This September we began our inaugural art therapy group for adults entitled “Art Materials and Emotional Regulation: An Arts-Based Skills Group.” This course is a six-week experiential pilot project in partnership with the Adler University Master’s of Counselling Psychology in Art Therapy Program; sessions are conducted by student art therapists and arts materials have been donated by the community to reduce the costs for participants. It is being held at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC on West Pender Street in downtown Vancouver. I can report that the course is off to a great start!
We are motivated to run courses in art therapy as there is substantive research emerging now that shows art-making or the act of colouring pre-made designs can significantly reduce stress and calm the mind and act as an intervention to significantly improve a person’s quality of life. Art as therapy uses art-making activities as a therapeutic tool toward the process of healing, clearing the mind, and self-expression. Art therapy is an interpersonal experience in which a therapist facilitates, guides, witnesses, and responds to an individual’s art process and art expressions, based on best practices and current and emerging research. Research of art therapy is clearly demonstrating that it successfully addresses many somatically-based conditions including trauma reactions, post-traumatic stress, and depression as well as many neurological and cognitive disorders. It is proving itself to be an effective intervention in improving quality of life and perceptions of wellness.
In the course we are currently offering participants learn about colour and emotions; the continuum of emotions; continuum of control inherent in art materials; work with focus through form; containment of “big feelings” with art medium; art appreciation; and finally, working with the imagination to “lean into” desired feeling states. In the first week, participants create a personalized colour chart connecting colours to feelings that will be used throughout the sessions. In the second week, participants learn about the continuum of emotions and the continuum of control inherent in art materials in order to make conscious choices of material to suit their goal with regard to emotional regulation. In the third week, participants practice focus with the use of mandalas and the circle form. In Week 4, participants work on containment of big feelings such as panic, despair and sadness through the art medium (whether painting or drawing) to regain a sense of control and direction. In the fifth week, participants create an “art review” as a way to chart the effects of the changes and new experiences that have unfolded. In the sixth week, participants work with collage and vision boards to imagine and visualize their path into the feelings of their choice.
Since the current course is going well with both facilitators and participants feeling fruitfully engaged in the process, we will likely offer a similar art therapy course in the new year of 2016. Check http://www.mdabc.net/therapy-programs for updates.