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DEAR MENTAL HEALTH, WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS

Dear Mental Health, What Are My Options : Art Therapy?

By Sean Tan Jun Kai

Catholic High students visited our Art Outreach programme location and where our founder Amanda Chen shared about Art for Good as an arts social enterprise. The children asked meaningful questions about how the organisation gives back to the community through art. The children created messages of love which will be gifted to the children from our Art Outreach programme.

Those grim times required everyone to isolate their household from the world, family, and friends for the greater good of public health. Since then, Singapore has endured and has begun her road to recovery after the suffocating period of Circuit Breaker measures. The effects of social isolation, however, has left an indelible mark on the mental health scene in Singapore.

Media coverage on this issue has increased, with greater calls for attention and more statistics reported. As of 5 October 2020 it was reported that the National Care Hotline (NCH) set up on 10 April 2020, just past the beginning of the Circuit Breaker, has taken over 30,000 calls, with more than 12,000 of them needing mental health support.[1]

A survey conducted by the company Ipsos during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker has shown that a quarter of Singaporeans in the survey have reported poor mental health, and 18% of all survey participants have indicated that their mental health was only getting worse.[2]

While it is good news all round that more light is being shed on the situation of mental health in Singapore, my curiosity was piqued by one aspect from the various articles by different media platforms: in general, the articles will list a series of hotlines for counselling help, but almost none of them would elaborate on any other form of therapy. It was as if the face for mental help had become a one-dimensional affair, void of variety, deprived of depth.

These hotlines do not give much in the way of information on the mental healthcare that could be provided at a glance. An article by Channel News Asia has brought up the challenges people face when seeking out the appropriate medium of mental healthcare, with some of the points mentioned being that people facing mental health challenges would already be subject to the stress from their mental health issue, affecting their ability to search accurately for information to help themselves.

There is a certain deficiency in the dissemination of information – One would not know, just from looking at a hotline, of the other forms of mental therapy. Looking at a string of numbers would not be able to detail that mental therapy can include animal-assisted therapy, art therapy, hypnotherapy, and more.

We are all human after all, unique in our special ways; and it is only fair for us to be armed with the knowledge to make the best decisions for our health. With that being said, the range of possible therapies available is just too much to cover in a single article in any detail, which is why I chose to focus my attention on only one: art therapy.

Art therapy typically has clients use different creative mediums, ranging from something as simple as colouring to more complex activities such as sculpting, to express themselves. A certified therapist can then use the information expressed to help the client understand and resolve any underlying issues.

The benefits that art therapy have been documented in various studies, with some studies showing evidence that art programs can boost confidence, enhance pro-social skills, and improve the participant’s abilities to resolve conflict.[3] Other studies also detail how art helps people with physical disabilities to focus on their positive memories, giving them respite from the negative emotions and perceptions around their disability.[4]

These powers of art to uplift people and alleviate the pain of people roused my interest to investigate art therapy in Singapore. After all, given how there has been an increase in the number of people seeking mental help, surely there should be articles giving it coverage.

Thus, I began digging for articles on art therapy. I found several news articles detailing instances of events that had included art therapy, though the top searches were dated at least several years ago, and as the years grew more recent, so did the scarcity of articles on art therapy in Singapore.

Unable to find more current articles that might help me understand the part art therapy plays in the context of COVID-19, I decided to look to other avenues to learn more about art therapy, namely, different non-government organisations such as Art for Good and The Red Pencil. These organisations host a plethora of art therapy programs aimed to better the lives of people.

Through my searches and inquiries, I have had the fortune of securing an interview with Ms Amanda Chen, a certified Art Therapist and founder of Art for Good, to better understand how art therapy would best serve the mental health scene in Singapore with the added benefit of her professional perspectives.

I opened up the interview by asking about when art therapy could be recommended, given how it might be too optimistic to expect art therapy as a miracle cure for everyone. Ms Amanda Chen explained that art therapy would usually be recommended for people who have a personal interest in art in the first place. As the selected form of therapy, art can be a non-invasive method to interact with the client and address the problems they face.

“For children who are very young, who are non-verbal, that [art] would probably be the best approach for them. Especially if they have some kind of interest in art.” Was one of the examples Ms Amanda Chen elaborated with.

Now knowing that art therapy would be better suited for people with an interest or open to the concept to therapeutic art, how could art therapy help those people with the mental health challenges arising from COVID-19?

Ms Amanda Chen answered my question saying that while art therapy could be suited for people of all ages, the therapy must be tailored to the client’s needs for that statement to ring true. She began explaining to me that: “When you come into a therapy session or an art therapy session, you are working with different objectives.” In relation to COVID-19, the benefits that art therapy can provide would boil down to what a client hopes to achieve through the therapy. Would they want to heal from some trauma caused by family violence from the Circuit Breaker? Are they seeking solace after the months of isolation?

This also applies in instances where relatives join in to create art with a client. When asked about this, Ms Amanda Chen talked about how a bonding session between siblings might differ from a bonding session between parents and their child; the purposes for partaking in the creation of art is more than just a casual decision. It is one that is carefully considered with the intended outcomes of the clients in mind to chart a proper path to recovery.

Ms Amanda Chen also mentioned other considerations, such as disabilities, that might affect their ability to do art. With that in mind, Ms Amanda Chen said that: “you make it easy for them, and you help them process certain things that they might find it difficult to process.” The whole process of therapy is flexible and adapted to the circumstances of the clients; the main and most important goal would be to promote faster, smoother, recovery.

Now knowing the place art therapy has within the mental health picture during this pandemic, how then, does art therapy measure up to its more common cousins?

While it is true that common media articles almost exclusively feature help hotlines and counselling, they do so for good reason. There is a successful track record of help hotlines and counselling and there is no denying that the more commonly advertised forms of mental health therapy produce results.

“It is said that art therapy is very good for trauma because the way that we see trauma is through images,” Ms Amanda Chen said, before going on to explain how art as a visual medium matches up with the way traumatic incidences plays out in our minds, which makes it an invaluable bridge to access any unconscious information that a client may have. With this knowledge, therapists would be better positioned to understand and engage with their clients to begin the recovery process.

