During this Women’s month we will focus on women who are contributing to the field of arts therapies. Community Art Counselling, and the work that we do, is based in the therapeutic use of the arts so we want to highlight and celebrate its value. Art therapist, Samantha Davis answered a few questions for us.
Describe your career path into the arts therapies. What made you choose this career?
I have always been really interested in psychology, art and children. I was delighted to discover that Art Therapy existed as it felt like it was a combination of all my passions.
What is the most rewarding part of your work as an arts therapist? What is the most difficult/least rewarding part of it?
Most rewarding is the actual facilitation of groups and sessions with clients.
I love seeing how something is created out of nothing and how a person’s internal world will be expressed onto a page, witnessing people’s shifts and how creativity helps people to work through things.
Least rewarding is the hours and hours of admin – emails, accounts, paperwork!
Where do you currently work and what does a typical day look like in the life of an arts therapist?
I live and work in Cape Town. Although lately I am online, so it doesn’t matter where I am located in person. A day depends on if I am running a group or not. If I am running a group i.e. a workshop, course, or seminar, then it’s usually all day or 3 to 5 days in a row – just facilitation and in-between eating some food. If no group then its part admin and part individual clients, meetings. I spend a lot of time on the computer!
Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work? And why?
My favourite theorist is Donald Winnicott. He is a famous paediatrician and psychoanalyst. His contribution to Art Therapy has been phenomenal e.g. the transitional object, potential space, boundaries, and containment. Winnicott really made the work come alive for me in relating theory to practice as well as being a mom in terms of his understanding of the progression of the infant and the ‘good enough mother’.
For groups in particular I am influenced by Morris Nitsun. He was a phenomenal discovery with regards the workings of groups and the ‘Anti-group’ process. He works with Destructive forces in the group and their creative potential, that is: If the facilitator is able to work consciously with these behaviours, it can ultimately enhance instead of threatening the functioning of the group.
What do you wish other people knew about the arts therapies?
That Art Therapy is not about learning techniques to analyse or interpret people drawings.
That one needs to actually participate in Art Therapy to really learn and get a sense of what it is about. That is to experientially take part in the doing of the art and the reflection process.
In the SA arts therapies field, there seems to be a lack of diversity. How do you think we can create more diversity and representation?
Through a registered Post Graduate training in the country so more people have access.
Editor’s note: Since 2020, you can study art therapy in South Africa, at the University of Johannesburg. Get the brochure here.
What global or South African issues do you feel most passionate about? And why?
Education and giving children opportunities to express themselves freely. Where there is no judgement, no right or wrong, no good or bad. In the school system and in life itself it’s usually about an end goal, product orientated, getting things right, doing well, and artworks being realistic.
How do you view the role of the arts therapies in changing this issue for the better?
There is more awareness around how important creativity is becoming. Creativity is linked to resilience, problem solving etc.
As a woman, what is your personal philosophy on what should be done on prevalent issues such as gender-based violence?
Often underneath the violent behaviour is a lot of pain, confusion, low self-esteem. That all genders have access to express themselves in a safe and contained way in order to work through whatever is underlying the aggression.
Each person deserves to tell their story and to be seen and heard, to learn self-respect and to learn to respect others.
You said you are working more online lately, what is the value of art therapy online?
You can do individual art therapy sessions and of course group work online. Online art therapy makes it accessible to more people living in different cities without having to travel or leave home or families. There is a sense of safety already established through participating in one’s own home/known environment.
I discovered that the online connection between participants is very strong. This actually surprised me in the first online 3-Day Intro course that I ran soon after lock-down began.
What are you currently working on? And how can our readers learn more about the work you do?
I am about to facilitate another Art Therapy 3-Day Intro Seminar which is a combination of art therapy theory, case studies and experiential art making and reflection.
More info can be found on my website www.arttherapy.co.za.