I was first introduced to art therapy during my stay at Stonehenge, an in-patient, long-term rehab facilitation centre in Guelph. At a difficult time in my life, art therapy made a lasting impact which I will now carry with me forever.
Residents at Stonehenge eagerly awaited Tuesday nights, which was when our art therapy sessions took place. Each week, the session facilitator provided us with a new topic which we were asked to draw about for the next 15-20 minutes. We covered things like sexuality, anger, and family relationships. Once we finished drawing, we spent the remainder of the time sharing and discussing what we drew. While the topics changed each week, they were always relevant to the various struggles I was facing.
At the time, sharing and receiving feedback from the community seemed daunting. The idea that sharing would somehow help me solve the struggles I faced was completely foreign to me, but it quickly became an exercise I craved. The drawing portion helped me focus my abstract ideas, while the discussion part helped me learn how to share my thoughts and ideas with others.
Some topics forced me to explore painful experiences in my life. I would stand in front of the group and talk about my drawing, and how the topic related to my life. People often responded positively, providing constructive feedback, sharing similar struggles they faced, and dishing out advice on how they worked through that particular struggle. Feedback was not always easy to receive, but it always gave me a fresh outlook on life, enabling me to view things from a different perspective.
Reflecting upon my experiences now, I know what it was that I enjoyed most about those Tuesday evenings. It wasn’t the drawing, nor was it talking about the picture. Instead, it was just having the opportunity to connect with my community.
Through sharing, we began to understand we weren’t isolated in our struggles, and that others experienced similar burdens. Through this unity, we were able to find the strength to be able to face challenges in our personal lives. The sharing, both of advice and personal stories, moved us all and even brought me to tears at times.
Art therapy gave me a platform upon which to share and connect with others, and, consequently, allowed me to look inwards a little deeper, and uncover things about my life and myself that I never knew were there.