Art Therapist Layika Begüm Janowski: “Humans are the only living species that need to give voice to their existence and they do that in the purest form through art..”
She was on a vacation in Datça.. Where would she think he’d give this interview when she met me? We talked with art therapist Layika Begüm Janowski about therapy with art.
What is Art Therapy? How is it applied?
It is a therapy method -which is based on psychotherapy- aiming to interpret the expression of the subconscious in different artistic fields.This method can be applied in various techniques such as painting, drawing, meditation techniques, dough, photography, role games and so on.
How does expression and interpretation in art therapy occur?
As in classical psychotherapy methods, the aim is to expose the subconscious feelings and thoughts on a certain topic. Different to classical therapy, you don´t talk about the topic directly in art therapy but express yourself in creative ways. Let´s say that a patient draws a tree, ,symbolizing his/her own personality, you talk about the tree therefore the patient himself/herself. The subconscious mind unwraps itself on paper then is interpreted by the therapist and client together after it has been shaped with the dough or painted over the canvas (colors, images, etc.).
Could you give us an example about your art therapy work?
Art therapy is not aimed at making art with esthetic concerns. It is completely meditative and reflects the sub-conscience . The subjects people carry along with them are incredibly various. It is difficult to give a sample in this respect, but I can say that (almost!) nothing happens by accident. All of the colors and images we choose have a meaning even if we don’t know that they do.
To be more specific, I joined the painting academy at the zoo in Leipzig (Germany) this Summer. I worked for five days on elephants and found out only the last day what made me choose them. What appeared on my canvas was fascinating. I painted a huge mother elephant and her child while she is encouraging her to go swimming.
Actually I was not very interested in elephants, but I knew that there was a reason which pulled me towards them for 5 days. The meaning behind it, of course, emerged only when the painting was finished and interpreted.
Elephants are strong, majestic but at the same time emotional, caring and social animals. I have just become a mother last year. The painting captions all the emotional and psychological changes i have went through with one scene. It reflects my new role as a mother.
There is no problem to be treated with this example, but it is an outstanding reflection of one of the biggest and challenging phases of my life.
Any Suggestions for people who are interested?
Art therapy can be done by anyone who likes to express himself or herself creatively, or needs an alternative therapy method. It can be practiced in chronic cases such as a long-lasting illness, old patients with pain or emotional problems, or even children who went through traumas, as well as acute conditions.
Next January, I will offer a course for pregnant women. The aim will be to reduce stress (in other words, try to cope with it) on the process of pregnancy, birth and afterbirth. With this method of therapy, mothers-to-be can try to adapt better to the biggest change of their lives, that is to say, to the very new “mother role”. They can relax and have a stress-free pregnancy. This is a good example to acute therapy which proceeds in a limited period of time. On the other hand, a person who is diagnosed with chronic depression can also express himself very well by art therapy, and might even achieve more progress and relief than with classical psychotherapy. Some people find it easier to express themselves without words.
Where do you think that art gets its healing power?
Art is the oldest form of expression known since the early ages of humanity. The figures engraved on walls of the caves were the most important things for people at that time and they had to transfer their feelings, experiences, conditions etc. to other human beings or maybe only to let it out by themselves. Humans are the only living species that need to give voice to their existence and they do that in the purest form through art. Acknowledging your existence has a healing power and helps you to achieve your true “self”.
Since when has this method been in use and in which countries?
This method started to develop by the mid-20th century in the U.S.A. and Europe. Currently, there are undergraduate and graduate study programs in Germany. It is considered a subdivision of psychotherapy but is still not as well established as Psychology / Psychiatry.
We could even say that the famous Frida Kahlo from Mexico, who reflects her own world in paintings, is performing art therapy.
How about art therapy in Turkey?
If there is a training unit and the necessary infrastructure, of course it can be applied in various fields. Why not, for example, work with children in orphanages as social/public project? It would offer an experience that increases the quality of life of an individual on small scale, and the society´s quality of life on a larger one.
Art therapists might also work with private patients in their offices. It is not necessary for a patient to have certain creative skills.