In the event that a client is unable to communicate verbally either because they are not capable of finding the words to do so, or simply do not wish to talk, art therapy can also step in to facilitate a form of communication. “It helps you; it calms you… That as you are making [art], you also want to talk about [their problem]” was another one of the positive possible outcomes Ms Amanda Chen mentioned about art.

However, the difference between art therapy and its competition is not all that quantitative.

Ms Amanda Chen continued to point out that: “Art therapy is very similar to counselling, but we use art as an intervention tool to help bridge through difficult situations and circumstances.” Art in essence is just another medium to engage and help a client recover. It has its benefits when used for mental trauma, but the choice of therapy should once again differ to the client’s situation to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Ultimately though, she reinforces the fact that any treatment of any kind will be carefully assessed by the therapist. Ms Amanda Chen describes it as a “client-centred approach” – if a certain form of therapy does not work for the client, be it art therapy or other forms of therapy, Ms Amanda Chen has indicated that the therapists involved with the client would communicate with each other to determine the current activities that may or may not be working for the client. Depending on the situation at hand, the therapists might decide that a change of therapy or even a change of therapist might suit the client better.

On this note, Ms Amanda Chen had added that there are art therapy programmes available in the Singapore Institute of Mental Health (IMH) as an example of wider and more flexible options available to clients that can help them with their mental health. Looking into this, I have also found that art therapy is also available in other institutions like the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

As such, while it may not be possible to land the perfect therapy when first contacting an accredited hotline, a certified therapy organisation, or government-supported mental help body, the therapists that one would come into contact with would strive to find the best therapy or combination of therapies for the client.

Talking with Ms Amanda Chen has given me a better understanding of the role art therapy may play in Singapore. Art therapy should not be exalted over all other forms of therapy, but neither should it be belittled. Art therapy is a piece of a greater puzzle on our journey to better mental health, with areas where its application would be appropriate, people it would be better suited for.

It is more important to consider what kind of therapy best suits one’s needs. Though, if the form of selected therapy ends up being unsuited for oneself, it will not be the end of the line. In this journey to mental wellness, the professionals will look out for your good.

[1] “MOH | News Highlights”. 2020. Moh.Gov.Sg. https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/the-national-care-hotline-and-mental-resilience.

[2] “Singaporeans And Mental Health During The Circuit Breaker”. 2020. Ipsos. https://www.ipsos.com/en-sg/singaporeans-and-mental-health-during-circuit-breaker.

[3] Wright, Robin, Lindsay John, Ramona Alaggia, and Julia Sheel. 2006. “Community-Based Arts Program For Youth In Low-Income Communities: A Multi-Method Evaluation”. Child And Adolescent Social Work Journal 23 (5-6): 635-652. doi:10.1007/s10560-006-0079-0.

[4] Stuckey, Heather L., and Jeremy Nobel. 2010. “The Connection Between Art, Healing, And Public Health: A Review Of Current Literature”. American Journal Of Public Health 100 (2): 254-263. doi:10.2105/ajph.2008.156497.

EDUCATIONAL JOURNEY WITH ART FOR GOOD

6 July 2018
Catholic High School Entrepreneurship Programme Learning Journey

Catholic High students visited our Art Outreach programme location and where our founder Amanda Chen shared about Art for Good as an arts social enterprise. The children asked meaningful questions about how the organisation gives back to the community through art. The children created messages of love which will be gifted to the children from our Art Outreach programme.

19 September 2018
Riverside Secondary School Learning Journey

Riverside Secondary School students came for their learning journey at our Art Outreach location. Our founder Amanda Chen shared about Art for Good as an arts social enterprise. The children created messages of encouragement, which they could gift to someone they knew who might need some empowerment or encouragement. Two of the children left their cards behind for Art for Good, to encourage us to keep doing what we are doing and use art to do more good!

1-18 November 2018
CIP Project with students from ITE

With special thanks to Nurin Najwa Binti Amran, Ang Zheng Quan Dion, Cheng Qi Ting Joanna, Lina Li Yuan, Nick Bryan Tan, Tan Xuan Xin Dulcie!

6 students from ITE volunteered with Art for Good to create their own art program with the underprivileged children and followed by fundraising by selling these keychains at our Christmas booth. They made plastic shrink keychains together with the children from the Art Outreach Program, where the drawing and colouring of the keychains was done in the classroom. The ITE students then brought them back to microwave and attached the keychain mechanisms. The children from the Art Outreach program got to keep two keychains while the rest were sold at the booth. Keychains are available on our online shop!

7 January 2020
Interview for Research Project with students from Kangnam University

A group of Korean students from Kangnam University visited Singapore to do research on Social Enterprises in Singapore. Art for Good was happy to participate in their project! The interview was held at Art for Good Art Studio. Afterwards, we brought them out for a scrumptious Singaporean meal!

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Sean Yew
Project Manager
Lithan Academy PCP Program
Nov 2017 - July 2018

I had the opportunity to learn about managing a micro business, particularly a social enterprise that works closely with various partners, ranging from government to non-government organizations, educational institutions as well as corporate entities. Art for Good also focuses on employee development, as I was a beneficiary of the Professional Conversion Programme, a 9-month course which equipped me with digital marketing skills to boost the company’s marketing efforts. The most memorable experience through my time here was making a difference to youths at risk, through art and art therapy. Watching them grow and express themselves better through art made my job all the more meaningful.

Jerlynn-300x300

Jerlynn Yap
Republic Polytechnic
June - August 2019

This internship has provided me with many opportunities, where I have gained experience that helps me both professionally and personally. By helping out behind the scenes for events and handling the website requirements, gave me insight to how such organisations are being managed. One of my experiences was that I had first-hand contact with the beneficiaries like special needs children and underprivileged children. Previously, I have done volunteering work for underprivileged elderly, but helping the children gave me a different vibe as the children are active and constantly smiling. For these experiences, I am very grateful to have worked with Art for Good.

Zenieth

Zeneith Yee
Republic Polytechnic
March - August 2020

My Internship with Art for Good provided me opportunities to handle tasks which I would not have imagined myself to learn. Not being very IT Savvy, helping with the back end of the website was daunting in the beginning. However, I got to learn many things just from handling the backend of the website as I navigated and familiarised with the system. Handling the Social Media design and posts, I feel more confident with myself and handling my tasks as the days go by. Knowing more about the Social Enterprise Model gave me a different view on how we could use art to improve the lives of others. Most importantly, art improves mental health and improves well being. All in all, my internship with Art for Good allowed me to learn and experience new things and I am thankful for the opportunity given by Art for Good!

