Facilitated by Anne Marie Regan,
December 3rd, 2017
Reviewed by Belinda Kelly
The experiential workshop began on a cold grey December morning in the IAHIP Office in Dun Laoghaire. We were warmly welcomed by Carmel Byrne. Facilitator Anne Marie Regan introduced us to the concepts and history behind the use of art as a therapeutic medium. Her approach is not to interpret artwork, the work is preverbal processing, often at an unconscious level. The process is the aim; to encourage and open a portal to clients’ self-reflection using art as a medium.
We began with a gentle exercise. On the large table we noticed a number of blank name tags. The object was to create our own ‘name’ tags, using a choice of medium (paint, charcoal, glitter, markers, scissors). This was a fun exercise and a gentle way to introduce us to exploring our relationship with our own identity. How do I wish to create my name? How do I choose to present my name to others? There was something comforting and childlike in how we silently began to personalise our name tags. We then presented them to the group and discussed the process.
We next did an exercise where we were each given paper masks to design using whatever materials we chose. I felt at ease with this. I have done several before as I use masks in my work with adolescents. However, as I continued to paint, the process became more provocative than I expected. An energy was being released through the action.
Through art therapy an integration between the thinking and the knowing mode, between conscious and unconscious material, could take place.
(Silverstone, 1997: 1)
We then walked around the room, wearing our masks. We were invited to swap them with a partner and experiment with how that felt. We then gave each other feedback on particular aspects of the masks.
The next exercise was a full group one where the full length of the table was taped down with paper. We were told that we were all on a desert island. We each had to choose a section of the paper and draw/paint or design what we wanted on our part of the island. Some designed their own fantasy islands, others designed communal areas and others tried to integrate the different sections by linking painted paths. I became ‘The Farmer’, cultivating a field of painted crops to feed the group! Within minutes I was frustrated with my prudence, wishing I had created a paradise instead. We then had a discussion about our individual input and reactions. It was fascinating to discover how we had become so territorial and individualistic during the exercise. I regretted not playing more within the group and using the paint to create a collectivistic culture on our island.
Our last exercise was fun. We cut out and glued images from magazines of our hopes and wishes for ourselves. Then we plastered them all over balloons which we let fly around the room.
For many, being faced with art as a medium of communication can be intimidating. It brings up issues around performance anxiety and pressure to achieve. However, Anne Marie’s calm curiosity and relaxed presence fostered an atmosphere of play and self-acceptance. The day was gently paced and relaxed. The members of the group were open, gentle and light hearted. Spending a whole day being creative was invigorating and joyful. I left the workshop with a spring in my step as I emerged among the Christmas shoppers.
Belinda Kelly is an accredited Specialist Adolescent and Adult Psychotherapist. She works in private practice in south Dublin.
Silverstone, L. (1997). Art therapy – the person-centred way: Art and the development of the person (2nd Ed.). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.