Art Therapist Anne Cantor has been working with residents in Kokoda and Connie Fall Care Homes at ANZAC Village, Narrabeen since 2010, enhancing and empowering residents, lives through the freedom, expression an satisfaction of engaging in art. Far from being a kindergarten-like experience, Anne’s Art Therapy groups offer the opportunity for residents to paint, glue, layer, sprinkle, design and create with the wisdom of adulthood.
“While the art we create looks wonderful, it’s not just a craft distraction activity; art therapy digs a little deeper. It allows those that can, to think at a deep level. They often get lost in it; they often drift off and there’s that sense of being in the zone and also engaging in some deeper exploration. It allows them to reflect on their life, to mourn their losses, to honour themselves, to be seen and to be heard and all of that is so valuable at this stage of life.”
“One of the benefits of art therapy for the elderly is that it’s empowering because it’s all about choice. They start with nothing and they end with something. There’s a bit of structure but they also art direct the composition of the finished product.”
With an Advanced Diploma Art Therapy and Visual Communication Degree, Anne started professional life as a graphic designer, but over time she felt “that rumbling” that she wanted to help others more. “I was working with Lifeline but I didn’t want to do a psychology degree. I love creativity and then I discovered art therapy. I’ve never looked back, I absolutely love it.”
“I’ve actually had people running on the page. I had a guy that was so angry and stuck so he’d go for a run with a couple of pastels for feet and a piece of paper for the road and off he’d go. In the end, he had a big smile on his face; he had gone for a run.”
“We can bring the world to them – I can’t imagine the last time some of them felt the sand between their toes, so bringing the sand in and letting them feel it, can create interest and unlock memories. I can take them balloon riding, we can go anywhere in the world and do anything, explore outer space with black paper and paint.”
And the results are stunning. “None of them are artists but here they are, together, creating amazing things that they can be proud of and surprised by; they are constantly surprised by their ability and there’s strength in numbers which is lovely because it builds community as well.”
“Engaging the imagination is almost as good as the real thing. With art, anything is possible.”
Claire Booker has recently started working with residents as Art Therapist in RSL LifeCare’s Far North Coast Care Homes at Ballina, Lismore and Suffolk Park. Claire hails from the Snowy Mountains in NSW but moved to the Northern Rivers in 2006 to Study at Southern Cross University. Like Ann Cantor, Claire has a background in visual arts and teaching and has also worked as a volunteer for LifeLine Australia in the past, as a crisis support telephone counsellor.
Claire is currently studying a Masters degree in Mental Health majoring in the field of Art Therapy at the University of Queensland.
Claire aims to promote the therapeutic use of arts for the improvement of human well-being. “Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy utilizing creative modalities within a therapeutic relationship to improve and inform physical, mental and emotional well being. Our groups are a great opportunity for creative expression, positive social interaction and non-verbal communication.”
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