DOING GOOD THROUGH ART DURING COVID 19

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE VS COVID-19 : DOING GOOD THROUGH ART

During Singapore Circuit Break Period, Art for Good did our part by helping migrant workers in dormitories that are affected greatly during the Covid-19 Pandemic through the ‘Let’s Spread the love for Migrant Workers’ fundraising program by @sugarfreesaccharin.

Art for Good helped to promote and reach out to wider audience through our Social Media page for this fundraising project. Every donation of $5, donors would receive an e-greeting card of their choice specially illustrated by artist, @sugarfreesaccharin. All proceeds went to the Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving conditions of low-wage migrant workers in Singapore.

The ‘Let’s Spread the Love for Migrant Workers’ fundraising program managed to raised a total of near $10,500 in just 7 days!

Read full article from Ignite Media here

MENDING TIES THROUGH ART (STRAITS TIMES)

Ms Chen encouraged the girl to communicate with her mother about her struggles.
Ms Chen says: “The last I heard, she was not sent to a girls’ home.”
Names of parent and child were withheld to uphold client confidentiality.
Ms Chen is one of a growing number of art therapists here.

A quick Google search turns up at least 10 local-based companies offering art therapy, some of which were set up less than a year ago.

According to a Straits Times article in 2013, the number of therapists registered under the Art Therapists’ Association of Singapore (ATAS) had then tripled to 30 since it first began five years ago in 2008.

President of ATAS Jeanette Chan says the association’s membership strength has since grown to 45, and adds that the number of certified art therapists here is “much higher” than that figure.
Art therapists here say they have seen a growing number of clients in recent years, especially in the form of children and parents who have behavioural and emotional issues ranging from defiance to depression.

However, they add that any individual who is struggling can also benefit from art therapy.
Art therapy involves a participant using art materials of any medium to express themselves.
Based on the process and the product of the session, therapists are able to guide the participants to better understand their own thoughts and emotions.

One does not need to have any art-making skills to do art therapy.

Says art therapist Huma Durrani, 44: “Cognitively, you may not be aware of the issues you are facing. But through an image, you can express and uncover deep-seated, unconscious emotions.”
She set up art therapy centre Coloured Canvas in Bukit Timah last August. There, she holds individual, group, and family art therapy sessions.

For family art therapy sessions, some activities she facilitates includes asking a parent and child pair to draw on a shared piece of paper, or having them paint a house together while sharing a single paintbrush.

Mrs Durrani says that after making observations such as which party takes up more space on the canvas, who uses which medium, and how the participants control their art tools, she is able to ask the pair guiding questions.

Examples of these include: What did you draw? What happened as you made the artwork? How can you change things?

It is every therapist’s hope that the questions they ask will bring healing to broken relationships between family members.

Mrs Durrani says: “The art therapist does not interpret the client’s artwork on their behalf, but facilitates insight instead. Also, the client is never forced to make art.”

She intends to further extend her family art therapy services by offering art therapy group sessions for caregivers on a regular basis.

Fellow art therapist Ms Chen, who founded social enterprise Art For Good in Upper Changi last August, conducts art therapy programmes and workshops for vulnerable children both here and overseas.

Locally, she has worked with primary and secondary schools and organisations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association of Singapore and Rare Disorders Society Singapore.

At these sessions, art is an outlet for the children to release their negative feelings.

Based on the artworks and what the children share, Ms Chen then works closely with social workers and the children’s parents to make professional recommendations on what would be most beneficial for the child, in the hope of bringing about positive change to the family situation.

Some art therapy organisations have tools to help families deal with their ongoing challenges beyond the art therapy sessions, which typically cost $100 and above per hour.

International humanitarian organisation The Red Pencil, for instance, encourages their clients to draw or paint something daily in a Visual Journal.

The Red Pencil was founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife pair Alain and Laurence Vandenborre, and seeks to help the vulnerable of society via art and arts therapy.

The Visual Journal allows clients to continue to express their inner thoughts and feelings, even upon completing the arts therapy process.

Beyond art therapy, The Red Pencil also uses music, movement and dance to help children and families who have been through overwhelming life circumstances to express themselves in a creative yet safe way.

Some organisations have also begun looking at how art can be used to facilitate better communication and bonding between parents and children.

Last month, business partners Steve Lawler and Tanya Wilson, the co-founders of Kult – a multi-disciplinary design studio, art gallery and publisher at Emily Hill – launched Eyeyah!.

Eyeyah! is currently a social enterprise that produces a child-centric activity book, in which art is used to stimulate creative thinking, creativity, and conversations between parent and child.

Their first issue of this activity book is about the Internet. Made up almost entirely of images created by artists, the book also comes with games, colouring pages, and uses the artworks to convey the dangers of the Internet, such as addiction and online strangers.

Future issues will look at themes like Supermarket, where little ones will be taught about genetically-modified foods and sugar consumption; and Money, which will convey messages about saving and investing.

Ms Wilson, 39, says: “Parents who typically do not talk to their children about difficult issues can use the hard-hitting images within Eyeyah! as a tool to begin a conversation.”

Read Straits Times Article here

ART CLASS VS ART THERAPY – IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

Before we start an art therapy session, we usually inform the clients of the difference between art class and art therapy. This is so they will know what they would be expect in an art therapy session and enhance their art therapy experience.

The chart below provides and overview of the elements of an art class and an art therapy session.

There are benefits to both, art class and art therapy session, of which each achieves very different objectives. For an art class, one learns about art and art making techniques. For art therapy, one discovers more about oneself. In an art therapy session, the client can ask the therapist on art making techniques, where learning these techniques provides a certain sense of mastery and provides the adequate tools for self expression. The difference in this circumstance is that there is no final grade or mark on how well this art technique has been learnt.

