Art therapy outreach comes to P.A.'s Women’s Shelter

By Tyler Marr
December 6, 2017 - 2:00pm Updated: December 7, 2017 - 12:25am

In the basement of the Prince Albert Women's Shelter, Ashley Peterson explained to seven others around a table how once she too called the safe space home.

But after grappling with this dark chapter of her life, she entered university and pursued a background in Indigenous Social Work.

Working as the Indigenous Gallery Educator at the Mann Art Gallery, Peterson was looking for a way to expand the centre’s Imagine Arts outreach program. Citing a lack of programming at the shelter, she felt an art therapy course with an Indigenous perspective could resonate with the women.

“I feel like the Indigenous perspective of healing is more effective than any other method,” she said.

Sitting around the table Tuesday afternoon, the ladies were given a small wooden box, asked to decorate it however they like, and keep it as an object to help pick them up on a difficult day. They were also given a small glass bottle and asked to write a positive message on paper and place it inside, as well as a rock and anything else they want to keep.

In decorating, many opted for paint out of the wide array of creative tools at their disposal. Others turned to flowers and glitter to cover the wooden boxes. 

The concept of art therapy is rather new, but Peterson explained how it can assist survivors and allow them to safely express difficult feelings, cope with trauma, and support emotional healing.  

It is also a key contributor to self-empowerment.

“If people don’t have new, different pictures in their mind about what they can do, they can’t imagine and change their future,” Peterson added. “They will always do the same that they already know and they will repeat the familiar behaviour.”

The program, branded by Peterson as the “Holistic Health Project,” is the first of its kind for the shelter. Having run art therapy courses in the past, Peterson said everyone has a “higher sense of self-esteem [after] and they are proud of the work they have done.”

“There can be a lot of self-doubt in the beginning, but by the end, they are going ‘I can’t believe I can make that or draw’ and it is just really rewarding,” she added.

The program will run for a number of months and a wide variety of actives are planned.


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