Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
Creating a voice for the Disability Sector
Creative arts therapy has been proven to empower people with a disability

Creative arts therapy has been proven to empower people with a disability

16 March 2022

It is becoming more apparent that unleashing your creative talent through art is a sure way to calm the soul and soothe the mind, as MARINA REYNOLDS discovers.

From using art or creativity to channel feelings or find direction or peace, engaging in art or creative art therapy - be it the traditional way of drawing or painting, photography, sculpting, working with clay, even knitting, weaving or crocheting or sewing - is a proven therapy for many.

For some it is the only way they can express themselves. For others, visual arts or creative therapy is a release and a soothing remedy. Getting lost in the colours or words, shapes or lines is how they find themselves.

According to the West Australian Department of Health, art therapy usually focuses on the art process rather than the final form. How you feel while making your art and what you learn about yourself is the most important thing.

Even writing (journalling, stories, poetry, even scrapbooking - it doesn’t matter) can be as therapeutic as putting a paintbrush to canvas, or pointing a camera at a butterfly.

And how do I know? Because writing is my therapy. While it’s also my career, putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) soothes, relaxes and silences the clutter in my brain.

Writing for me - just as drawing, painting or crocheting is to others - is a way of channelling that noise in my head and making sense of things. Even writing down what I am doing that day, just like a shopping list, can bring order and clarity.

From poetry to works of fiction and non fiction (and the odd unpublished children’s books!) writing is my happy place.

For several years after the death of both parents, aside from what was required in my job, I never wrote recreationally.

I couldn’t remember how it made me feel. I never read, never had a writing “vision”. Couldn’t think of the words to express how the death of my only relatives affected me.

I was empty. A writer without words is like tonic with no gin.

Then my husband suffered a near-fatal accident and was left with life-long physical and psychological injuries. Then I got gravely ill.

It was those experiences that reawakened my creativeness. After a while I began to realise what was missing and unlike when I used to write for fun, I was now writing for therapy. For my sanity. Get it all down to get it all out.

I don’t care who does or doesn’t read what I write, it’s for me. But I do kinda care who sees what I paint or draw!

But, then again - who cares who likes or does not like what you write, draw, paint, make, create? It’s your emotion on a page or canvas. Your thoughts. And it belongs to you so what others think is their concern - it’s how you have felt creating it that matters.

Creative Art Therapy Australia (CATA) embraces art as therapy and sees an inclusive world where creative art therapy empowers people.

Art therapy is listed as an Allied Health intervention in the Provider Registration Therapeutic Supports under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and recognised by the Quality and Safeguards Commission.

CATA provides specialised creative art therapy sessions for all people dealing with adverse experiences and/or end of life.

As an accredited disability service provider under the NDIS, CATA has undergone a rigorous accreditation and compliance process with the National Standards for Disability Service.

Providers like CATA and Heart 2 Art Creative Workshops and Mentoring, say getting in touch with your creative side allows you to not only enhance skills but also boost confidence.

CATA positively empowers and impacts the lives of people braving trauma while Heart2Art believes art helps you explore your emotions and therefore discover yourself. 

As the passionate, courageous and effective champion of creative art therapy, CATA believes creative processes can shift thinking to positive and healthy mindsets.

The organisation works with children, adolescents, families and communities braving physical, psychological and emotional trauma.

It is aligned and partnered with local hospitals, hospices, schools and organisations working with people facing adversity.

CATA provides person-centred, evidence-based creative arts therapies to people living with diverse ranges of adverse physical, psychological and social life experiences.

The organisation was born out of the devastating Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009 and the vision of one woman.

Following the devastation of the fires, Melbourne architect-turned-visual artist, Caroline Eshak-Liuzzi, volunteered as an artist-in-residence at Marysville Primary School for three years.

Within this transformative period in Caroline's life, she and a small group of vision-aligned volunteers worked with determination and passion to bring explorative art experiences to 35 children and adolescents who experienced a collective community trauma.

You can read more about this woman’s drive and determination and the evolution of CATA here https://cata.org.au/who-we-are/our-history/.

CATA is helping and supporting people struggling to cope with anxiety, panic, depression, confusion, uncertainty, financial hardship, self harm, insomnia, isolation and disconnection. Find out how they can help you or get more information about their programs by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The best thing about art or creative arts therapy is you don’t have to be skilled or have an artistic background or even know how to paint, write, draw or knit.

Places like Heart 2 Art and CATA run workshops to take you through the process and expose you to your inner self. These workshops or classes are not just for participants who have dabbled in the arts - creative arts as therapy can be applied to novices and skilled alike.

So, even if you don’t find yourself “artistic” (after all, what is “art”?!) or dismiss yourself as talentless, do not dismiss what creativeness is lurking just under the surface.

Experience different mediums, play around with that wool, dabble with your child’s crayons or colouring pencils but do experiment - you just never know what you will discover.

Depending on where you live, have a look at Heart 2 Art’s program at https://heart2artworkshops.net/ or just get in touch with them at https://heart2artworkshops.net/contact.

Or just touch base with your NDIS provider - they perhaps can point you in the right direction and put you in touch with creative art groups.

Failing that - put a call out on your town’s social media page or do a Google search of your region or local government site - you are bound to find a suitable art group or club you can go and try to get your creative juices flowing.

U3A often has creative writing or journaling classes or even art classes. There IS something out there for everyone.

The WA health department says art therapy provides a safe space to explore "art for arts sake" in your own way.

This can happen in an open studio setting with a little guidance or in a supported, structured class where you can learn different art skills. Engaging in creativity in this way can aid recovery as it helps you to focus, relax and express yourself.

Art therapy uses the creative process of making art as a safe way to represent your inner experiences, develop awareness and support personal change.

Along with creating art, the art therapist may use relaxation and visualisation techniques and guided imagery, in the therapy session. This can help you cope with difficulties and stress, and speed up your recovery process.

The art therapist offers a safe, supported holding space to allow a person to process difficult emotional issues.

In the meantime, why not give writing a twirl? Your life story? A kid’s story? Start a journal. Turn it into a scrapbook.

Start small but start somewhere. Get together with an art therapist or just a friend. Join a group? Explore different types of visual art forms.

Don’t restrain yourself to what you consider your limitations - when it comes to art there are no boundaries because there is no limit to your imagination and your interpretation of what you see in your mind’s eye.

As French impressionist Edgar Degas once said: “Art is not what you see but what you make others see.”


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