The Art of Healing
By Mona Gonzalez
Health Today Magazine

Today, while we were shopping, my 12-year-old daughter told me, “Mommy, it’s nice to see you buy things for yourself for a change.”

Actually, I’ve changed a lot. Although I still work hard, I now spend time with friends, have taken up photography (once I though it a waste of time and money) and am more assertive at home. Yesterday, I climbed a tree. I have released many fears.

A half-day session of art therapy did this.

FACING FEARS

“I was made to face something I’d been ignoring, but this was done in such a way that I didn’t feel threatened,” says Net Pacoli, regional director of U.S. based Christian video production company, and one of my “classmates” in art therapy. “I realized I love my father passionately. So much more than I would openly admit even to myself.”

Pacoli believes the art therapy’s success depends on the facilitator. “Dr. Randy Dellosa earned my trust with his competence. He’s not patronizing and took our thoughts and ideas seriously. Art therapy is a fearless way of facing your fears.”

Dr. Randy is founder and director of The InnerLife Wellness Center (a center for personal growth and healing) and the Life Change Recovery Center (a home care for drug dependents and psychiatric patients). On the side, he conducts art therapy seminars for people who aren’t ill, but seek life enhancement.

Dr. Randy earned a degree psychology from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He trained in psychiatry at Makati Medical Center and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. However, he felt restricted by psychiatry’s emphasis on medication and the traditional Freudian approach to pychotherapy. Thus, he sought further training at Southern California University and the Gestalt Psychotherapy Network Europe. Aside from art therapy, he also specializes in other therapies such as dream analysis, touch therapy, and primal therapy, among others.

Dr. Randy notes that his clients come from all walks of life and vary in age. “Teenagers join to identify personal values and virtues that can help them become more stable and mature. Professionals seek how they can meaningfully balance their work, family and personal lives. Mid-lifers want to deal with the ghosts of their past and seek a clearer directions for the future. The elderly join to find a greater sense of integration in their many life experiences. All in all, it is the pursuit of self-discovery, personal growth and life transformation that leads people to join art therapy workshops.”

WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Picasso once said it took him a few years to become an artist and the rest of his life to forget the rules and learn to become a child again. Many trained artists deliberately strive for that innocent, playful, childlike “playing-with-art” feeling that taps into the unconscious.

However, Dr. Randy notes that professional or skilled artists often tend to hide personal issues through stylistics. In fact, most art therapists believe the therapy works best for people who can't draw since they are not limited by performance anxiety.

PEOPLE CAN CHANGE

The theoretical basis of art therapy stems from many disciplines: psychology, sociology, anthropology, physiology, aesthetics and education. But all these disciplines share one common belief—that people can change.

In a very real sense, that has been my experience, thanks to one morning spent with Dr. Randy, some friends, blank sheets of paper, crayons, craypas, paint and clay. Sometimes, all it takes is a little art.

HEALING
CHILDREN

Dr. Lilia Bautista, an expert in special education (SPED), uses art therapy to identify developmental problems in children.

“Most children cannot express what they feel verbally, so art therapy helps you understand them better and address their problems,” says Bautista, a professor in a leading Manila university.

Art therapy helps children understand their emotions, says Bautista. “After the children enjoy their art activity, I let them process their feelings by explaining their work. I’ll ask, ‘What did you draw?’

Expressing their thoughts and emotions makes the children feel good and more comfortable.”

Observation is important Bautista says. If a child uses too much paste or can’t cut a straight line, this tells her there may be a problem with fine motor coordination. If a child seems to prefer black, it tells Bautista something about the child’s emotional state.

Bautista particularly enjoys exposing children to many materials—different types of paste and paper, scissors, paints, and indigenous tree bark or pressed flowers; oftentimes, even junk will do.

In Singapore, two centers of healing where art therapy is used are Mount Elizabeth-Charter Behavioural Health Services and the National Cancer Centre. At the cancer center, art therapy helps children express their feelings an’8 develop coping mechanisms.

In Malaysia, the Institut Masalah Pembelajaran Autisme (IMPIAN), a daycare school for children born with autism, incorporates art therapy in its treatment plan. Art therapy is also used in the Psychiatry Adolescent and Child Unit of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Malaya Medical Center.

THE PURSUIT
OF
SELF-DISCOVERY

Most art therapists agree that creating art involves the whole brain, both right and left hemispheres. As people tell their stories through art, hidden, suppressed issues surface and a person’s understanding of himself or herself is altered. New insights and choices come to the fore.

“[Art] is the bridge between the conscious and unconscious,” says Carol Lark, a board-certified art therapist and a certified group psychotherapist. “Art making can increase self-esteem and autonomy.”

Art therapy is not just for the mentally ill, but individuals, families, couples and work and community groups who simply wish to have t clearer idea about themselves and each other. But its benefits have been especially noted for children, adolescent and adults who have a hard time what they feel.

Dellosa notes his clients come from all walks of life and vary in age.

“Teenagers join to identify personal values and virtues that can help them become more stable and mature. Professionals seek how they can meaningfully balance their work, family and personal lives. Mid-lifers want to deal with the ghosts of their past and seek a clearer directions for the future. The elderly join to find a greater sense of integration in their many life experiences. It is the pursuit of self-discovery, personal growth and life transformation that leads people to join art therapy workshops.”

WORTH A
THOUSAND WORDS

Picasso once said it took him a few years to become an artist and the rest of his life to forget the rules and learn to become a child again. Many trained artists deliberately strive for that innocent, playful, childlike “playing-with-art” feeling that taps into the unconscious. What emerges is a collection of exciting images of untold stories. If, as researchers say, Picasso operated from the subcortex of the brain, his paintings doubtless reveal much of the artist’s persona.

However, Dellosa, who often uses art therapy in his practice of psychiatry, notes that professional or skilled artists often tend to hide personal Issues through stylistics. In fact, most art therapists believe the therapy works best for people who can’t draw since they are not limited by performance anxiety.

Art making can increase self-esteem and autonomy.

Whatever the case, the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly rings true in the practice of art therapy.

PEOPLE
CAN CHANGE

The theoretical basis of art therapy stems from many disciplines: psychology, sociology, anthropology, physiology, aesthetics and education. But all these disciplines share one common belief—that people can change how they see themselves and their world, and they can change the way they behave in it.

In a very real sense, that has been my experience, thanks to one morning spent with Dellosa, some friends, blank sheets of paper, crayons, craypas, paint and clay. Sometimes, all it takes is a little art.

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