Having witnessed first hand during my art degree the number of fellow artists going into further study subjects such as art therapy and the vigour with which they described their enjoyment of the subject I became intrigued in the practice. Although, being a cynic I felt their voice was one of little conviction, and was a vague attempt to convince their own mind that art therapy was the path for them to pursue. To me it seemed they were academicizing their own practice and interests into a soul destructive search to find the most alleviating form of art when encompassed with the broad yet restrictive topic of therapy. Although due to the effervescent nature in which they depicted their enjoyment of the courses and subject I decided to volunteer myself at a local gallery helping to run a workshop twice a week with children in foster care.
Imagine this scene, my first working session, there are 15 children between the ages of 4–12. I am about an hour into the session in which children are depicting their favourite memories of the beach onto a collage-based background. I notice one of the children has drawn 2 adult figures running around on the beach, whilst a smaller child shaped figure is depicted lying on the sand with Z’s emanating from his head. Intrigued by the image I asked the child what he is depicting in his drawing. He turned to look at me before pointing to each individual figure in the drawing, starting with the adult figures first; “this is my mum and this is my dad.” He then ran his finger across the paper to the child in the far corner of the image with Z’s protruding from his head, before saying “and this is me.” Still confused as to why he is asleep I asked a follow up question. “Why are you sleeping and not running around playing on the beach with your parents?” At this question the child turned to me with a blank expression as if he knew no other way in which he could imagine playing on the beach. He then looked into my eyes, and calmly informed me why he was sleeping, “I am sleeping because I only have parents in my dreams.”
After the end of the session I was left wondering who needed art therapy more, the children or myself after having my heart rendered in two by the child’s drawing.