A Day in the Life of an Art Therapist By Paula Gillespie-Fotheringham

My alarm goes off at 6.30am, I do my best to ignore it, however it’s usually followed by my 3 year old excitedly climbing on top of me declaring ‘it’s morning time!!’ I grab a strong coffee and begin the morning dash of pack-ups and Kindy.

I hop on my bike and head to the studio. At this time of day I usually feel fortunate that I made the decision 4 years ago to leave the private company, where I worked as Head of Therapy and start my own practice. I’m grateful that I can wiz to work in 20 minutes rather than face a long commute.
I climb the 6 flights of stairs into the sun-filled room and by 8.30 I’m sitting at my computer facing what is sometimes a long-line of emails. I reply to the essential ones and plan my day.

At 9.45 I wrap-up my admin and prepare for my first client of the day. I set the room up to suit the client’s needs, then spend some time reviewing the previous session and remembering significant aspects that may be important for today’s session. My 10 o’clock client is a young woman working on overcoming a history of physical and emotional abuse, she has moved away from her country of birth and is determined to make a new life for herself.

During the session the woman creates a vibrant red painting, then slashes it with black charcoal. She is visibly moved by the process and we talk about the art a little afterwards. She describes how angry she is with her mother for not protecting her, and how the red represents the anger and the blood connecting them, she talks about the confusion this causes her, to love and hate at the same time, we talk about how and to what extent people can defend themselves. I’m moved by her incredible strength to keep going and push through her challenges.

I grab an early lunch at the local health food shop; I always take an hour for lunch as I’m conscious of taking care of myself in this line of work.

Many of the adults I work with have experienced trauma during childhood and are seeking a way to be less burdened by this. With art therapy there are no needs for words, no need to explain what happened or even to understand or make sense of it, this understanding tends to follow naturally when the images are made and looked at.

I also work with children and young people; many have become ‘shut-off’ and find communication through art much less confrontational than the pressure of talking. I often find that I’m working with children who are self-harming in some way and may have been given a label of ‘challenging’ or ‘disruptive’ in home or educational settings. Once the ‘difficult behaviour’ has a way to be released during art therapy, the way the child interacts with teachers and carers can often improve.
As I fall into bed, after a truly rewarding day, I count my blessings as I am always thankful for choosing the path I did. www.adelaide-art-therapy.com

Learn to be an Art Therapist at the IKON Institute. Enquire now to start in 2015.
www.ikoninstitute.com.au | 08 83509753 | info@ikoninstitute.com.au


Vanessa Finnigan is the founder, editor and publisher of Holistic Bliss.
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