Art Therapy is more than just an art project!

Although my background is in art and facilitation of educational art projects, and I am aware of the benefits of art for art’s sake. It is only since I trained as an art therapist that I became fully aware of the deeper psychological improvements that are made to our mental and physical health through Art Therapy sessions with a professionally trained art therapist. I am sharing these articles by Cathy Malchiodi an American art therapist and author which highlight and explain the difference and the importance of the role of art therapist.

A lovely song in honour of lost words

Beautiful song from Lost Words

June 7, 2019leaparttherapyEdit “Beautiful song from Lost Words”

Bluebell from The Lost Words by You Are Wolf

I had to share this wonderful song with illustrations by Jacki Morris.  The album was made to compliment a wonderful book by nature writer Robert Mac Farlane, who discovered when looking at a recent Oxford Junior dictionary that words were missing.  These words that included acorn, adder, bluebell and bramble, conker, dandelion, heather and wren were taken out to make way for words that are mainly transitory computer based words such as chatroom.  MacFarlane decided to write a book of Lost Words with beautiful imagery by Morris to re-enchant children and anyone who happens to come across the book – to the wonders and beauty of the creatures and plants that somehow have been omitted from the dictionary.Leave a comment


creative workshops for self exploration

I am running a series of workshops for adults at Naomhluan Play therapy, North Street, Skibbereen, beginning on Tuesday 11th June. 10am – 12pm. The workshops are facilitated by me using my community arts and art therapy background along with experience of how positive artistic exploration can help us Thrive in these challenging times. The group will have weekly themes and use different art materials to allow our hopes and dreams to have creative expression offering potential for our inner desires to manifest. All Welcome, please call me for more information and booking. thanks, Marika 086 150 8280

Monday morning Blues


Starting this image I had no idea what would emerge. I often doodle faces and figures, but this one felt sad and as she took form I realised that I was feeling blue or quite low and that was because I was in pain. Using the art materials put me in touch with my feelings, giving me an opportunity to reflect on how my body was. I realised that I needed to do more gentle exercise and start a simple yoga regime.

Reflections and transformation

“Storytellers ought not to be too tame. They ought to be
wild creatures who function adequately in society. They are best in disguise. If they lose all their wildness, they cannot 
give us the truest joys.”

– Ben Okri

I have just spent the most incredible and transformational weekend in an ancient and magical place on the Beara Peninsula.

The weekend workshop was facilitated by our much-beloved tutor and mentor Julie Aldridge, who taught and supported students, during our art therapy training.   The workshop involved body-work as well as art making while we played with and examined our personal story in relation to energy and money.

The process of transformation is something that is part of the natural life cycle and intrigues me – this paradox of wild/tame, how to be, how to grow and be safe, and how to deal with being caught or captured.  Julie read us a wonderful story about Wayland Smith and the Valkyries, a transformational Nordic tale about 3 swan maidens and 3 brothers.

Here’s a wonderful song from ‘Stories’ by Martha Tilston.

The value of play therapy with children who have been traumatised.

I just watched this video of a Ted talk about play therapy with traumatised children.  Although I am not a trained play therapist, I use toys and the essence of play in my art therapy practice with all children, adolescents, and adults.  I see play as the key to allowing ourselves to relax and be in touch with our true natures, through building trusting safe relationships leading to improved resilience and ability to lead a healthy happy life.   As Paris says in the Ted talk, before we can play we have to feel safe and secure  – a basic need according to Maslow’s hierarchy of need.

See Paris’s Ted Talk: Trauma & Play Therapy: Holding Hard Stories

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

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The use of photographs in art therapy

Photographs can be used in therapy in many ways and there is a very good website dedicated to phototherapy which includes articles and examples of the work that photo-therapist’s engage in.

I have found that using photographs in art therapy groups provides an enjoyable way of sharing ideas related to our choice of photographs and for individuals in the group and also the therapist to introduce themselves to each other in a fun and easy way.  Over the years since I was first introduced to the idea of using found imagery in art therapy groups, I have taken many photographs of objects and scenes that represent a diverse collection with images chosen to evoke a feeling response by the person who selects them.  The images can be used in many ways that evoke sharing and reflection.