While most will find art-making to be therapeutic and have therapeutic benefits, this is not defined as art therapy unless an art therapist is present. This can be called art as therapy and not art therapy. Art therapy works on a triangular relationship between the art therapist, client and art-making. The certified and professional art therapist creates a safe space for the client to explore, guiding and emotionally holding the client where needed. There be some who would like to regard their art classes as art therapy, claiming the therapeutic benefits obtained from the art-making process as art therapy, simply because it sounds good or helps to boost their marketing or appeal for their classes.

Regardless of the reasons, these art classes cannot be regarded as art therapy and it is important to discern and know the difference.

WHAT IS ART THERAPY? SOME HELPFUL INSIGHTS

What is Art Therapy ?

As an art therapist, I often get this question. On a social context, without the need for powerpoint slides and stuffy presentations with profound academic explanations, in my simplified version and definition; Art Therapy is a blend of Art and Psychology, used to help all kinds of people. The next question would usually be closely followed with an assumption that Art Therapy is only for children. This is completely forgivable, given that art therapy is a rather niche industry and the concept of art making seems to be reserved mostly for children. It is scientifically proven that art therapy has much success with children, especially for children who are non-verbal or less verbal, as art provides them a platform for self expression.

Amanda Chen, MA-AT

Art Therapy at a Glance:

• Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy utilising creative modalities within a therapeutic relationship to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.

• Art therapists have been trained to work therapeutically using visual arts, including drawing, painting, and sculpture.

• Art therapy has been recognised and regulated around the world by organisations such as the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), Australian and New Zealand Art Therapy Association (ANZATA), Art Therapy Association of Singapore (ATAS) and Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA).

• Art therapy is traditionally based on, but not limited to, psychoanalytic or psychodynamic principles using varied practice-based and evidence-based theoretical frameworks. These include depth analytic, humanistic, behavioural, systemic, and integrative approaches.

• Art therapy can be practiced with individuals as well as groups and is not limited to age.

• Art therapy does not rely on artistic knowledge or ability, but by accessing imagination and creativity, qualities which all human beings possess.

• The emphasis is on the process of creating and meaning-making than the end product.

• The therapist and client/s develop an interpersonal relationship through the arts process, with clear boundaries and shared intentions.

Advantages of the Art Therapy:

Art Therapy can help people resolve conflicts, develop interpersonal skills, manage behaviour, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and achieve insight. Art therapy can encourage clients to:

• express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise

• explore their imagination and creativity

• develop healthy coping skills and focus

• improve self-esteem and confidence

• identify and clarify issues and concerns

• increase communication skills

• share in a safe nurturing environment

• improve motor skills and physical co-ordination

• identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth

INTERVIEW WITH ALENA ON SOFT PASTEL NAGOMI ART

What is Soft Pastel Nagomi Art?

Soft Pastel is a dry medium made of pure powdered pigment and a binder. Soft Pastel Nagomi Art is a style of art healing originally founded in Japan where it uses soft pastels and fingers to produce a gentle, warm and colourful piece of art utilising simple painting techniques.

The word ‘Nagomi’ means “harmony” in Japanese. It allows one be more aware of their state of mind and the emotions they are feeling in the moment. The outcome focuses on the process of self-acknowledgement and affirmation and not the final product. The process allows us to express our innermost emotions and thoughts onto paper through the expression of art. The process is relaxing, soothing and therapeutic.

 

Why did you want to do Nagomi Art? And how did you start?

By chance, I stumbled upon a Pastel Nagomi Art workshop in 2017 and found it so intriguing. Even with no formal art background, I found that the process was an easy approach and the outcome of the art piece was pleasing to the eye. The process reminded me of the blending application of eyeshadow when doing makeup. The calming feeling and creative outlet for self expression are some of the therapeutic benefits from doing Pastel Nagomi Art.

I resonated so deeply with this art form that I pursued the Diploma in Associate Instructor course and the Diploma in Advanced Instructor course consecutively. I am very passionate about this art form and have done numerous workshops and classes for all age groups and facilitated team bonding activities at companies using Pastel Nagomi Art. One of the more interesting experiences I had was having taught at the Singapore Prison!

The art making process allowed me to focus on creating “me time”. I began to find pockets of “me time” which allowed me to get in touch with my inner most feelings and the space to express my emotions and thoughts while painting. The process of choosing colours, grinding the powder, looking at the imagery you are trying to create, blending and erasing allowed me to realign my thoughts and feelings. At the end of the day, when I admire the final art piece, I feel a sense of accomplishment. My own personal life experiences and self-realisation, self-awareness and self-affirmation during the painting process, has motivated me to start up Touch Art Peace to spread the benefits of  Pastel Nagomi Art.

 

Who can do Nagomi Art? Who will benefit most from Nagomi Art?

Regardless of whether or not you have an arts background, from a pre-schooler to senior citizen, anyone can do Nagomi art!

Due to the relaxing, soothing and therapeutic nature of Pastel Nagomi Art, it is especially beneficial for people seeking healing, self improvement and personal development.

 

How does this form of artwork help parents and children?

Soft Pastel Nagomi Art can be a family fun activity where it creates time for family bonding and allows parents to bridge communication with their child through art. Through an interest based learning, children learn to be more focused as they explore their creativity.

The tactile feel of soft pastel is a new and sensory experience for the child which most children usually enjoy. The child is assured that it is alright to make a mess and even encouraged to get messy!

Most importantly, the process is more important than the outcome. Children should enjoy the process of exploration and dare to be adventurous by trying out new things. With encouragement and affirmation, the child generally tends to perform better.

 

What is the collaboration between you and Art for Good?

My collaboration with Art for Good is very meaningful to me, as I resonate with the same mission in using art to do good. I conduct the Soft Pastel Nagomi Art workshops at Art for Good, in hope to spread the mission of “renewing the sense of self” through self awareness and self realisation through the art making process.

 

How can I start?

Find some quiet time at the end of the day and spend about 15 mins to reflect on your day to get in touch with your feelings. Start by using colours that attract you and begin by drawing in a journal.

“Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and simply just feel.”

ART PIECES DONE BY ALENA

INTERVIEW WITH JULIAN ON PHOTOGRAPHY

What is photography to you? Is photography for everyone?

Photography is a form of expression to capture one’s perspective through a lens. It also allows us to document life and the events around us. Photography can be for everyone and in fact, digital technological advances in photography have allowed it to become even more accessible to everyone.

How did you start photography?

