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Archive for the ‘Expressive Arts Therapy’ Category

 

 

 

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In January of this year, I went as part of a 10 person team of Arts based therapists from the States  to work with a 7 person leadership team of East Africans meeting in Kenya with the Global Alliance for Africa (GAA) Therapeutic Arts program(TAP). The East Africans came not only from Kenya but Uganda and Tanzania as well. TAP has been working in East Africa for the last 11 years and this years trip was done in a new way, by having those who were identified as Leaders from previous trips in the growing uses of arts based therapy in their regions.

I was a day late in arriving due to frigid cold weather in the eastern coast of the US that backed up all travel for days. I was lucky in that I was only a day late.

Included in the East African group were professional artists, theatre activists, dancers, storytellers, teachers and councilors. Included in the US team were art therapists, expressive arts therapists, Drama therapists, art and expressive therapy students.

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Meeting in small groups

The overall training was co-facilitated by Cathy Moon ATR-BC (who is the Chair of the art therapy program at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago) and Tally Tripp ATR-BC (professor at George Washington University) with the rest of the US based as adjuncts in the process.

So much was covered!  While I missed a bit, including the important sociometry at the beginning, it was not hard to fall into rhythm with others as we were very happy to connect. From basic counseling skills, to integrating art making and drama into counseling,   and education (many of the East Africans work in schools or after school programs) recognizing and working with trauma to artistic skill sharings including Playback Theatre, Touch Drawing, Theatre games, Singing, Dancing, Basket weaving and paper folding creating dolls, journals, boxes.  Each day we met from 8:30 to 3 integrating

Melissa teaching basketweaving

Learning to create Baskets

material didactically, experientially and looking deeply at how to bring the arts into schools, orphanages and art therapy workshop settings. Then from 4:30-6 for Skill sharing.

We also were able to sight see-  Two of the East African participants are internationally recognized  professional artists  who work out of their home. They offer art therapy to the local children and families many of whom work in the flower industry. One of the issues facing families who work in the Dutch owned industry are higher than normal Cancer rates, and fatalities due to chemicals that are used to preserve flowers so that when they arrive in Europe they look “Fresh”.  Street children are often orphaned, cared for by other family members or friends.  Certainly has made me much more observant and thoughtful around where my flowers come from.

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At the art therapy studio of the Wadus

When we were there at their studio, their adult son was finishing an art therapy session with about 30 children.They were excited and happy to show us their work they had done that day, belying the more intense struggles they experience at home. From there we went to Lake Naivasha. While we were there a number of us took a boat cruise and saw hundreds of birds, Hippos, Zebras. The land adjacent to the lake is where “Elsa” The lioness of the 1960’s film, “Born Free” was released into the wild. Our program coordinator Linda Stolz (who worked tirelessly on our behalf day and often night) wanted to get Crayfish for dinner that night but wasn’t able as the Crayfish had been all bought out from the lake by Chinese corporations. Then ensued my education on what was happening in the entire African continent  based on Chinese corporations buying into  and building the infrastructure. Deeply disturbing and powerful. Kenyans had lived from eating Crayfish from the Lake for centuries and now have none. For more information about this go to: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-africa

We also went to an amazing glass blowing studio  (and later stayed at a Treehouse B&B that had integrated into everywhere blown and stained glass)and a library that Global Alliance of Africa is supporting in Kibera- Kenyas largest slum area.  Going to Kibera was a deep conversation. One of the things we, as US participants wanted to be clear on and careful of was why and how we would go into the slum areas. In fact, two East African participants did not want us to go in. Kibera had a tremendous amount of violence during the elections of 2009  and again last August.(For more information on this, go to: https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/08/12/photos-gunshots-in-kibera-mathare-as-cops-disperse-post-election_c1615333)  Hard feelings are still had around this.

DSC07143We also went to the National Art Museum. The two  artists who were participants, Eunice and Sane Wadu, whose home we had gone to, had paintings in a show there. The museum was wonderful and I leaned much about the work of Joy Adamson who is deeply revered as a conservationist. She was also a fabulous watercolorist as well.

We ended our training on Wednesday evening, closing our circle and saying our goodbyes to the East Africans. On Thursday morning the US participants went by train to Watamu along the Indian Ocean coast. This was where we were to process our time together and think around next steps- all while staying in an amazing guesthouse that was built like a tree house. As there were no windows and basically no doors, we were outside the whole time. Let’s just say we had often close encounters with Monkeys. We were not allowed to keep any food at all, but one monkey thought my wipes were interesting and came in my room and grabbed them.

