Recently I’ve been reflecting back on my participation in a mental health treatment hospital program several years ago. I’ve mentioned it before; it was a good experience for me, and much needed. I’m thankful that I’ve been well-treated since then and haven’t needed any further hospital visits. Nevertheless, I have continued to practice skills I learned there, like cognitive behavioural therapy and art therapy.
Participation in the art therapy portion of the program was quite interesting. It was child’s play…painting ceramics, making mosaics…but it played an important part in the program as a whole. At least that was my experience.* I saw people who were hesitant to talk in group open up when their hands were busy with arts and crafts. And I saw my own mind loosen as I worked to fit my mosaic tiles together just right. And when my mind loosened, I saw things in a new perspective… one that wasn’t so rigid, so black and white, so wrong vs. right. There’s no “right” way for the tiles to go together, and there’s no wrong colour to paint the mini-tankard tooth-pick holder. I admit that I was hesitant to begin with the arts and the crafts because my mind was so tight and I couldn’t immediately see that there was no wrong way to play.
Fast forward a couple years to see me sitting at my little wooden table, perched on a little wooden chair, glitter covering my fingers, a glue stick in my mouth, as I outline someone’s name with a purple Sharpie on an envelope. In my head I’m thinking about that person and whether they’ll like my mess of an envelope. I’m thinking about that next blog post I’m going to write. I’m reassuring myself that it’s ok that colouring on envelopes and writing letters is enjoyable for me.
*I am not an expert nor do I have any professional experience with art therapy. I was simply a patient.