Join us on Tuesday, May 12 at 12pm MST for an #AGAlive event with Registered Art Therapist Olga Perju. The link to register will be on youraga.ca next week. In the interim, read below for a brief, introductory, Q and A with Olga and AGA Educator Dara Armsden.
1. What is art therapy? What is the connection between mental health & art?
Art Therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that combines traditional counselling with a creative process. Specially trained in the field, an Art Therapist would work collaboratively with their client to process experiences, gain insight, acquire new skills or regulate emotions by using art materials. We work with all kinds of folks - of all ages and presentations - however, many of us specialize in certain populations, approaches or settings. The practice of making art is intrinsically therapeutic, and alongside a skilled and trained Art Therapist, it can also sustain deeper healing and wellness.
2. We are living through a historic moment, how might a focus on creative practice assist us through this unprecedented time?
Considering the stressors of our current situation, focusing on using your creativity and making something may soothe anxieties, release stress and build connection not only with other mark-makers - but also within yourself! We know that humans have an innate ability to make art and tap into their creativity if the opportunity presents itself, and [art therapists] use this gift to support our clients to achieve their therapeutic goals.
3. With any creative practice, there is a moment at the beginning of hesitation, where our inner critic is very active. What suggestions would you make to encourage people to give their creativity a chance?
It's true that the hardest part is just getting started - and our inner critic can definitely stand in our way! Try getting some materials out where you can see them, and spend some time just holding them in your hands. Pay attention to your senses, and how they feel, smell and look - taking in every single detail! Sometimes getting to know something more intimately helps us break down some of our barriers and welcoming it into our lives. Remember that art can be made from almost anything - from objects in your recycling bin, to office supplies, to more traditional art materials (pencil crayons, paints or clay). Bring your focus to making art - not labelling it as good or bad, and dropping all expectations as to what it has to look like. Your art is unique because it's yours, and nobody else can make it the way you can! Make that first mark, bend or stroke and see where it takes you.
4. You have a wealth of experience working with kids and youth, how does a regular creative practice benefit the youngest members of our population?
The most incredible thing about working with children and youth is how naturally and uninhibited their art-making is. It almost oozes out of their pores, and even after many years of clinical practice, I am constantly in awe at the level of creativity and ease that some of my clients show. As long as our youngsters have the opportunity to make art, they will - and sometimes they make art with things we would have never even considered! Encouraging this creative practice can support their problem solving or communication skills, appease anxieties, lift spirits, consolidate their identity and encourage a positive self-image.
5. You have an upcoming course on Art Hives through St. Stephen’s College, what is an art hive? And how do community initiatives like art hives contribute to health communities?
Art Hives are a phenomenon sparked by Dr. Janis Timm-Bottos, an Art Therapist and professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. They are open community art studios that have been pollinating across North America - and the world. These studios are open to all, free of charge, non-directive places that invite our innate creativity to come to life. You can learn more here: www.arthives.org.