such as Stephen Wiltshire, the famous artist diagnosed with autism, who drew all of Tokyo on a 10-metre canvas, after a 20-minute helicopter ride over the city. Not only did he get right the number of floors on buildings — he even got the number of windows.

Kathryn Martin has been at the Apollo cancer ward for a week now. “A two-year-old made little clay figurines of people, and painted each of their stomachs a deep, aching red. Later, the nurses told me that that was where her cancer was.”

Language stopped being a barrier at this point, she says, though the little girl spoke only Swahili. “One of the women went from filling in her mandala with only one colour, to three, to five the day after that, and then finally even filling in the space around the circle,” says Lauren, who worked at The Banyan.

“This is the first time a university in the U.S. is doing something of this sort,” says Sangeeta Prasad, an alumni of the University herself, who has helped bring the students here. “We're trying to get art therapy into the medical institutions.”

But doesn't delving into the consciousness of several people every day take its toll? “Yes,” smiles Karie. “We have to do sit down with our sketch pads and paints at the end of each day to wind down!”


* While leaving art therapy to the specialists, you can still use art to calm your frazzled nerves. Remember, you don't need to be good at art to enjoy it.

* Keep a sketchbook like you would a diary — record your most personal sentiments and thoughts, or sum up your day through images.

*A ‘Dream sketch diary', to trace images from your dreams that you'd like to remember, or understand.

* Keep books of different kinds — one for all that's causing you stress in life; and another one for all you think is beautiful about it.

*The colours, shapes and representations you use will say a lot. So don't start with a rigid concept of what you want to end up with. Just let it flow naturally.

*You can keep your work to yourself, try to analyse it, or discuss it with someone you trust.

Keywords: George Washington University, The Banyan, cancer, social service

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Top 50 Blogs for Learning About Medical Art Therapy

Thanks to Rachel for including my blog on her article "Top 50 Blogs for Learning about Medical Art Therapy." Aside from having this blog included on there (#23), it is a great resource for those interested in finding out more about art therapy. Check it out!!

Top 50 Blogs for Learning About Medical Art Therapy

Traditional medicine cannot heal everyone, but this doesn’t mean that those it has not worked for should give up. There are plenty of unconventional paths to healing that work well, and medical art therapy is considered one of them. This practice uses art to heal people of all ages, and can improve the emotional, mental, and physical state of most people. If you want to know more about how medical art therapy can help you, read the free blogs listed below. They range from offering a basic understanding of the topic to discussing cases in which it has worked to heal people.

General Art Therapy Blogs

If you are cautious about going this route to recover, you should get the basics about the practice. The following blogs can offer general information about art therapy, as well as links to books and articles you can read to find out more.

    1. Psychology Today: The Healing Arts :This blog is run by an art therapist who posts topics about advocacy days, art therapy intervention ideas, and more. If you are looking for the basics of this practice, this is a good blog to check out.
    2. Medical Art Therapy : This blog is great to turn to in order to get an overall education on art therapy. Read stories about successful cases, find out unique ideas, and get helpful tips with this blog.
    3. Art Therapy : If you want to find out the basics of this practice, as well as find books, ideas, and other resources, this is the blog to check out.
    4. Art Therapy Reflections : Learn some musings on this practice, as well as the basic science behind it, when you check out this blog.
    5. Art Therapy Guide : Find out what art therapy is, as well as information about relevant programs.
    6. Arts in Health & Care : This blog serves as a spot to get basic information about this practice, and also discusses news related to art therapy.
    7. Artandhealing’s Posterous : This blogger uses art and dance to heal, and can give you ideas on how to do it yourself. You can also get basic facts about this practice when you peruse this blog.
    8. Art Therapy Los Angeles : Let this therapist share stories about interesting clients, inspiration, and ideas to give you a basic understanding of this practice.
    9. Mullumbimby Art Therapy : This blog offers interesting thoughts, ideas, and resources for anyone who wants to find out more about art therapy.
    10. Health Care Fine Art : This therapist offers an overview of art as therapy, as well as ideas regarding using art to heal.

Blogs That Offer Art Therapy Ideas

If you like to try doing things on your own before heading to a professional, you will be glad to know that there are some blogs offering tips to get started in art therapy. You can try out these ideas at home on your own, or perhaps incorporate them into a lesson plan for children or students. Eventually, you will likely need to consult a professional to continue this practice, but trying some simple exercises on your own first can be helpful.

    11. Joyful Art Therapy : This blog offers plenty of ways to practice art therapy in your life. There are also links to helpful workshops and books.
    12. Art Therapy Techniques from the Field : Find out about techniques that you can use in your life to feel a bit calmer and more content in general. They come straight from a practicing art therapist.
    13. Self-Guided Art Therapy : If you are not yet sure whether you should consult a professional to get started in art therapy, you can check out these ways to try it out on your own.
    14. Creative Juices Arts : Allow this blogger to inspire you to get creative. She explains that even those who do not think they are creative can use art therapy to relax and heal.
    15. KinderArt : Whether you work with disabled children or are just curious about some of the best lesson plans for kids interested in art therapy, check out this blog.
    16. Higher Art : This art therapist offers solutions that are especially tailored for children. Find out some ways to help your kids cope with art therapy.

Blogs from Organizations

Some professional organizations offer blogs on their website. These can provide you with links to resources, or even offer the opinion of professionals. Either way, you can be sure that these types of blogs are legitimate and offer plenty of information.