My last two days were spent with my niece, Stephanie and her husband Andrew OngukaDSC07432 and their three boys in Nairobi. Stephanie is a physician and Andrew a minister and together they have developed a scholarship program for those academically  talented from the Mathare slum areas. As well they work with their families. As well, while I was there, Andrew was busy meeting with people and trying to figure out better ways people could water their cows. They are doing much good work. I was able to meet one of their graduates who is waiting to go to college next year. They are doing amazing work together. See for yourself! (.http://www.onelifeafrica.org/ )

While I did not intentionally go on safari, Kenya being what it is,  I was able to enjoy an abundance of wildlife including Giraffes, Baboons, Monkeys, warthogs, Elephants and a huge array of birds, as were driving throughout my stay. It was in a nut shell an amazing trip with a lovely group of people. If you have a chance to go, I think a wonderful and deepening experience.

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In February, 2o16 I traveled back to India, stopping over in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates  first, to be part of the First Arts Conference at the University of Sharjah, which is outside Dubai.  Organized by the Prasad Foundation of Oakton Virginia,(which sponsored my and others travel and participation), George Washington University, the University of Mississippi, and ATIC  (Art Therapy International Centre) and the University of Sharjah.  Presenters included art therapists from the UAE, USA, and music therapists from South Korea. I presented on the use of Playback Theatre and drama therapy to support communication in difficult times.  In the next few blogs I will post some pictures to try to convey some of the experience of being in these interestingly cultural diverse countries. While Ive been back a month now, I find that the trip still rolls deeply in me and I continue to process.  Below are a few pictures to describe my experience of being there.

 

 

 

DSC03684Near the university there were many gardens- An oasis in the middle of the desert.    The flowers were beautiful. The university itself is beautiful, and  well kept.

 

 

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Another view of gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC03659Over 200 people attended this first event. It was both wonderful and heartwarming as the need and desire is clear to have more of this kind of training made available. Fortunately the university appears to agree.

 

 

Dress varied from western style (long sleeve and skirt or pants) to Arabic and full Burqa for women.

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Two men talking at the Medical School

 

 

I really love the architecture of the UAE. DSC03664

 

 

DSC03726Not the most elegant picture, but I saw an awful lot of sand.

 

On our tour to the Humanitarian Centre, A  playground using all recycled materials! Hyun Ju checked it out.

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DSC03685Evening time in Dubai.  Sunrises and sunsets were clear, and pure,  making great contrast between light and dark.

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Since I last wrote, we have been traveling and working in chennai, India and Hong Kong. I taught 4 workshops or trainings in India, while Michael taught 2 and presented two other shorter presentations at the Aparreo Galleries in Chennai. Its been amazing, often intense, complex and very often very rewarding. Michael has been great about writing regularly- I not so much, as at the end of the day, I am tired enough that my brain can not organize thoughts to write. To see Michael’s blogs go to Dreaming the world  to see about our trip from his perspective.

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We are taking a much needed few days off to rest up for our long trip and intense time change back home. While we are doing that, we are processing all from the trainings ( 2 3 half day trainings with college students at Ethiraj College and Madras School of Social Work) a 5 day core training in Playback Theatre and a 5 day Introduction to Art therapy as part of the Expressive therapies certificate program – a collaboration between the East West Center for Counseling and Women’s Christian College. Then in Hong Kong, a 5 day workshop on using the Expressive arts with people with Disabilities.DSCF4856

 

 

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I’ve been working on developing my workshops in India and Hong Kong. I realize that offering these workshops is an interesting experience. Of being obviously a professional- knowledgeable and all that- but more importantly I  have started to think of myself as a  door woman.  I happily open the metaphorical  door for others to walk through. I just do it by offering a new way of thinking about understanding themselves.  Not only think, but do. One of my greatest joys actually is watching students encounter themselves through the world of art, dance, music and the written word. And by doing that, in some way they have helped themselves make sense of their world and their role within it. There can be and is joy in these awakenings and understandings.

Expressive Therapy Workshop

Expressive Therapy Workshop

On this trip, part of our work is to be present with the topic of disabilities. Actually, this topic comes up quite regularly in my work. On this trip, I am hoping to turn the concept of disability a bit on its head.  What makes a person disabled? what is the role of the support person?  How can we reframe what we think when we hear about someone with a disability?  Why is this important that we do? So often we over look people who have a disability, as “not abled” Instead they are very abled and have very definitive thoughts  and feelings about this.

