Monday, November 29, 2010

New Movie features Art Therapy!

I haven't seen the movie yet...though I'm planning on it soon...but I was pleased to see that art therapy (also recreation and music therapy) was included in the movie "It's Kind of a Funny Story" as a part of this teen's treatment. Wonderful!

It's Kind of a Funny Story

The movie starts on a bridge—both literally and figuratively. In the opening scene, distressed 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) climbs out on a bridge. Filled with teenage angst inside and facing a crazy, messed-up world outside, Craig is overwhelmed and tempted to end it all.

When he wakes up and realizes he's just had another suicide-themed dream, and that they're getting more vivid, he also realizes he's teetering on a bridge between sanity and craziness. Afraid he's headed in a dangerous direction, he climbs out of bed without waking his parents or younger sister and bikes himself to the nearest hospital in his Brooklyn neighborhood.

After explaining to the attending physician his stress over his demanding pre-professional magnet school, his crush on his best friend's girlfriend, his forthcoming application to a prestigious summer program, his over-busy father and overwrought mother, his tendency to puke when stressed, not to mention global warming and the economy—as well as his suicide dreams and the fact that he recently took himself off Zoloft—Craig gets himself checked into the psych ward.

Keir Gilchrist as Craig
Keir Gilchrist as Craig

Since the teen wing is under renovation, Craig is put in with the adults for his five-day minimum stay. He's soon introduced to Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), the gregarious man-child who shows him around 3 North (the adult wing) and introduces him to the amenities (the art room, the rec room) and the locals (the doped-out, the delusional, and the delightful Noelle, a fellow displaced teen).

At first Craig is even more stressed—he was hoping for a quick cure that wouldn't keep him out of school for so long. And he's a bit freaked out by all the people who are dealing with more serious issues, like his mumbling, bed-bound roommate. Instead of rescuing him, Craig's parents arrive with some of his things and the advice to do whatever the doctors recommend.

Zach Galifianakis as Bobby
Zach Galifianakis as Bobby

In the following days Craig attends art therapy, has meandering and meaningful conversations with Bobby, slowly opens his heart to Noelle (Emma Roberts), tries to get to the root of his issues with Dr. Minerva (Viola Davis), and tries to explain to his friends via the payphone in the hall where he is and why. It's in all these human interactions that the magic of the movie happens—the a-ha moments, the small awakenings, the baby steps toward a healthier reality.

The most compelling moments are between Craig and Bobby. Their conversations are deep and revealing without seeming too clever or overwritten. Gilchrist and Galifianakis imbue their characters with warmth, wit, and quirky charm. Only Craig's parents (Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan) start to veer into caricature territory with some of their classic yuppie faults.

Sure, this is a relatively sanitized look at depression and other mental disorders, but then again 3 North is a temporary facility for those who struggle. The hard-core cases would be in a more permanent location. Thankfully the film avoids some common trappings of movie mental wards—out of touch doctors, sadistic orderlies, rampant overmedication. These patients are merely people on the verge—walking that tightrope with brokenness, pluck, and yes, some only-in-the-movies charm.

Emma Roberts as Noelle
Emma Roberts as Noelle

Though most of the film happens in the hospital ward, there are a couple scenes of stylization—when Craig draws some intricate city scenes that come to life and when all the patients sing a rousing version of "Under Pressure" in music therapy class and are magically transformed into a rocking music video. The latter scene is a lovely tribute to the way music and community can elevate us for a few joyful, transcendent moments.

What seeps through all these scenes is a surprising, compelling celebration of life. The film seems to be communicating that life is crazy, and those who stop—and sometimes need to check in—to acknowledge that are merely wise enough to embrace the truth and seek the help they need to navigate the maze. In the moving forward, in the coming together to help those who need it, there is hope. The film doesn't depict an eternal hope, but a hope based on friendship, love, communication, music, art, laughter, truth—some of the better things offered to us by the One who is eternal hope.

The scenes between Bobby and Craig are the best part of the film
The scenes between Bobby and Craig are the best part of the film

The ending is a bit pat and over-sweet, but the voiceover kind of acknowledges that, which somehow makes it mostly okay. They can't all be tragic endings, right? The beauty here is that a movie about depression and people on the verge can be a sweet, funny, life-affirming story. And perhaps that's the funniest part about this charming little film.

Other reviews' references to art therapy in the movie:

"After quickly decoding his own plight — with some help from art therapy and the ward's shrink (Viola Davis) — Craig starts fixing other patients."

"Accordingly, Craig’s drawings, or “brain maps,” serve as an animated entree into his vivid imagination and bring the audience more insight into the character. Inspired by the book’s original cover, Curious Pictures, a New York-based company specializing in animation, design, and graphics, produced the sequences. Animation/paintings creative supervisor Dominie Mahl recruited Brian Drucker, an artist with a background in architecture, to submit an illustration for consideration.

The animator adds, “This story affected me, so I wanted to keep a human scale and touch to the drawings. I drew by hand, then colored in with the computer and built up everything into three dimensions.” Mahl elaborated, “Given Craig’s age, we had to make sure that the work was done to display natural talent but not years of experience. Given the particular stage of his life that he’s in, the colors had to be more thoughtful than perky. This artwork comes forth as something of a revelation for Craig.”

Boden comments, “With his drawings, Craig rediscovers a hidden artistic talent-and is encouraged to do so by his fellow patients and through art therapy.”

Ned Vizzini, age 29. Los Angeles, CA. (author of the book the movie is based on)

"When I went into a psychiatric hospital for a week-long stay for depression and 'suicidal ideation' in November 2004, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. Although I'm a writer by profession I decided to try and do abstract art. I limited my color palette and tried to just make pleasing shapes with Cray-Pas on paper. The goal was to see the colors blend well and to bring motion to the composition. I ended up really liking these drawings, and I used the art-therapy angle when I made the main character of my subsequent novel It's Kind of a Funny Story draw 'brain maps' during his own hospital stay. In a real way, these are the drawings that inspired the brain maps."

Watch the trailer below:


Thursday, November 18, 2010

America Ferrera Highlights Art Therapy with Soldiers

Here is a great little clip featuring an interview with America Ferrera who touts the amazing power of art therapy with soldiers! Thanks America for bringing art therapy to people's attention!

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Monday, November 08, 2010

2010 AATA Conference - Sacramento

I got to attend the 41st annual American Art Therapy Association Conference that was held this year in Sacramento. It was a great conference with many good lectures I attended. One of our keynote speakers was Seena Frost, the inventor of SoulCollage, which I am looking forward to learning more about to use with my clients. I took pages of notes with information I hope will enhance my practice, and watched with pride my intern from last year present on her research project. I also got to attend a gathering of GW students and alumni. meeting some known and new faces. On the side, I got to sightsee some of Sacramento before I left.

Next year, the 42nd AATA conference will be held in my backyard, Washington DC, in July! So I'll definitely be there....

~~Click here to see pictures from the conference~~
(under construction)

Here is a video of Seena Frost introducing the SoulCollage Technique:

~~Click here to see how to make a SoulCollage card in 5 easy steps~~

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