Healing through art
Using art materials to create images is a wonderful way to connect with the subconscious mind, as the process allows a person to access their feelings without having to verbalise them. So says teacher and owner of The Art Centre in Alberton, Sanchi Leibach, who recently treated the Psycho-Social team at Stepping Stone Hospice & Care Services to a healing art session.
A trained visual artist, Sanchi has taught art and presented workshops at various levels and institutions since 1991. She describes her healing art sessions as her ‘soul’ work: “I do it to give people a method of healing, but it also fulfils my calling.”
Stepping Stone Hospice CEO, Tersia Burger, admits to feeling a little apprehensive at first: “I, for one, cannot draw,” she says, taking a pen and doodling a stickman on a piece of paper to illustrate her point, “so the last thing I expected was to be confronted with my vulnerabilities – to realise how vulnerable we all are. People don’t realise the toll it takes on our team; the same heartache at the unit, day after day, like a revolving door.”
For Ruby Evrard, a counsellor at Stepping Stone Hospice, the experience was particularly insightful. “We all have subtle triggers – be it a song, a certain smell, an object that may remind us of a difficult time in our lives or of someone we’ve lost. I think that doing this (art therapy) can lift the lid on feelings and help people let go. Many people I work with struggle with letting go, but it’s important.”
Truus Odendaal and Christie Mitchell, two more invaluable members of the Psycho-Social team at Stepping Stone Hospice, enjoyed the ‘down time’ and found the session very relaxing. “It certainly takes your mind off the ‘everyday’,” says Truus.
“We don’t always take the time to do these things for ourselves,” echoes Christie, adding that she feels that art therapy is a good way of expressing grief in a different way.
Sanchi feels it’s important to point out that her healing art sessions are not meant to take the place of professional counselling. “If anything, my sessions are a wonderful complement to other counselling methods. I take people on a journey. I play music in the studio, we meditate together, scribble a bit and work with assorted media including pencils, crayons, paint and soft pastels. You can smudge, you can blend; it’s a very tactile experience.”
And it doesn’t matter what you create, she adds. “It’s more about the process. It’s not about the end result or presenting something pretty.”
Sanchi has had people express both anger and sorrow during sessions. “Some people cry; not always in a sad way, but more as a release,” she explains. “I find that participants are often surprised at what they create and leave feeling contented.”
“There is a definite benefit in doing this if you’ve lost someone,” says Tersia. “Even if you’re resistant, just participating is healing, no matter how small.”