The healing nature of Art Therapy

Our Stories

The arts is an important part of the work we do at Cottage by the Sea, and we are expanding our offerings in this space by introducing an Art Therapy program. This therapeutic and healing modality uses art, play, clay and education as experiential activities that help to support the mind-body connection of young people.

What is Art Therapy and how does it work?

“Art Therapy helps children to open up and express themselves in a way that words cannot always capture. It can help build self-esteem as children learn to recognise what is unique about their creative expression and how it contributes to their identity. It can also provide a sense of ownership over the artwork created and can be used as a tool for self-reflection and self-expression,” describes The Spring Forward Family Centre (NSW). “Art Therapy can play an important role in helping kids with trauma to process their experiences and gain a better understanding of themselves. It has been proven to help people to gain insight into feelings, reduce symptoms of distress and aid in the healing process.”

We have engaged with Art Therapist Alison Songsaeng to facilitate our Art Therapy program with REEF and Mentor participants over the next 12 months. Alison is an experienced Social Worker and Teacher specialising in Art Therapy and is also a student of Play and Clay Field therapy. Alison is passionate about the evolving word of “education and social sciences”. She places great importance on observing the “whole child” physiologically and psychologically in order to determine if all of their needs are being met and how this influences the child’s play, social interactions, academic abilities and emotional regulation.

“Art Therapy is a bottom-up approach” explains Alison as she prepares Cottage’s art room with blank canvases for the REEF participants to use in their session. This somatic approach to therapy involves feeling an experience in the body and letting those insights inform the experience. Young people can develop greater self-awareness and strengthen their mind-body connection by tuning into how something feels.

Alison is trained in Sensorimotor Art Therapy®, which is a term that describes body-focused psychotherapies that use a bottom-up approach. “Instead of a cognitive top-down strategy, such as intentionally creating an image and then talking about it, Sensorimotor Art Therapy® encourages the awareness of the implicit felt sense; how the muscles and viscera, the heart-rate and breath shape our sense of being,” as described on the Institute for Sensorimotor Art Therapy & School for Initiatic Art Therapy’s website.

Art Therapy on Cottage programs

The first Art Therapy session with Alison and the REEFies focused on neurographic art. This mindful and meditative technique involves drawing freeform lines – called neurolines – which aim to tap into the subconscious mind to stimulate new neural connections. The focus of this session was on using art to cultivate self-reflection and self-regulation so participants can better see, feel, understand and attune with what is happening within them and around them. Art Therapy allowed the REEFies to express themselves creatively on canvas in a safe and supportive space. They created wonderful and varied pieces of art to take home that represented how they were feeling. It was a big hit with the group and helped them to enhance not just their connection with themselves, but their connections with each other.

Alison will be back at Cottage in December for another Art Therapy session – this will be with our Mentors during their All Mentor program at Cottage. The aim of this upcoming session is to create art that explores their sense of identity. By decorating masks, participants will undertake a process of self-reflection by questioning who they are and who they want to be, and whether things change with or without a mask.

This new Art Therapy offering wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of philanthropy.