MARTY LEVENSON (BA., BCATR) – ORC’S REGISTERED ART THERAPIST
My decision to become an art therapist grew out of a desire to blend my passion and career as a visual artist with my experience in psychotherapy. For 23 years I have been working in Vancouver with individuals engaged in long term healing. My clients come to art therapy for a variety of reasons, ranging from grief, depression, anxiety, trauma, sexual abuse, and substance abuse, to working on relationships or seeking renewed life meaning. My post-graduate thesis focused on using dreams in art therapy, and I am fortunate to continue that exploration, hearing many dreams each week.
When my wife and I moved to Bowen eight years ago I became aware of the Orchard Recovery Center, and was interested in working further with people in their early stages of recovery. I have continually felt drawn to doing art therapy with people at such a powerful moment in their lives: a time of courage, fragility, many questions, and a rare window of heightened openness to new ideas. It’s amazing to watch what emerges in the art each week – a sense of glimpsing how the psyche participates in each client’s journey of recovery. Connecting the art to the client’s current situation in a useful way is always challenging and compelling.
ABOUT ART THERAPY
In art therapy freedom of expression and honesty are the important values, rather than art skill or artistic talent. It is not an art class! Stick figures, scribbles and kinder garden level drawing are perfectly okay. Once people realize that there is no judgment or pressure to perform, they usually amaze themselves with how freeing the experience can be. Clients find they can use their art in ways that fits their needs in the moment, If they are anxious, shaky or spaced out they can calm, ground and center themselves using the art as a meditative practice. If they are experiencing strong feelings of grief, anger or joy they can give those emotions passionate, safe expression. If they have a specific memory on their mind they can express it simply and directly with stick figures and colour. These experiences, usually combined with dialogue, frequently bring clients new insight.
FAVOURITE MEMORIES FROM THE ORCHARD
Every seminar has good moments, but memories of people using the art to discover something new and useful stand out. Recently a woman in her late twenties, freshly arrived at the Orchard, did a simple but powerful painting of a monster that was blocking her from connecting with her young family. It upset her enough that she rose from her chair and stormed out of the seminar. With only a little encouragement she returned and faced the intruder, finding a fresh sense of power in the art as she used simple drawing skills to make the monster less scary and protect her family. She connected the monster with her addiction, and it was inspiring to see that her art offered her the experience of facing her fear and putting her courage into concrete action.
Almost weekly I witness the deep care that the group offers anyone in distress or confronting feelings of shame. Recalling the compassion and empathy shared by the Orchard family is always an inspiring experience. The healing power of that continual peer support creates a truly therapeutic atmosphere.
WHAT ARE SMALL, CREATIVE THINGS ONE CAN DO EVERYDAY TO HELP IN THEIR RECOVERY?
Doodle, draw, sketch, every day. Make a place in your life for the other side of your brain to express itself. Don’t judge your art or put it down, but accept it and allow it to speak to you. Be humble enough to imagine that it has something to teach you, that perhaps a little known part of your soul is speaking to you through your hands. Your art can become a safe place to explore feelings and thoughts that empower you by helping you move from fear into curiosity, and then toward self acceptance.