(c) 2009 vpb collage mixed-media
And sometimes, you need to call in Black and womon. A mental health day to, as the sista says in the video, “reaffirm my humanity to myself.” A day to yeah, um, yuppers . . . just be, reflect . . . a personal day. And sometimes, while you’re reflecting you get to thinking about why . . . and who . . . and what.
Okay, not you, but me.
As I parlayed in bed scrolling through social media I started thinking about why I’m an art therapist and why I work with youth, particularly Black teen gyrls. As I explore the me of myself, nicole jhanrea, in 2016, I thought this was a valid question at this juncture in my life. I decided to pull up and revise my artist as therapist, therapist as artist, Black art therapist as healer identities statement.
I started with: I am a (clinical) art therapist. I put “clinical” in parenthesis because I do not want to scare anyone. For some, “clinical” gives them the heeby jeebies. They think of a psych unit or a sterile environment. Anyway, I moved from there and thought about what it is for me to be a postmodernist (clinical) art therapist.
In a nutshell, postmodernism in the context of art therapy is the acknowledgement and integration of multiple perspectives as this pertains to art therapy clinical practice, research and training. In doing so we recognize that there is no one truth that can be apprehended and applied to our work but rather many different truths and ways of seeing. —Dr. Helene Burt
This is probably still a draft, but yeah, it’s where I’m at in my practice as an artist, as an art therapist doing healing work and as a Womon/Black. Check it out, below…
Life, is made up of details. These details do not exist in isolation from one another—neither do our mental and emotional health. Life’s details must be nurtured to foster personal (and communal) growth and development.
As both an artist and a therapist, I am interested in exploring life’s details. I explore my awareness of details; the context in which details manifest themselves; humanities reactions to details; and, how details can be reframed and reimagined. I am most interested in how details manifest through the intersecting gaze of race, class and gender.
As an artist, I am just as interested in the art making process, as I am the product. Both the process and finished product activate, maintain, challenge and deepen the exploration of life’s details.
As an art therapist, I co-create—with you—spaces to simultaneously engage the past, present and future. The creative process is used to build your capacity in: Unpacking the past. Managing the present. Navigating the future.
I engage this co-created space as an empathetic and culturally competent facilitator who operates from the premise: we are experts of our own lives, and as experts we know ourselves, the best. So, though I am a therapist, I am not the “all knowing Oz.” And, though a skilled practitioner, it is not my calling to change or save you. It IS, however, my calling and utmost commitment to remind you of your worth, power and life potential, and to hone your skills in “saving” yourself and changing your life, if you deem necessary.
I do not require that your creative expression is based upon an artistic mastery or a self-identification as an “artist.” I do however, encourage you to engage in a creative process of using art materials to examine, expose, express and expand your human and wellness capacity. Art therapy, as a clinical OR non-clinical intervention, is a therapeutic tool that allows for an in-depth exploration of your life. It can include, yet far exceeds, words and verbal reasoning.
My artist and therapist selves are both grounded in an integrated arts approach. I am most drawn to collage mixed-media, photography and printmaking in the visual arts; however, I am equally vested in creative writing, dance/movement, drama and singing. In my personal art practices I meet myself where I am in any given moment, choosing the most fitting modality and materials to: ground myself, acknowledge my intentions, and fully integrate all aspects of myself. Similarly, I will meet you where you are in your current mental and emotional states. I will then support you in trusting yourself with yourself, and in knowing when to ask for help.
I’ll encourage you in developing skills to identify who your are, what you want, and how to best manage life’s ups and downs. I’ll also encourage you to dream, explore and imagine different possibilities.
As an art therapist, I creatively tend to life’s details!