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Little Worrier: How Children Express Worry and Anxiety

So when I started this train of thought about anxiety and worry, I did what we all do: I googled. A definition on each should establish the conversation nicely I thought. The bizarre thing is that both anxiety and worry are used to describe each other, in one kind of ambiguous loop

It took a little Instagram square to get me thinking about the difference between worry and anxiety. I was taking a photograph of a worry doll to caption with ideas on how children can express worries and I started reflecting on some recent conversations about the maze of diagnosis and treatment options for children’s mental health concerns; in particular anxiety in children. The subject matter is too much for one blog post but I thought I would collate a few thoughts on the topic and share a few strategies to help children express worry and anxiety.

As much as we would all like mental health concerns to fit neat and tidy in a small box, they appear in all shapes, sizes and even sometimes disguises. I like to think of mental health as a continuum. Down one end of the continuum is health at its best and down the other end is illness at its worse. We all sit somewhere on the continuum and move along it all the time. Anxiety and worry can also be thought of as a continuum; low grade worry at one end and debilitating anxiety at the other. A continuum is defined by having two extremes and a less perceptibly different middle ground which together form a whole. In this instance worry and anxiety form a whole experience but they can also be differentiated. Continue reading Little Worrier: How Children Express Worry and Anxiety

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Does Art Really Heal?

Can art heal? My answer to one of art therapy’s biggest questions, flavoured with coconut water

As an art therapist I come across a whole range of claims, phrases and titles to do with my profession.  Sometimes I roll my eyes, sigh in frustration or giggle at bold promises. It is not that I am being disrespectful of other professionals it’s just that, well; it can be of a minefield in marketing at the best of times and it becomes even more so with things like art therapy. Why? Because art therapy is still a young practice in Australia and yet to gain mainstream familiarity. This ultimately means marketing has more weight because professionals aren’t only trying to advertise their brand or service but educate people about the profession as well. And the interesting thing is that marketing can influence how we answer questions before we have even had an experience. I find myself writing this article, an odd combination of art therapy and marketing to explore how people might be shaped to have an opinion of art therapy before they have even tried it. By considering how people consume something new we can begin to look at the answer to the question i hear a lot; does art really heal?

Continue reading Does Art Really Heal?

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A Companion to Loneliness

Loneliness is something we all feel at some point in our lives. Of course we all employ many techniques to drown it out; from jam packed social calendars, television marathons and social media updates to over drinking, eating or exercising. It is easy to get trapped in cycles of self-criticism and fruitless goals of perfectionism to drown out the pangs of loneliness. If only we were different: more pretty or handsome, smarter, successful, popular, wealthy or lucky then we would feel less lonely. But the truth is that loneliness comes with the territory, that is, it is part of the human condition.

While I may be able to speak candidly about the topic, I am far from exempt from the aversion commonly felt towards loneliness. Born as one of triplets, being alone was a foreign experience for me for a long time. I shared my mother’s womb with my two sisters, shared a room with either one of them my entire childhood and positioned myself in life to be around people I felt content with. Consequently I have never managed well alone. That is not to say that I can’t do things independently and alone, it is just that I feel my most comfortable and safe with someone I know in contactable proximity. For me being alone and lonely are closely intertwined but they are in fact different experiences. It is very possible to be alone and not lonely and to also be in company and feel lonely. Continue reading A Companion to Loneliness

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That Thing Called Vulnerability

Most of us will have habitual responses to vulnerability, particular when it arrives in large doses. Often the bigger the potential for loss or gain, the more vulnerable we will feel.

I have been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately. It’s been making rather frequent appearances in my life in both personal circumstances and my business endeavors. If you’re a small business owner, you’ll be surprised at my naivety- that I didn’t expect to feel vulnerable creating Sunflower and Ivy.  I know-Crazy! But it is this unexpected experience of vulnerability, amongst others, that has led me to write this blog post and to hold a magnifying glass to vulnerability itself.

I will begin with a description of vulnerability; bear with me if you find it a bit dry. The dear old dictionary defines vulnerability as the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. Basically Vulnerability is the feeling that emotional or physical harm/attack is possible. What comes immediately after this experience is anticipatory anxiety of the “harm” part of this equation. Basically you begin to feel anxious because you’re exposed and could be harmed.  Most people react in a whole range of ways to this exposure and anxiety. They become defensive or protective; they disassociate, over compensate or deny the situation or experience. This successfully dilutes or distinguishes our vulnerability and the possibility of harm or hurt that it represents. One of the most recognisable examples is in relationships. We all know a commitment-phobe, weather it’s ourselves or someone else. The potential to be harmed in a relationship triggers in these people protective behaviors of the never live together, share money or get married type. Continue reading That Thing Called Vulnerability

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Understanding Art Therapy

If I had a gold coin for every time I got asked what art therapy was I would be a rich lady-or at least able to afford gold-class cinema tickets with an extra-large popcorn. So what exactly is art therapy and what can it offer?

Anyone who can recall the gleeful feeling of finger painting and creating messy concoctions of sand, ink and raw pasta as a child cannot deny that art making has a soothing quality that can be immersive and freeing. Like music, art making is an age old practice that has the power to unify people as well as foster emotional expression and offer a different means to tell a story. Art can also add significant richness to a therapeutic relationship and healing journey. Put simply art therapy is the use of art materials and making in a therapy-based setting. Art therapists are trained to use art-based processes to support common goals, including emotional expression, insight and the development of healthier coping strategies. Art therapy is suitable for people of all ages, demographics and abilities, who may or may not have art interest or experience.

Continue reading Understanding Art Therapy