Art Therapist Elise Slater is on a mission to bring art therapy and creativity to the treatment of eating disorders and body image issues. BodyMatters interviewed Elise in the lead up to her art therapy collage workshop at BodyMatters, and answers all your questions here…
What is art therapy?
Art therapy is about expressing yourself in a new way that brings in creativity and helps to bring a new perspective. Transforming words and thoughts in to imagery is a powerful way of seeing where you are now and where you would like to be. Art gives us the ability to re-write our own life narrative rather than unconsciously absorbing that narrative from the people and culture around us. It offers us a non-verbal way of making authentic self-inquiry and problem solving. In a world that bombards us with imagery through social media and advertising creating our own imagery and choosing the story we tell ourselves can be a powerful medium for change.
How can art therapy help in recovery from body image and eating disorders?
My own experience with an eating disorder in my teens inspired me to study art therapy and I now offer this to others who are struggling with self esteem, body image and eating disorders. I work with people on a one-to-one basis and also at the Wesley day program for Eating Disorders as an art therapist which has shown me how art can resonate with a wide range of people and their experiences, and that even those who say they are not artistic gain so much from a space where they are invited to explore and make meaning of their experience. Art therapy helped me in uncovering my own meaning from this period of my life and continues to help me in writing the life story that I choose and in connecting with the deepest parts of me. Art therapy helped me to go from surviving to flourishing at a difficult point in my life and this is something I would like to offer to others on their road to full recovery. I believe recovery is not going back to how things were, but that a new version of you is ready to emerge which needs to find it’s own expression and purpose in the world, something art therapy can help to nurture and grow.
Do I have to be highly artistic or creative to do art therapy?
The purpose of art therapy isn’t to be ‘good’ at art or to have an art practice. In fact, it is often the people who tell me they ‘aren’t creative’ or ‘can’t draw’ who enjoy art therapy the most. To be creative is part of every human, but many of us have that right taken from us in childhood when we are told we ‘aren’t good at art’ or similar limiting messages. In art therapy the process of creation is the journey, it’s not about the end result or how good an artwork is. By dropping judgement and our own standards of what is good and bad we can return to our most creative selves.
In this art therapy workshop we will be using collage, so there is no need to ‘draw’, you will be provided with lots of inspired imagery to create your own vision board, something you can keep as a visual reminder of where you are and where you are headed for the new year.
How would art therapy assist me to develop a more positive relationship with my body
and how I feel about myself?
If you feel stuck in your mind our thoughts can be like a loop on repeat and it can be difficult to change these thought patterns, particularly negative thoughts about ourselves and our bodies. Art therapy can provide a new perspective, a way to get thoughts out of our heads and on to paper so we can see the negative loop and begin to rewrite our own life narrative in a way that serves us best. In dropping out of our head and in to the creative process we are also connecting with ourselves in a new way, and this is the beginning of listening within and starting to form a new relationship with yourself and your body.
Will the art therapy workshop bring up big feelings?
Art therapy can be powerful and people can have big ‘ah-ha’ moments of realisation during the creative process, but the facilitation is gentle, and participants only need to go as deeply as they feel safe and ready to go. The collages created during the workshop can continue to have meaning long after the workshop itself and can be used as a way to connect with yourself or the things that you want to bring in to your life. We often receive feedback that the artworks created in the workshop continued to unfold for someone in the weeks following which is always wonderful to hear.
Would the art therapist interpret my artwork?
There is no external interpretation of the artwork, the meaning derived from the art you create is entirely your own. The therapist is there to support you in the process and in uncovering your own meaning from the artwork, not to give you their interpretation!
How can I book my place on the workshop?
The workshop will be on Sunday 24 th February 2019 at 3.30 – 5.30pm at BodyMatters Cremorne. Tickets are limited and you can book online via BodyMatters or Eventbrite here. And if you would like more information about Elise and her art therapy approach visit www.eliseslater.com