Making Art Therapy Accessible to All Canadians
Created November 23, 2011 by Helene Burt
Makint Art Therapy Accessible to All Canadians:
Art Therapy services are helpful to a wide range of people with mental health and health-realted issues of all ages. Healing from trauma and coping with the limitations of disability, mental illness, addiciton and other issues requires a mode of therapy that does not rely only on talking. We at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute (TATI) provide art therapy services to a wide range of people in need through the practicum that our students provide. However, art therapy services tend to be accessible only in large urban centres where training programs exits like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. That is why TATI is developing a Distance Learning Program so that people in remote communities and smaller communitites in Canada can train to become Professional Art Therapists. As part of their training they must complete 800 hours of practicum with people in need of the benefits that art therapy can provide. A TATI Distance Learning program would provide art therapy services in smaller and more remote communitites all over Canada by allowing people who live in those communitites to train as professional art therapists. In providing TATI with funding to develop a Distance Learnign Program , AVIVA would support the provision of free - of - cost art therapy services to a much larger population all over Canada.
How Art Therapy Helps
An Inuit boy of 11 is sniffing gasoline in his remote village with 2 other friends. A match is lit and a horrific explosion and fire occurs, killing two of the boys and covering the survivor with third degree burns over much of his body. After medical treatment and recovery the boy is sent to Calgary for residential treatment and counselling as there are no such services in his community. Here the helping professionals learn that this is not the first trauma this boy has survived as, at age 4, he witnessed his father violently kill his mother. Now eleven years, this boy has survived enormous odds but has extreme behaviour problems and learning difficulties. Too young to process the trauma verbally, art therapy is the only modality that is able to reach this boy and help him towards recovery.
A 15 year old girl dealing with issues of self harming, suicide attempts and depression is unable to engage in verbal therapy with the children’s mental health centre’s psychiatrist. She is referred to the art therapist and is able to engage in the art making process. After several sessions she feels safe enough to draw about the sexual abuse she experienced perpetrated by her step-father. The abuse is reported to the Children’s Aid Society and she is removed from the home. Sessions continue slowly but her relationship to the process and the art therapist becomes more secure and over time she is able to talk about the abuse and the helplessness, terror, and shame she experienced for years. Her mood begins to improve over several months and she stops self-harming and making suicide attempts. She able to register for school the following semester and continues in her healing process which began with her experience of art therapy.
About Art Therapy
Visual expression has been used for healing throughout history, but art therapy did not emerge as a distinct profession until the 1940s. In the early 20th century, psychiatrists became interested in the artwork created by their patients with mental illness. At around the same time, educators were discovering that children's art expressions reflected developmental, emotional, and cognitive growth. By mid-century, hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centres increasingly began to include art therapy programs along with traditional "talk therapies," underscoring the recognition that the creative process of art making enhanced recovery, health, and wellness. As a result, the profession of art therapy grew into an effective and important method of communication, assessment, and treatment with children and adults in a variety of settings. Currently, the field of art therapy has gained attention in health-care facilities throughout Canada and within psychiatry, psychology, counselling, education, and the arts.
Where Do Art Therapists Work?
Art therapists work in a wide variety of settings, including, but not limited to, the following:
• Hospitals and clinics, both medical and psychiatric
• Out-patient mental health agencies and day treatment facilities
• Residential treatment centres
• Halfway houses
• Domestic violence and homeless shelters
• Community agencies and non-profit settings
• Sheltered workshops
• Schools, colleges, and universities
• Correctional facilities
• Elder care facilities
• Art studios
• Private practice
An art therapist may work as part of a team that includes physicians, psychologists, nurses, mental health counsellors, marriage and family therapists, rehabilitation counsellors, social workers, and teachers.