If you’ve been reading the NG Times lately, you’ll have noticed a series by local writer and art therapist Anne Walsh about women who are recovering from cancer. Anne is a dynamic and vibrant individual who is bubbling over with creative ideas – from writing children’s books to developing her own app, Anne brings her passion and focus to a variety of different creative outlets. In October 2013, Anne brought a long-time dream to life when she opened the Art & Soul art therapy studio just outside of Kemptville.
When Anne invited me to visit her studio, I wondered what art therapy might consist of. As I pulled into the driveway that she shares with her husband, Vincent’s Spa Garage, I was immediately awed by the impossibly beautiful surroundings. Anne led me into her studio and offered me a San Pellegrino. While she fetched the drink I took a look at my surroundings. My first impressions were of quiet and calmness. The warm yellow walls, tile floors, and red curtains create a cozy nest that block out everyday worries and stresses.
There were art supplies on the large wooden table in front of me – paints and pastels peeking out, inviting me to get my hands dirty – and I asked Anne how a therapy session usually works. “My goal is to facilitate self-expression,” she says. “I’m not an artist but I love art and I love helping people express themselves through art.” Her clients choose whether they want to use paper or canvas. They set the pace and they choose whether they want to talk before, during, or after making art.
Anne doesn’t analyze the art her clients make. She says it’s more effective as a mirror that helps clients dig deeper and discover the issues that are holding them back. “You can’t BS art,” she laughs, and explains that healing happens when clients rediscover themselves and what is important to them. It empowers them to determine a course of action based on clarity rather than fear.
Art gives clients something to do during therapy sessions, which is particularly effective for shy or teen clients. It helps teens, parents, and families who are struggling through difficult times see that everyone has a different perspective and that every perspective makes sense.
For women who are interested in art therapy but can’t spare the time or the money for one-on-one sessions, Anne developed a set of art therapy cards in partnership with local graphic designer, Meredith Luce. The cards are designed to help women who are going through one of ten different transitions, such as divorce, illness, and aging, and they offer five directives or assignments that encourage gentle healing from the inside out.
As well as art therapy, Anne runs monthly workshops for a variety of needs. From Divorce Divas to Caregivers, Partners with PTSD to Depression and Anxiety, she helps people create community while they experience the cathartic joy of creating.
And that feels pretty good – for Anne and her clients.
Art & Soul