Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nature, Art and Healing

Nature, Art and Healing

It is not unusual to see a few people sitting around the large, round table in my living room creating art. With a multi-media approach, the client is presented with coloured pastels, water colour paint, a few glue sticks for collage pictures, block stamps, paint brushes of all sizes and fabric. This is just one of my many techniques as a therapist and find  when using art as engagement, the client moves into the “play mode” and in doing so I have observed real mood changes. When we counsel using only verbal clues, we are not engaging the whole person. My approach as an artist and nature lover is to bring alternative ways for my client to communicate. The success has been astounding, and my hope is to continue with an innovative mixed media approach that makes therapy dynamic and more successful.
It is essential primarily to focus on the conflicts, personal issues, and problematic areas the client is struggling with. Relationship building, accessing information and creating a sense of trust and comfort always precede the less traditional therapeutic plans I know are useful. These plans are made as a team, at times involving a family member or significant other if the client wishes.

As a mental health rehab worker, I was astonished to discover that chronic, mentally ill patients were much improved during and following a hike in nature. They became increasingly relaxed. Their visible signs of agitation, such as repetitive gestures, or self harm, disappeared. They seemed calmed by an environment that gives so much but asks for so little. The combination of fresh air, exercise and natural beauty has a powerful, positive effect on most of us and is under utilized in residential facilities and one-on-one counselling.

The rhythmic movement of walking is meditative; when we move physically we mobilize our emotions and thoughts. This in itself can be transformative to a person experiencing depression. The exposure to sunshine (vitamin D) is a natural feel-good healer. Stepping up the pace helps produce serotonin which is regarded by some researchers as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance. A lot of studies have proved that a deficit of serotonin leads to depression.

Since people are so different, what may bring healing and an uplifting mood to one person might be annoying to another. My goal, then, is to empower my clients so that they design their own healing programs. I can offer suggestions, but the client has the clues; if I pay attention to what I hear, the sky is the limit.

Activity in all its forms is often overlooked. Healing is mysterious; if we listen to our client’s theme we may be able to find active ways that prompt change and mobilize feelings.

My approach to counselling is multi-faceted. I want to be the best possible advocate for each person. If we use our imagination effectively, we can find activities that may bring positive results faster than hours of talk therapy. My hope is to create opportunities collaboratively with my client considering his/ her personality, interests, passions, strengths and weaknesses.  As a fibre artist, ESL teacher, and avid hiker, I have endless ideas of how to connect a person with meaningful activities.

The process of moving gently and slowly from a place of vulnerability to a place of empowerment is not only doable, but exciting.  We can, together, creatively combine our efforts to solve problems and find peace.

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