Fig. 1: [Siti MMS], Love, 2021, fluid acrylic paint, A4
This artwork is part of a series focusing on the experience of providing psycho-emotional support in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Through this art, I aim to capture the pervasive nature of love, which intertwines with various emotions like grief, pain, anger, and shock. The experience is deep, intense, sometimes cloudy, complex, and profoundly touching.
What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of therapy that uses art as the central medium for expression and communication in a therapeutic setting. It is facilitated by a trained art therapist who possesses a postgraduate master’s degree in the field. While clients do not require any prior experience or skill in artmaking, a willingness to engage in artistic expression is beneficial.
In art therapy, the focus is not on creating aesthetically pleasing artwork, as it would be in an art class. Instead, the emphasis lies on the relationship between the art therapist, the client, and the art itself. This unique dynamic is at the core of the art therapeutic process.
Benefits of Art Therapy
- Art therapy engages multiple senses and allows for non-verbal expression, providing an alternative and sometimes more effective means of communication.
- The creative process and engagement with art materials offer a unique opportunity for self-reflection, exploration, and personal growth.
- Art therapy can reach deeper levels of the subconscious, enabling individuals to access and process emotions and experiences that may be challenging to express through words alone. It offers a holistic approach that integrates the mind, body, and spirit, fostering a deeper understanding of oneself and promoting overall well-being.
Who can Benefit from Art Therapy?
Art therapy can benefit individuals, pairs, and groups of clients across all age groups.
It is a versatile therapeutic approach that can address various concerns, including the following:
- Body image
- Chronic illness/ cancer/end-of-life
- Grief and loss
- Stress, including school, work, and life transitions
Art Therapy and Counselling
Art therapy and counselling share some similarities. Both involve working with a trained mental health professional and utilising a variety of techniques and modalities during therapy. The process of therapy is also similar and involves rapport building, goal setting, assessment, intervention, and reviews.
Counselling relies on verbal expression and communication to process thoughts and emotions. Art therapy does involve talking, but the main focus is on gaining insight and healing through art and the experience of artmaking.
Art therapy has distinct advantages for certain groups of clients:
It is particularly valuable when verbalizing or discussing distressing emotions is challenging. For example, certain experiences such as grief and trauma can be difficult to talk about. The creative process allows distancing which makes the therapeutic process less confronting and threatening. It is especially helpful to those new to therapy and who might find it difficult to share and express themselves.
Artmaking utilises imagination, and creativity, and can promote healing. With support from the art therapist, this creative process can be used intentionally and purposefully to lead to deeper insights and self-discovery.
With the completed artwork, there is a visual representation of emotions, thoughts, behaviours and experiences. This allows tangible tracking of the therapeutic progress which can be rich and empowering.
What Happens in an Art Therapy Session?
In art therapy sessions, each about 50 minutes, individuals work with the therapist in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Different mediums are employed depending on the individual’s needs and goals of therapy. The therapist provides guidance, suggestions, and encouragement to facilitate the exploration of one’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. Prompts or themes may be provided to promote deeper exploration and insight. The number of sessions recommended to achieve therapeutic goals will depend on individual circumstances and progress. This will be jointly determined by the client and therapists in collaboration.
If you are seeking a transformative therapeutic experience, consider art therapy with Ms Siti Mariam at Private Space Medical. With Masters-degree qualifications in art therapy and counselling in grief and palliative care, Ms Siti Mariam is highly qualified and skilled in her craft. She has over 20 years of experience in social work and counselling in the community, Singapore General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital. She will guide you on a journey of self-discovery and healing through the power of art.
Siti also organises workshops for organisations interested in using art to promote employee mental health.
Fig. 2: [Siti MMS], Overwhelmed, 2021, fluid acrylic paint, A4
Q: What can you share with me about this artwork?
A: This artwork is part of a series I created as a response to my experiences providing psycho-emotional support at the hospital ICU. It’s titled “Overwhelmed,” reflecting the common emotion experienced by loved ones of critically ill patients.
Q: Is there significance to the colours you chose?
A: Yes, there is. During my time supporting patients and their loved ones, I would often take psychological breaks by looking out of the big glass window in some of the ICU rooms. The sky, with its blue and white colours, always caught my attention. So, I chose these colours to capture and convey those moments of respite amid overwhelming situations.
Q: What was the reason you chose this method to create your artwork?
A: I chose to use the acrylic pour art technique, where multiple colours of acrylic paint are poured onto the canvas and allowed to spread naturally. This method reminded me of how we have limited control over our lives. While I have control over the colours and their order on the canvas, I cannot fully control how they interact and spread, representing the lack of control we often experience in life. This technique allowed me to represent the mix of emotions in the ICU room, where calmness from the outside world contrasts with intense feelings blending together.
Seek Help Today
Take the first step towards unlocking your potential for growth and well-being. Contact us to embark on a transformative therapeutic journey with Ms Siti Mariam.