I started photography since a tender young age of nine, I would snap photos of everyone and everything, everywhere I went. When I got hold of a film camera at fifteen, I started on a more serious photography path. My love for taking pictures had managed to get me a scholarship in photography. However, due to family issues, I had to forego the opportunity.

After army in 2006, I decided to make passion my career. I was working in Kodak as a consultant and trainer. In between, I worked on my craft by doing event and wedding photography.

In 2008, I enhanced my skills by joining a production company, starting from the bottom, as a photographer assistant (in other words, like a coolie), and slowly worked myself up. Photographer assistants were not allowed to touch the cameras. If I made any mistakes in lighting settings, I would literally get slapped for it. Only when I finally progressed to become a junior photographer, I started to learn a lot.

Due to family issues again, I had to work in another company as a marketing photographer, but I had more flexible working hours. I realised that this company belongs to Jacky Chan and started working with him. He liked my work so much that I was chosen to be his photographer which was to be based in Singapore representing the company. Then in 2012, I started my own studio.

Can you explain more about the benefits of photography?

Photography requires you to take a step back and make observations before taking the picture which you want to capture. Photography helps you become more aware of the things and people around you. Digital photography requires lesser motor skills order to achieve the end result, attributing to higher chances of success. There are different levels within the craft depending on how you would like to take it, to allow you to become more technical and creative with the process and final result.

How does this form of artwork help parents & children? // Does photography have any therapy benefits?

Being able to quickly capture special moments and sharing them is something unique to photography. It simply requires you to point as shoot, making this easy and accessible as a starting point. It is something families can do together and share in the moment and bonds relationships. It can help with focus, creativity and more importantly, find meaning. It can also be a form of exercise, if you count the walking around, plus carrying the equipment!

What is the collaboration between you and Art for Good? // Why do you collaborate with AFG?

My collaboration with Art for Good is using art to do good, which is through my photography. I find a purpose in helping people, especially since I have gone through difficult times as well as a teenager. I believe that photography is an art form of which can potentially help people to find happiness.

How can I start? // Any tips to take better images?

A simple exercise would be to walk around more, observe the world around you. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and simply just feel.

If you would like to pursue photography, you can join my photography lesson in AFG. For enquiries email hello@artforgood.sg.

THE RED PENCIL 2019 ANNUAL REPORT

Amanda and her work has been featured in The Red Pencil Annual Report 2019. For the full report, visit 2019 Annual Report.

The Red Pencil (Singapore) is a charity which provides art therapy to children in need, especially those from low-income families. Our founder and art therapist Amanda Chen is also an art therapist with The Red Pencil (Singapore) and has been featured in their 2019 Annual Report.

Since 2011, The Red Pencil (Singapore) team has been devoted to bring the benefits of arts therapy to many beneficiaries, working with partner organisations and the local art therapists’ community to achieve its objectives and mission and to raise awareness of arts therapy.

The red pencil participated in the Encounter Humanitarian Forum and Fair on the 1st of June 2019 at Catholic Junior College, Singapore. This event allow Red Pencil to meet other humanitarian organisations and interact with visitors who were interested in learning more about the organization and/or volunteering.

Founder and Managing Director, Mrs Laurence Vandenborre had the privilege to speak at the STEP Asian Undergraduate Summit 2019, a student-run international program organised by the University Scholars Programme (USP) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) last 17th July 2019.

In the small group sharing segment called Human Library, Mrs Vandenborre gave an inspirational talk on the life-changing benefits of creative arts therapy and how The Red Pencil ensures the sustainability of its work with its service users. During the Q&A, the students were very engaged and has a wonderful interactive session with the speaker.

Click to view full article.

Amanda Chen, our founder and art therapist, participated as an Art Therapist with Tang Tee Khoon Grand Series Mozart 36 for the Music and Art Therapy program for children with special needs.

Click to view full article.

Amanda Chen was the Art Therapist for this project which speaks on how Art Therapy has helped a child regain confidence.

ART THERAPY FOR EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE

ART THERAPY AS A TOOL FOR BUILDING EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE

Smart ParenThink Magazine Issue 2 Mar-Jul 2018

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy, facilitated by an art therapist, which uses art materials and art making as part of the therapeutic treatment. It does not rely on artistic knowledge or ability and there is no right or wrong way of expressing yourself through art. By accessing imagination and creativity, it focuses on the process and not on the finished product. The art therapy experience encourages the exploration of self through art making.

Art therapy is often used in building emotional resilience, especially in children. It works best by using ‘directive-based intervention’, guiding the child to use an art activity to overcome negative experiences which have been causing pain or creating blocks. The art itself becomes a non-invasive approach to enable the child to talk about sensitive and deep emotions through her artwork.

Art is often used as a tool for self-expression, allowing the child to get in tune, consciously and subconsciously, with her emotions. The art therapist assists in allowing the child to be aware, via the expression of art, of what may be lying in her subconscious. It allows the child to be more self-reflective; the therapist guides her in the reflection, perhaps introducing new perspectives. The therapist helps the child process these observations and experiences during the art-therapy session.

One activity I often use for a group art-therapy session on resilience uses the theme of spirit animals. Spirit animals, originating from Native American culture, are symbolic: they represent the strengths, values, attributes, etc, the child hopes to embody. The use of spirit animals allows children to positively reflect on themselves and to understand their perceived strengths, building up their concept of self and self-esteem.

After group members have picked their spirit animal, they proceed to create a home for it, one where the spirit animal will thrive. They then share all this with the group. This exercise allows participants to explore what is important to them, what makes them happy, and what is essential for survival. During this activity, we carefully employ positive psychology to reinforce the traits required for true, sustainable happiness.

Finally, participants are told to hold on to their spirit animals while their homes are shuffled and distributed among the group. Now the spirit animal will have a foreign home. The final instruction to the group is to come up with improvements to the new home so as to make the home more suitable for the animal. This exercise allows participants to reflect on how they solve problems, adapt to new situations, and overcome difficulties.

The resilience-enhancing capacity of art expression are not found in any one art-based activity, but are inherent in the characteristics of art-making itself, and also come about from the relational dynamics between the individual and therapist.

Resilience exists in every individual; children, particularly, are naturally resilient. Sometimes, all you need is a well-meaning adult (parent, teacher, therapist) to point this out, to highlight a child’s strengths.

