The first time I read about Art Therapy was in Mexico in 2001. I discovered it whilst reading a book that I had bought by mistake. I remember I could not sleep for three nights in a row because I felt that I had found my vocation: helping others through Art. I was convinced about the benefits of Art as a therapeutic tool, I was sure that I was on the right path.
Now sixteen years later, after a long journey I am more convinced than ever, especially after I finished my placement at MIND, in Oxford. This is a charity that supports people with severe mental health problems. It was not easy. At the start the Manager told me “Please do not be upset if no-one comes”. It turns out that he was right and for six weeks I only had one member. After a difficult beginning some of the members decided to have a try and the number of attendees gradually increased to eight and twelve. Eventually there were eighteen members at the sessions. Some of them would stay the whole day. This encouraged them to start painting or drawing at home.
We created a little community. They were considerate about the fact that I struggled with the language sometimes but they helped me to become more confident. They were always willing to learn new things and to explore colours together. The organization helped us and supported the project. We had an exhibition and the group loved seeing their art work displayed. We were very proud of what we had created. That exhibition helped me to realise how much we had achieved together. When I had to finish my placement at The Mill, we had a big party, they cooked, gave me flowers, a painting and a lovely card. I was very moved.
It seems to me that art matters here and now. Art opened our hearts and allowed us to connect to each other, we were able to be ourselves during the sessions which quickly became a safe space to share our feelings, our fears and also our wishes.
I would like to thank Mind (Oxford) staff and volunteers for making it possible and all the service users, especially my group. It has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.
I would also like to thank the Tobias community for giving me the foundation to fulfill my mission in life.
By Teresita Valverde
Final Year Student at
Tobias School of Art and Therapy