Reasons for Art and relevance to Therapy

I am well aware of the improvements that creativity can bring to people’s well being, and how using the right side of the brain can allow us to access our subconscious and our inner needs.  It seems that this is accepted by people who work in some areas of the health system, but what I don’t understand is why Art Therapists find it hard to gain employment, and why The Arts Council in Ireland and Arts and Health Ireland will not give funding for art therapy in HSE Arts and Health settings.

The following quotes are taken from a UK inquiry into the value of art in relation to health and wellbeing.


“At least one – third of GP appointments are, in part, due
to isolation. Through social prescribing and community resilience programmes, creative arts can have a significant impact on reducing isolation and enabling wellbeing in communities.”
Dr Jane Povey GP, Director, Creative Inspiration Shropshire Community Interest Company

“At Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we have always believed that the arts are a force for change, enriching people’s lives and transforming communities, so we were pleased to support this important work, to shine a light on the links between arts and wellbeing and to uncover the excellent practice and evidence to underpin our assertions. The findings emphasise the positive impact that arts access and participation have on helping people to overcome disadvantage and enjoy healthier lives, and the case studies clearly demonstrate the power that partnerships between health agencies and arts practitioners can have.”                  Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

“There is growing evidence that engagement in activities like dance, music, drama, painting and reading help ease our minds and heal our bodies. This timely report sets out

a clear policy framework for the cultural sector to continue its impressive work in improving people’s health and wellbeing.” Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England

“This report lays out a compelling case for our healthcare systems to better utilise the creative arts in supporting health and wellbeing outcomes, building on a growing body of evidence in mental health, end-of-life care and in supporting those living with long-term conditions.”               Lord Darzi, Professor of Surgery, Imperial College London


“The therapeutic value of art is an asset we must use. A partnership between arts organisations and health organisations has the power to improve access to the arts and to health services for people neglected by both. Through our Creative Minds programmes in Yorkshire, I also know these partnerships can both save lives and make lives.” Robert Webster, Chief Executive South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Lead Chief Executive, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Sustainability and Transformation Partnership

“Artistic self expression gives participants an identity beyond illness. I have seen the arts build confidence and community and provide hope in the midst of suffering.”                      Eva Okwonga, Peer Support Advisory Board Member for Mind and Music Workshop Leader at Music In Mind


“The Sackler Foundations support creative people who are known to be passionate about connecting the arts to ordinary people’s lives and who are expert at what they do. We have always supported both arts- and health-related activity and continue to commit to quality programmes, often where other partners – public, private and philanthropic – will join us. We would welcome strategic and sustained collaboration to support the arts to promote health and wellbeing.”   Dame Theresa Sackler

“This is an impressive collection of evidence and practice for culture and health, which reflects the passion and breadth of engagement of the APPG and its partners over the last two years.”  Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive, Public Health England


“Art helps us access and express parts of ourselves that are often unavailable to other forms of human interaction. It flies below the radar, delivering nourishment for our soul and returning with stories from the unconscious. A world without art is an inhuman world. Making and consuming art lifts our spirits and keeps us sane. Art, like science and religion, helps us make meaning from our lives, and to make meaning is to make us feel better.” Grayson Perry, Artist

“The mind is the gateway through which the social determinants impact upon health, and this report is about the life of the mind. It provides a substantial body of evidence showing how the arts, enriching the mind through creative and cultural activity, can mitigate the negative effects of social disadvantage. Creative Health should be studied by all those commissioning services.” Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director, Institute of Health Equity, University College London

Guided Meditation: Ball of light


balloflight10 Photo credit Denis Smith


There is an inner space in each of us that is quiet, and weightless and timeless. Stress causes us to fall out of touch with this space and focus on juggling all the countless tasks that life throws at us, and we forget to just be still. This directive allows us to mindfully reconnect with our inner sanctuary so that we can be refreshed.

Materials: paper, oil pastels,  Slick Stix Crayola crayons, regular markers, calm music

Before you start the guided meditation, have each person choose one pastel or maker and have them set it next to their paper.  Next read this script:

“Sit comfortably in your chair, backs straight, feet on the ground,  hands on your knees, now look straight ahead of you and close your eyes. Breath in through your nose, and exhale out of your nose. Relax your shoulders, your neck,  your face. Notice if…

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