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Dianne Shannon Art Therapy

RCAT, MA

Art therapy is a method to explore issues and concerns through a creative process that does not rely on words.  This is of particular benefit for people of all ages who have difficulty describing their experience and thoughts.

You do not need to be an artist to participate in art therapy.  There are many materials for you to choose from in the studio including traditional art supplies, recycled packaging, fabric, metal, and wood. Whatever you make, from scribbles to stick figures to paintings, will provide opportunities to discover personal insights and strengths that will help you on your healing journey.

 

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One door closes, another opens

I regret to announce the closure of my art therapy practice. The provincial government is presently not referring to private practitioners, preferring instead to refer clients to block-funded organizations. This has meant a significant reduction in my caseload and has resulted in the difficult decision to discontinue my practice.

I am deeply grateful to the many people and organizations that recognized and appreciated the benefits of art therapy for themselves or for the people to whom they provide supports. Over the past four years, either in group settings or individual sessions, I’ve had the privilege of working with children and youth in care, adults and youth with disabilities, people with addictions, children exposed to violence, seniors experiencing dementia, parents/care providers and their young children, and self-referred individuals. Thank you to everyone who trusted in art therapy to help them, or the people they care for, process often difficult experiences or other impingements so that they may live life more fully.

I am pleased to say I have accepted the position of Child and Family Therapist with the Nisga’a Lisims Government. This is an exciting opportunity for me to be a member of the Child and Family Services team located in Gitlaxt’aamiks, BC. I look forward to delivering art therapy in the communities of the Nass Valley and Terrace.

Dispelling misconceptions 

Melissa Weaver with the Bradley Hospital for child and adolescent psychiatry in Rhode Island describes the presence of art therapy in treatment and five common misconceptions: https://shar.es/1Bxeqn 

Benefits of doodling

A small-scale research project found that doodling activates the brain’s reward centre…filling in a colouring page not so much…https://psmag.com/news/the-doodler-abides

Military PTSD 

A new book is being published this month about art therapy for military-related PTSD experienced by soldiers and their families. https://www.routledge.com/mentalhealth/posts/12112?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=170605812 

Just in time for the recently-announced federal military funding…assuming some of those dollars go toward mental health supports. http://m.torontosun.com/2017/06/07/liberals-to-top-off-defence-spending-by-14-billion-annually-by-next-decade

Infant perception UofR research

Attention parents of infants 4-5 months old who are interested in participating in a study on action perception: http://uregina.ca/~loucks5j/

Registration!

I am pleased to announce my successful application to be a registered art therapist with the Canadian Art Therapy Association, which is signified by the letters RCAT following my name. The registration process requires continued professional development, involvement with the national organization, adherence to professional standards of practice, and 1,000 hours of direct client contact hours with 50 hours of clinical supervision by a registered art therapist. Thank you to the organizations and individual clients whose participation with me in art therapy contributed to my achieving this goal.

Saskatchewan art therapists’ website

Saskatchewan art therapists have launched a website to promote our profession and help people find art therapy services in or near their community. If you are interested in art therapy advertised by an organization, ask them if the services are being delivered by a trained professional. Information about the training required to identify as an art therapist can also be found on the site: https://saskarttherapists.wordpress.com/

I enjoy and value art making and am interested in helping people. Why is it important to have specific training to be an art therapist?

Art therapists receive graduate training that combines psychotherapy, human development, counselling methods, etc. with the use of art materials. This training provides insights regarding how best to support individuals and groups within a professional therapeutic relationship while using different materials and activities.  Art therapists have access to clinical supervision with registered art therapists who provide support and guidance when questions or concerns arise in our work. We follow standards of practice and have professional liability insurance.

If you’re interested in becoming an art therapist check out the links at the bottom of the Saskatchewan Art Therapists’ website page “About Art Therapy” to programs in Canada. Many offer distance education options. Those holding a bachelor’s degree can expect to take a two-year program. Those with a master’s degree in a related discipline can typically finish training in a year.

The world needs more art therapists!

Releasing the grip of trauma

Here’s an article that describes why art therapy is particularly helpful for relieving the effects of trauma. I have had the honour of being present when individuals experience the literal and symbolic processing of trauma using art materials and imagery and have witnessed how the experience instills resiliency and a sense of agency. These shifts manifest in day-to-day life by a lightening of the spirit and improvements felt when behaviours that diminish an individual’s quality of life are reduced. https://www.thepalmeirapractice.org.uk/expertise/art-therapy-trauma

Letting go ritual

lettinggoimage.jpg

Releasing an aspect of self that hinders progress can be a powerful transition on a journey to wellness. Letting go rituals take many forms such as cutting, crushing, burning, floating, sinking or leaving out in the elements, a symbolic expression of emotions or beliefs that get in the way healing. These options may not be possible for youth in closed custody – burning paper is a potential safety hazard, an outdoor excursion increases the risk of youth “going AWOL,” and very physical acts of destruction can escalate difficult behaviours. Here is a gentle letting go activity that is safe and accessible for any group, not just at-risk youth.

Materials and steps

  • Light-weight dissolvable embroidery stabilizer such as OESD stabilizer or another product that I didn’t try but looks promising is Wonder tape. You can order these products online or check out a local quilting or sewing store. Make sure the product dissolves completely in water.
  • A bowl of warm water
  • Something to stir with
  • Water-based markers
  • Optional: candles, nice fabric to place under bowl
  1. Prepare by cutting the stabilizer in pieces small enough for participants to write down a word or small phrase.
  2. Have participants use a water-based marker to write on a piece of stabilizer a word or phrase of what they want to let go of. Some colours dissolve more easily than others so you may want to test beforehand.
  3. Participants take turns going to the bowl of water and dropping in their word or phrase. Consider what would make the participants most comfortable, having you sit by the bowl as witness and support or at a distance for privacy.
  4. The participant stirs the water and watches the paper and their word/s melt away.

I’ve heard exclamations of surprise and pleasure as youth watch their words disappear into the water as if by magic. Others responded to the ritual by saying loud enough for everyone to hear “that’s lame” then return when they think no one is looking to drop words in the water and stir. The ritual can include activities while people wait their turn such as drumming, colouring mandalas, or sitting quietly. Your creative ideas will make the ritual more meaningful for a specific group.

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