    17. The Potomac Art Therapy Association: Drawing from Within : This blog keeps readers updated with news about art therapy, new opportunities, resources, and support. Whether you are quite advanced in this subject or want to get to know more, you should find this blog helpful.
    18. Art Therapy Scholars Blog : The American Art Therapy Association, or AATA, has come together with the Florida State University Art Therapy Association, or FSU-ATA, to create this blog. The point is to help professionals and students alike to get in touch, get new ideas, and flourish in this industry. If you are considering getting involved in art therapy, this is a good place to start.
    19. Fractured Atlas : This organization of artists provides support and ideas when it comes to healing through art.
    20. National Center for Creative Aging : This organization encourages everyone to use art, music, and more everyday, especially as they age.

Blogs by Art Therapists

If you are interested in getting to know more about art therapy, let the experts themselves teach you. Blogs by art therapists often provide new ideas, unique perspectives, and educational videos, so give them a chance to share their information with you.

    21. Malissa Morrell : This art therapist is also a marriage and family therapist, so if you are looking for help related to this area, consider her blog. You can find inspirational videos and tips here.
    22. Elizabeth Beck : Let this therapist advise you about new treatment methods while offering interesting videos that can teach more about this subject.
    23. Adventures in Art Therapy : This blog teaches readers the power of this method, and also tell stories about successful interventions. You can also find out a bit more about the practice by watching informative videos here.
    24. The Butter Compartment : This art therapist is still new to the field, and writes about therapy in relation to diabetes. Check out her artistic creations with old diabetes trash, such as tubes and test strips.
    25. Jen Berlingo, MA : This professional has experience with art therapy, Reiki healing, and psychotherapy, which means readers can learn a lot from her.
    26. The Unfolding Moment : Many people like to check out another person’s take on certain works of art. If this describes you, read this blog by art therapist Tracy Hart.
    27. Lani Puppetmaker’s Blogspot : Get some inspiration and ideas from this art therapist’s site. She often posts interesting art, explaining her take on it.
    28. 365 Days of Being 30 : This therapist is not shy about sharing her works, including customized journals and magazines that she has been published in. Share in her excitement while learning a bit about what she does when you visit this site.
    29. Creativity in Motion : Read this art therapist’s musings and ideas on art and this practice in general.
    30. Knowing Imagination : If you want to check out some reflections on art therapy, as well as this therapist’s book recommendations, give this blog a chance.
    31. Marketing Mindfulness : Poppy Terris is an art therapist with a few things to say about this practice, so be prepared to learn a little when you read her website.
    32. Sadiejay’s Blog : Use this blog to find out about classes centering on art therapy, as well as reasons to work with an art therapist.
    33. When We Were Made : Follow the journey of this recent graduate as she gets experience as an art therapist in the real world.
    34. Neuroscience in Art Therapy : This therapist combines the ideas of art and science, so give this unique perspective a chance.
    35. Denver Art Therapy & Counseling : This therapist focuses on issues related to divorce and separation, so check out art therapy in this context.

Blogs by Those in Recovery

If you want to find out firsthand how art therapy can help those who are trying to recover, reading a blog about it can help tremendously. Not only will you be able to read the stories of various bloggers, but you can also see the very artwork that expresses how they feel.

    36. Modus Vivendi : This blog displays a large gallery of art created by those who are using art therapy to heal.
    37. My Monster Has a Name : This blogger uses art therapy to heal from childhood abuse, so check out the musings posted here, as well as a gallery of art related to the healing process.
    38. The People Behind My Eyes : This blogger is in the recovery process and often uses art therapy to help. Check out the artwork created during this process.
    39. Crackers and Juiceboxes : This is another survivor in recovery who uses art therapy to get through life. Read her story and check out her art.
    40. Survivors Can Thrive! : This blog has a separate category for art therapy, so check it out to see how this blogger uses it to recover from child abuse, PTSD, and other devastating experiences.
    41. Mind Parts : Find out how an adult male uses art to cope with a past of being sexually abused as a child.
    42. Art Constellation : This blog mainly consists of interesting drawings derived from art therapy sessions.
    43. Beautiful Dreamer : This blogger mostly talks about the struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder, but the blog does include a separate section for artwork.
    44. Turning Turning : This blogger is an art therapist who writes about how the practice has helped her sort out her own issues. Rather than writing about the method from the perspective of an art therapist, she writes about it from the point of view of a survivor.
    45. Soul Humming : Check out the various pictures created by this blogger, who is a breast cancer survivor.
    46. The Survivor Mural Project : As you can expect from the name, this blog allows survivors to each create a piece of a large mural. Those invited to participate are people recovering from sexual violence.
    47. Expressive Art : Find out a little about this blogger by looking at her art. She uses this practice to loosen up and relax in a fun way.
    48. Sue Doodles : This fun blogger encourages others to doodle and sketch as she does to get out emotions.
    49. Inspired : This breast cancer survivor uses art to help heal, and she is not shy in showing it off.
    50. My (Getting Better) Story : Check out this abuse survivor’s drawings and poetry as she copes with the past.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Never a Dull Moment...

I am always surprised at what my clients come up with for their artistic creations. In a group I led this week using Model Magic clay, a couple of group members were done early with their individual sculptures and used the extra time and clay they had to come up with a collaborative sculpture....can you guess what it is?

Yep, it's the "money you could be saving with Geico." :)
(posted with permission)