Art therapy provides an opportunity to think about resilience, about how different individuals have different coping strategies and mechanisms. Art therapy fulfills the necessity of nurturing, enriching and absorbing beneficial experiences, in both children and adults, so that neurological pathways are primed with good feelings.

Please contact us if you are interested in having art-therapy workshops or sessions at your school, workplace or organisation. Art for Good is a social enterprise which advocates providing mental-health support through art therapy. More information can be found on www.staging.hostpixelmechanics.com\/artforgood/.

RAINBOW CONNECTION MAGAZINE (ISSUE 2019)

Art Therapy

“You may have heard of the term “art therapy” and wondered what it meant? Or perhaps watched a movie or television show where you saw therapists encouraging a child to express his or her emotions by drawing. How does it work? And does it work? Certified art therapist Amanda Chen shares her insights with us.”

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Art Therapy is a human service profession that uses art media, images, art processes and client responses to the created products, as reflections of development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns & conflicts. The art therapy practice is based on human developmental and psychological theories for assessment and treatment, which include educational psychodynamic, cognitive and other therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behaviour, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation and increasing self-expression to explore problems using a range of art materials, enabling positive change and personal growth. The intention is not a focus on the artistic skills but in engaging in a creative personal process.

As art therapy encourages self-expression towards self-explorations through art, this encourages positive change and personal growth. The intention is not a focus on the artistic skills but the creative personal process. Through the process, the clients can become more aware of where they are at and learn to take care of their mental health and state. Art therapy also promotes self care, where you are taking the time to look inwardly at yourself and focus on you.

Art therapy usually comprises of visual arts. Arts (with an ‘s’) Therapy covers more areas to include movement, dance and music within the treatment and practice. For very specialised therapies, you have music therapy, expressive arts therapy and play therapy. Most importantly, an art therapist would be needed in an art therapy session, because without the therapist it would simply just be art making. The therapist helps the client to process and make sense of the artwork and the emotions derived from the art making process and the art work. The treatment is usually built on the therapeutic relationship and alliance that is build over the art therapy sessions.

Art materials supporting the art therapy session, would be in the disciplines that the art therapist is familiar with. The basic art materials to start with would be pencils and paper. More rt materials provided can allow the client to become more expressive in their art. The art materials will vary from client to client, dependent on the interventions and desired outcomes for the client.

How does art therapy help? Pearl, aged eight, a quiet shy girl with low confidence, was not good at expressing herself with words and is socially awkward. She comes from a low-income family, where the brother was more favoured as he was a male child in a traditional Chinese family. After having gone through 12 sessions of art therapy, she was empowered through her expression through art, where she managed to find a voice. She began to find her sense of self, increase her confidence and come to terms with her difficult emotions. She became more vocal and now expresses herself better. She even started to join in for events and activities at the centre, made new friends and volunteered to join in a dance performance.

Meanwhile, Adeline aged 13, started acting out when she went into Secondary One. She was lying, playing truant and was even caught stealing. Her mother wanted to send her to a girls’ home as her behaviour seemed to be getting out of hand. Fortunately, through art therapy sessions, she managed to build confidence in herself, find a surer footing and we all began to see her behaviour starting to improve. She needed to get settled in to the many transitions that were taking place in her life, especially at home and at her new school, where she really needed a space to properly manage her emotions. Art therapy provided her with a safe space to explore these difficult emotions and express herself through her art and words.

Amanda Chen
Founder – Art therapist

Amanda is a certified and experienced Art Therapist (MA-AT 2015 Masters in Art Therapy) and Arts Educator (Registered with MOE-AMIS). She is active and current in the social work scene for the past decade and has worked for many charities and social enterprises like Red Pencil, Children’s Wishing Well, Center Pottery, Habitat for Humanity Singapore and was the Former Deputy Director of Social Creatives. She currently sits on the board as Honorary Secretary of the Rare Disorders Society of Singapore. Amanda is currently an Art Therapist with the Red Pencil and manages all the projects and programs under Art for Good.

Art For Good is a social enterprise which creates good through art. We help communities through art therapy, art enrichment and community art projects. Our beneficiaries are vulnerable children, those in poverty, with special needs, suffer from rare disorders & emotional / behavioural problems.

Art For Good is based on a simple philosophy of using art to do good. We focus on three different levels of which we use art for good, namely Art Therapy (healing), Art Enrichment (learning) & Community Art Projects (giving).

OVER-THE-RAINBOW’S WEBSITE : HTTP://OVERTHERAINBOW.SG/

OVER-THE-RAINBOW’S FACEBOOK PAGE : HTTPS://M.FACEBOOK.COM/OVERTHERAINBOW.SG/

ART ENRICHMENT IN ART THERAPY

By Amanda Chen

Art Therapy is more about the art making process, rather than the result or the grade, however there is an element of art education that still needs to be present. In the similar concept where words are not enough, where in some cases children have not developed the vocabulary and words to fully express how they feel, if the child does not have the basic art making skills, they would not be able to fully express themselves either.

For the case of Ann* (names have been changed to protect the identity of the child), while she was happy making marks using paints, she was not able to paint or create exactly what she wanted because she did not have any prior art making knowledge or skills.

During her first session, where an assessment was conducted, she did take well to making art, but what she could do was limited. She painted Thomas & Friends trains, something she liked and wanted to share. But looking at the image, no one could figure out what she was creating. (see image below)

During the second session, she was taught some basic drawing and colouring skills with pencils and markers, with the correct ways to use them. Immediately after the session was finished, on her own, she took out her sketchbook and began to apply what she had learnt into what she wanted to do. What she achieved on her own, after that session was amazing. She managed to create faces to her character and add more form and structure to her work. This was extremely encouraging for not only Ann, but for her parents and therapist. She was proud of what she had created and continues to develop a keen interest towards art and her art making process. (see image below)

From that one example, teaching a child a skill set that develops into mastery, an important attribute to the creative development process of creative self-expression.

