Last night, on the Autumn Equinox, I sat by a fire with a friend, talking about transitions in life. My current transition is from student to practitioner, and I described the difficulty I have in articulating what I offer as an arts therapist; 'How do I say to people, "come and make art with me"?' My friend, a copy writer, began to ask simple questions beginning with, 'what is your why?'
I replied that creative practice is my way of navigating life's challenges.
She asked, 'what does that mean? How does it work?'
Well, if I'm struggling with big emotions or unanswered questions, journaling, painting, or moving can really help. It's cathartic to express my experience in this way. But it also creates a form that is outside of myself, that I can see from a new perspective and have a relationship with.
I said that making art, in itself, is beneficial, but that having a companion in the process takes it to a deeper level. Making art in relationship with another, with a witness to the process, offers so much more.
The conversation continued, and we spoke about her experience of copy writing, launching her business, her current transitions, and the steps she took to build a client base. Then she asked, 'what if I can't draw?'
I'm embarrassed to say that I giggled a little at the question. I couldn't tell at first whether she was sincere or being in copy-writer-question mode, drawing me out. It turns out that her question was sincere.
It gave me the opportunity to reassure her that this is a really common concern, but that in arts therapy sessions, the focus is more on process than outcome, and that we use lots of different materials in a curious and playful way. We might begin with a blank page and simply make a mess. We might take a lump of clay and press it, just noticing how it feels, and waiting to see what shapes emerge. There is no right or wrong way to make an artform, or as we call it at Miecat, a representation.
She then asked, 'do you interpret me?'
I let her know that back in the olden days, psychologists and psychiatrists interpreted images, telling their clients what their works meant about their mental state, but that I don't work in that paradigm. In my sessions, you, the art maker, explore the meaning of your representations. I might ask a series of questions to help to uncover those meanings, or offer some personal reflections about what stands out for me, but it's always your meaning that matters most. What you discover brings you closer to your truth.
So, that brings me closer to my why.
I make art because my creative practice supports me to flourish in life. It helps me to regulate my emotions. It offers new perspectives and insights. It connects me to my truth. I make art with a companion because it's valuable to have a witness who can offer reflections and support in the process. And it's a joy to create with others!
I companion others in their artmaking because I know the value of this process, and it is an honour to offer a safe space for creative and personal exploration.
Am curious to hear, why do you engage in creative practice?
And if you don't currently, would you like a supportive space in which to begin?
Chelle is a practicing art therapist, researcher, and multi-modal creative. She regularly dives into the unknown to discover what is ready to be born, deepening her trust in the abundantly creative source. For Chelle, art is a means to inquire, express, and transform. If offers the capacity to soothe, making space for new perspectives and ways of being.