My research has led me to new thinking and new territory. My own role as a person with a disability (which I have spent a goodly portion of my life attempting to ignore) has been one of mixed messages and experiences EXCEPT in the area of creating art. For me it has been a deep blessing in which the ability to create art has supported me in gaining clarity and understanding of myself as a person with value and a person with ability.

So, I take what I have found for myself, add a smattering of  academia, and voila…

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Well, once again, there has been a long time between blogs. Daily life, work, family and projects take up the psychic space that I need to think about writing a blog. Some of what I have been doing, I have done with my partner in life and career Michael Watson, who has been writing voraciously and beautifully. To read about his work I invite you to go to his blog here.

P1030643It is cold here. It is supposed to be about 5 degrees tonight. Fahrenheit.   I wrap myself in my Indian scarves and shawls to remind myself of the warmth of South Asia.

I keep myself busy! Besides my clinical work,  and my work  with the Centre for Playback Theatre (which has been ubber busy this past fall!!! We are gearing up for our winter session trainings- check them out at: http://www.playbackcentre.org/training-program), I have been teaching.  This past semester I taught various classes on Transpersonal Psychology and  expressive therapies. We dove in deep, and as is the case for many of my courses, bridged between the personal worlds that we exist in and the academics of understanding the theories behind why we would use the arts as a tool for healing. And as always, I experienced the deep richness and satisfaction of a co-creative and collaborative process – I as teacher being student at times, and my students teaching me so much that often isn’t written in textbooks. (more…)

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View of the waterfront in Hong Kong

It’s has been a while since I lasted posted, hard to believe that a year ago, I was in India.

This is a brief post to let you all know I am here, alive, well and traveling! Much has happened in the last year-  teaching, printing, doing healing work on so many levels- Taking on new roles (Chair of Board of the Centre for Playback Theatre) , including another trip in November to Hong Kong and Germany (yes, you read that right, both countries, two continents-one trip in 13 days!!:~)

I have spent much of the year here – teaching at the college, working at our therapy practice which has swelled and dipped, dipped and swelled…, Gardening, Grandparenting- A new little one arrived on July 4rth – and staying in touch with all my friends and colleagues around the world. A very full year indeed. (more…)

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This is my last week, not only of class (we end Friday), but of my time here in India for this trip. I have been watching  my process: arriving and getting used to being In India; working and being with students,(and all) that means; getting to know more of where I am, and processing all the new things; visiting hospitals, and schools, and seeing the amazing work that is

I taught 4-5 year olds for an hour. Lots of fun!

being done here for those in need. Now, the letting go has begun. Letting go is being felt keenly in the classroom, where, as a group, the class has been watching the developmental aspects of our group, and witnessing each milestone.

Students created Mandalas as part of the course.

In class, hearts are connecting, and I am reminded that people are people no matter what our cultures are. We work for justice, raise our children, and connect. We  fall down, to pick ourselves up again and walk forward. Hopefully we open more doors than we close, and try to bear witness. With this group, it is clear that these are the goals. It is heartwarming to watch, experience, and be a part of.

Today, I took a walk behind where I am staying, on a calmer road, with nice homes. I was aware of trying to imprint my impressions. As I walked, I smelled the Jasmine in the air. Although it is winter,  there are may flowers out. I tried to breathe it in in such a way that I could  take the aromas home. How does one take impressions home? So many impressions: cows wandering in the midst of traffic, seemingly unconcerned and owner less; the smells (some very unpleasant and others not); the crazy traffic; the interactions that I’ve had in every day; women in saris;  fruit and vegetable vendors singing out what they are selling; the Kolam, freshly done each morning on door stoops; the genuine belief that what will be is meant to be; and hearing the ringing of bells through every neighborhood, as people pay homage to Shiva, Vishnu,and Gonesa in their homes, and in the many shrines throughout the city.

I use my camera to try to grab these impressions, but photos do not impart the smells of Indian spices, the sounds of all the horns, or the goats bleating, the roosters, and Muslims and Hindus all praying at the same time at 5 in the morning. The camera cannot capture the haggling and bartering, and genuine interest in people you may not know so well. And the crows.

Coming home is a mixed blessing. I’m coming home to family, and life as I am used to it.  Only, now I am seeing it through a different lens, one in which my two months in India (October and now) blend in with my life at home. I return home committed to learning how to cook Dosa and Roti, and to simplifying, letting go of what keeps me from being present and connected.

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