ARTS FOR GOOD PROGRAM BY SIF

ARTS FOR GOOD PROGRAM BY SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION

30 ARTISTS FROM OVER 10 NATIONALITIES CONVENE IN CHENNAI FOR THE ARTS FOR GOOD FORUM HELD BY SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION

Arts educators, practitioners and programmers exchanged ideas and shared best practices to create positive social change through art at the Arts for Good Forum

Chennai, 22 February 2019 – The Arts for Good Forum, an international collaboration between the Singapore International Foundation and NalandaWay Foundation, was held in Chennai today at the Stella Maris College. The forum brought together a dynamic group of educators, arts practitioners and programmers. Individuals working with the arts and youth exchanged ideas and shared best practices to create positive social change in diverse communities.

An engaging panel discussion was conducted on the topic ‘Empowering Youth through the Arts’ to an audience of nearly 100 members of the public. The panel was moderated by Sriram Ayer, SIF Arts for Good (Fellow) and CEO & Founder of the award-winning NGO, Nalandaway Foundation.  He shared, “In a world that is increasingly threatened by growing nationalism, it is imperative for artists to play the role of peacemakers, connectors and negotiators. The Singapore International Foundation’s efforts to bring together a diverse group of practitioners, programmers, educators, researchers, and policymakers through the Arts for Good Fellowship programme is helping to build an ‘Arts for Good’ ecosystem that is much needed at present.”

The forum marks the end of the four-day Chennai Exchange Programme of the Arts for Good Fellowship organised by the SIF. Over the four days, 30 SIF Arts for Good fellows from 10 nationalities only gained insights into the arts for good scene in Chennai and but also carried out several arts-based collaborative projects. One of these projects saw SIF Arts for Good Fellows from Singapore, India, and UK collaborate to create a mural in a high school in Thiruvanmiyur. They co-created the mural with over 100 students from the high school. Portraying dreams, hope, faith, and creativity, the mural was completed over two days.

Another collaborative project was the infusion of a Tamil folk song with Malay dance movements for the students of a weekly Art Lab lessons conducted by the NalandaWay Foundation. Singaporean Muhammad Noramin Bin Mohamed Farid, SIF Arts for Good Fellow and Joint Artistic Director, Bhumi Collective led this effort with music educator Manjula Ponnapalli.

He shared, “From my collaborative experience here in Chennai, especially as an artist working with communities which is not my own, I still found openness amongst the students to take in what we were trying to communicate and learn alongside us. This is proof that there is possibility for intercultural exchange through artistic means. Although this is a very small example, this is something which can be replicated can be seen in other ways, through other artistic exchange and collaborations.”

Amanda Chen, Art Therapist from Art for Good, was proud to be one of the fellows who joined the Arts for Good Program by Singapore International Foundation 18-22 February 2019.

THE RED PENCIL 2018 ANNUAL REPORT

The Red Pencil (Singapore) is a charity which provides art therapy to children in need, especially those from low-income families. Our founder and art therapist Amanda Chen is also an art therapist with The Red Pencil (Singapore) and has been featured in their 2018 Annual Report. An abstraction of the report as below.

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The Red Pencil (Singapore) collaborated with talented musicians of the Tang Tee Khoon Grand Series on two private art and music workshops: one in May for children recovering from cancer and another in November for children with special needs and children from underprivileged backgrounds, held at the National Gallery Singapore and the Esplanade respectively. On both occasions, the children created artworks in response to the beautiful tunes performed by the musicians.

The Red Pencil sponsored the art materials used in these private workshops and coordinated the presence of an art therapist as well as art therapy student volunteers from the LASALLE College of the Arts.

We would like to thank all the art therapists who have worked with us for their dedication and commitment to our service users. We asked two of them to share their insights on the art therapy profession. Here is what they have to say :

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Healing is a process that continues beyond the art therapy session. The misconception of art therapy is that after the sessions, the client is expected to be all better or completely healed. Some improvements in the mood and behaviour are part of the healing process, but the journey of healing is often a long one.

Amanda Chen on some of the common misconceptions that people often have about art therapy

DEAR MENTAL HEALTH, WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS

Dear Mental Health, What Are My Options : Art Therapy?

By Sean Tan Jun Kai

Catholic High students visited our Art Outreach programme location and where our founder Amanda Chen shared about Art for Good as an arts social enterprise. The children asked meaningful questions about how the organisation gives back to the community through art. The children created messages of love which will be gifted to the children from our Art Outreach programme.

Those grim times required everyone to isolate their household from the world, family, and friends for the greater good of public health. Since then, Singapore has endured and has begun her road to recovery after the suffocating period of Circuit Breaker measures. The effects of social isolation, however, has left an indelible mark on the mental health scene in Singapore.

Media coverage on this issue has increased, with greater calls for attention and more statistics reported. As of 5 October 2020 it was reported that the National Care Hotline (NCH) set up on 10 April 2020, just past the beginning of the Circuit Breaker, has taken over 30,000 calls, with more than 12,000 of them needing mental health support.[1]

A survey conducted by the company Ipsos during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker has shown that a quarter of Singaporeans in the survey have reported poor mental health, and 18% of all survey participants have indicated that their mental health was only getting worse.[2]

While it is good news all round that more light is being shed on the situation of mental health in Singapore, my curiosity was piqued by one aspect from the various articles by different media platforms: in general, the articles will list a series of hotlines for counselling help, but almost none of them would elaborate on any other form of therapy. It was as if the face for mental help had become a one-dimensional affair, void of variety, deprived of depth.

These hotlines do not give much in the way of information on the mental healthcare that could be provided at a glance. An article by Channel News Asia has brought up the challenges people face when seeking out the appropriate medium of mental healthcare, with some of the points mentioned being that people facing mental health challenges would already be subject to the stress from their mental health issue, affecting their ability to search accurately for information to help themselves.

There is a certain deficiency in the dissemination of information – One would not know, just from looking at a hotline, of the other forms of mental therapy. Looking at a string of numbers would not be able to detail that mental therapy can include animal-assisted therapy, art therapy, hypnotherapy, and more.

We are all human after all, unique in our special ways; and it is only fair for us to be armed with the knowledge to make the best decisions for our health. With that being said, the range of possible therapies available is just too much to cover in a single article in any detail, which is why I chose to focus my attention on only one: art therapy.

Art therapy typically has clients use different creative mediums, ranging from something as simple as colouring to more complex activities such as sculpting, to express themselves. A certified therapist can then use the information expressed to help the client understand and resolve any underlying issues.

