Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

Coming back from a 6 week trip is a lot to unpack from, emotionally and physically. Today as I sit at my desk back at home, watching the snow fly outside my office window, I am thinking a lot about all the connections, places, people and events of all kinds that have happened in the last month and a half. I am aware that in being back in quiet Vermont, I miss the rich social connections that exist in Asia.

There have been many threads of conversations on this trip that have entered and been woven through most if not all the trainings.  I think the largest conversation was about gender issues, sparked  in part by the killing of a 23 year old physiology student in Delhi last November. What it did do was provide the  overdue and much needed catalyst for a world wide protest(one billion rising was born in the midst of the initial protests) and demonstration for Women’s rights and for holding all accountable for the ways in which women are not equal -in pay, work and social stature and safe from constant harassment and violence-domestic and otherwise. This theme was a constant- In all the trainings in both countries. In the process of teaching technique and form, we told stories, created art that looked at and witnessed the deep needs of both men and women, and allowed women the much needed space to state what it is that they need from their relationships, and their lives. What was palpable and important for me was the fact that while I was visiting another culture, there were so many similarities for us. The trainings were made richer by this as well as understanding the differences within our countries. In one session,  during the Introduction to Art Therapy training through the  East/West Center for Counselling, the women in my group, after  seeing an intense documentary of women’s rights (or the lack of them) in India,  pounded, cajoled and nurtured the clay as a group creating stunning art and talking about what their needs were, what they wanted for their lives, and in what ways they could go after their dreams.

Other discussions were just as important. Climate change is on the list of high concern. Water shortages are everywhere. People are terrified by the prospects, and trying to make sense of it in real terms.   Having enough water and being able to survive climate change is on the high priority list no matter which gender you are. Clinicians are aware of  all of this.  Right now clinicians, teachers, artists and others are all trying to find the right kind of tools to support people, to support themselves and to find a better way to approach being in our bitter and often challenging world. The tools themselves can be challenging to understand  for cultural or other reasons. Helping people become grounded is the key in my work- To understand how to help others, one has to help themselves first. Diving down and deep, while at the same time creating an important toolkit to take to others supports this process. Teaching in an experiential  way that makes sense, and makes the most impact is the basis of my style.

In Hong Kong, through the Arts for the Disabled Association, the focus of the workshop centered around providing expressive arts to those with disabilities.  My first question to those who participated was:  How does one define disability? What does this really mean? How are we impacted or not by disability in our lives? Our culture?  Climate change, gender disparity all entered the conversations. Cultural issues around caring for aging parents was also part of the deeper conversations.Before we could go further and talk about ways to approach working with those with disabilities, we had to break down the commonly held constructs of how we think about disability to begin with. For many this was a eye opening experience. Grounding the conversation with role plays, Playback Theatre, Art s based therapeutic techniques, students chewed on this over the week. They also experienced understanding stepping into the shoes of one with “disability”, painting with blindfolds, creating adapting tools to work with, exploring using these tools first for themselves and then to be able to translate it for using in their work.

There is a lot to work through.  In the end, I hope that somehow, people feel empowered in India and Hong Kong with enough tools to keep going.


Read Full Post »

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…

Read Full Post »