The way many people understand art therapy is usually something like "a psychotherapy session with a drawing or a painting". However it is quite the opposite: healing happens in the process of making, of creating and so patients/clients must be given full freedom to chose those materials that will best fit their hands, awaken their senses and engage the body and the mind. In my practice, we use a wide range of art materials: from textiles, clay, cardboard, stones, sticks, leaves, screws and sand to the more traditional acrylics, watercolors, oils, pastels or wax crayons. Last week at home, we experimented with Stockmar's modelling wax made out of beeswax, a huge success! Modelling wax melts under the warmth of little fingers and smells divine so it alights all the senses. Stories were made up and a whole little scenario played out. Figurines were stored in a little corner of our bookcase and my children keep going back to them to modify positions and enhance the story. Beeswax is a truly beautiful media which connects us to Mother Nature and the amazing gifts she provides.
E.'s play composition of the day. My growing collection of sand play figurines is being laboratory tested by my girls every day. It is amazing to watch their inner worlds appear when they are given a limited space (here a blanket in lieu of sand tray) and all the time in the world. Sibling rivalry, desire and fear all played out on the mat. They ask for the compositions to stay there in the middle of the living room and then, when it's time, they are dismantled and new ones appear. Through play inner conflicts are resolved
This is an interesting article about how environment affects the client's well-being, therapy and the art therapist. I have taken patients to work outside and have a collection of natural elements in the studio to create with: sometimes it is more soothing to work with wood, rocks, sticks and pine cones than it is to work with paints. Children create magnificent nature art outside and adults may find solace in nature compositions that is then photographed and left as is for the next passerby to enjoy.
I've been extremely lucky to train for a weekend with Sue Jennings and Caroline Essame here in Singapore in 2014. This is part 3 of a series of 4 which I strongly encourage you to watch. Making a mess in art and life is a capital developmental stage which we often have to revert to in adult therapy if it has been missed out on or suppressed.