Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Decking the walls of Dianne Tennyson Vincent's home are pictures of various forms of medicine: framed portraits of purple brugmansias, green ylang-ylangs and reddish artichoke blooms. But it's not the flowers that are used to heal. It's the artwork.
Vincent, a registered art therapist who heads her own practice on Coleman Boulevard, is part of ArtReach, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “assist the growth and development of children who have experienced traumatic effects of war, violence and natural disasters through creative and expressive art therapies.”
As Vincent put it, they teach others to “use the arts as a way to heal.”
Vincent has been to Bosnia twice with ArtReach and recently returned from a two-week trip to Haiti.
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti still suffers the destructive effects of the earthquake that occurred in 2010. Vincent and ArtReach used art therapy to help Haitian elementary students and teachers deal with the poverty-stricken circumstances.
One activity was “drawing a safe place” in which Haitian students responded by illustrating homes that could shelter them from violence, a fear-igniting factor that most Haitians know too well. Another activity involved making healing circles called “mandalas.”
According to Vincent, these techniques allow a person to self-express issues that may be buried deep within one's self. It allows the “unconscious to come to terms with the conscious,” Vincent said.
“You can identify an issue, and deal with it, much quicker than talk-therapy because your unconscious is speaking,” Vincent said of art therapy.
Volunteers also assisted the Haitians using dance, music and interactive activities to promote self-awareness and inner healing. Such creative arts are not unfamiliar to Haitians, as Vincent relayed her astonishment at their ability to “have fun with nothing.”
At the end of each session, children, instructors and volunteers would meet along a labyrinth, a circular path used to center one's self.
One Haitian community leader presented ArtReach with a three-dimensional cardboard sculpture. Above its delicately carved windows was the title “Imagination Healing Center” with an “ArtReach Foundation” sign posted in the front. Vincent and the organization's director were moved to tears.
According to Vincent, this was evidence of the impact of art therapy.
“We can't express verbally what the arts can do ... It spills over into every aspect of your life; that's the healing,” Vincent said.
She encourages everyone to try it for themselves, as it can be used not only to overcome inner illnesses, but to become more self-aware. For more information on art therapy, contanct Vincent at 843-870- 7236. For more information on ArtReach, visit www.artreachfoundation.org. Donations for ArtReach and Haiti can be made through the organization's website as well.