The benefits that art therapy have been documented in various studies, with some studies showing evidence that art programs can boost confidence, enhance pro-social skills, and improve the participant’s abilities to resolve conflict.[3] Other studies also detail how art helps people with physical disabilities to focus on their positive memories, giving them respite from the negative emotions and perceptions around their disability.[4]

These powers of art to uplift people and alleviate the pain of people roused my interest to investigate art therapy in Singapore. After all, given how there has been an increase in the number of people seeking mental help, surely there should be articles giving it coverage.

Thus, I began digging for articles on art therapy. I found several news articles detailing instances of events that had included art therapy, though the top searches were dated at least several years ago, and as the years grew more recent, so did the scarcity of articles on art therapy in Singapore.

Unable to find more current articles that might help me understand the part art therapy plays in the context of COVID-19, I decided to look to other avenues to learn more about art therapy, namely, different non-government organisations such as Art for Good and The Red Pencil. These organisations host a plethora of art therapy programs aimed to better the lives of people.

Through my searches and inquiries, I have had the fortune of securing an interview with Ms Amanda Chen, a certified Art Therapist and founder of Art for Good, to better understand how art therapy would best serve the mental health scene in Singapore with the added benefit of her professional perspectives.

I opened up the interview by asking about when art therapy could be recommended, given how it might be too optimistic to expect art therapy as a miracle cure for everyone. Ms Amanda Chen explained that art therapy would usually be recommended for people who have a personal interest in art in the first place. As the selected form of therapy, art can be a non-invasive method to interact with the client and address the problems they face.

“For children who are very young, who are non-verbal, that [art] would probably be the best approach for them. Especially if they have some kind of interest in art.” Was one of the examples Ms Amanda Chen elaborated with.

Now knowing that art therapy would be better suited for people with an interest or open to the concept to therapeutic art, how could art therapy help those people with the mental health challenges arising from COVID-19?

Ms Amanda Chen answered my question saying that while art therapy could be suited for people of all ages, the therapy must be tailored to the client’s needs for that statement to ring true. She began explaining to me that: “When you come into a therapy session or an art therapy session, you are working with different objectives.” In relation to COVID-19, the benefits that art therapy can provide would boil down to what a client hopes to achieve through the therapy. Would they want to heal from some trauma caused by family violence from the Circuit Breaker? Are they seeking solace after the months of isolation?

This also applies in instances where relatives join in to create art with a client. When asked about this, Ms Amanda Chen talked about how a bonding session between siblings might differ from a bonding session between parents and their child; the purposes for partaking in the creation of art is more than just a casual decision. It is one that is carefully considered with the intended outcomes of the clients in mind to chart a proper path to recovery.

Ms Amanda Chen also mentioned other considerations, such as disabilities, that might affect their ability to do art. With that in mind, Ms Amanda Chen said that: “you make it easy for them, and you help them process certain things that they might find it difficult to process.” The whole process of therapy is flexible and adapted to the circumstances of the clients; the main and most important goal would be to promote faster, smoother, recovery.

Now knowing the place art therapy has within the mental health picture during this pandemic, how then, does art therapy measure up to its more common cousins?

While it is true that common media articles almost exclusively feature help hotlines and counselling, they do so for good reason. There is a successful track record of help hotlines and counselling and there is no denying that the more commonly advertised forms of mental health therapy produce results.

“It is said that art therapy is very good for trauma because the way that we see trauma is through images,” Ms Amanda Chen said, before going on to explain how art as a visual medium matches up with the way traumatic incidences plays out in our minds, which makes it an invaluable bridge to access any unconscious information that a client may have. With this knowledge, therapists would be better positioned to understand and engage with their clients to begin the recovery process.

In the event that a client is unable to communicate verbally either because they are not capable of finding the words to do so, or simply do not wish to talk, art therapy can also step in to facilitate a form of communication. “It helps you; it calms you… That as you are making [art], you also want to talk about [their problem]” was another one of the positive possible outcomes Ms Amanda Chen mentioned about art.

However, the difference between art therapy and its competition is not all that quantitative.

Ms Amanda Chen continued to point out that: “Art therapy is very similar to counselling, but we use art as an intervention tool to help bridge through difficult situations and circumstances.” Art in essence is just another medium to engage and help a client recover. It has its benefits when used for mental trauma, but the choice of therapy should once again differ to the client’s situation to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Ultimately though, she reinforces the fact that any treatment of any kind will be carefully assessed by the therapist. Ms Amanda Chen describes it as a “client-centred approach” – if a certain form of therapy does not work for the client, be it art therapy or other forms of therapy, Ms Amanda Chen has indicated that the therapists involved with the client would communicate with each other to determine the current activities that may or may not be working for the client. Depending on the situation at hand, the therapists might decide that a change of therapy or even a change of therapist might suit the client better.

On this note, Ms Amanda Chen had added that there are art therapy programmes available in the Singapore Institute of Mental Health (IMH) as an example of wider and more flexible options available to clients that can help them with their mental health. Looking into this, I have also found that art therapy is also available in other institutions like the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

As such, while it may not be possible to land the perfect therapy when first contacting an accredited hotline, a certified therapy organisation, or government-supported mental help body, the therapists that one would come into contact with would strive to find the best therapy or combination of therapies for the client.

Talking with Ms Amanda Chen has given me a better understanding of the role art therapy may play in Singapore. Art therapy should not be exalted over all other forms of therapy, but neither should it be belittled. Art therapy is a piece of a greater puzzle on our journey to better mental health, with areas where its application would be appropriate, people it would be better suited for.

It is more important to consider what kind of therapy best suits one’s needs. Though, if the form of selected therapy ends up being unsuited for oneself, it will not be the end of the line. In this journey to mental wellness, the professionals will look out for your good.

[1] “MOH | News Highlights”. 2020. Moh.Gov.Sg. https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/the-national-care-hotline-and-mental-resilience.

[2] “Singaporeans And Mental Health During The Circuit Breaker”. 2020. Ipsos. https://www.ipsos.com/en-sg/singaporeans-and-mental-health-during-circuit-breaker.

[3] Wright, Robin, Lindsay John, Ramona Alaggia, and Julia Sheel. 2006. “Community-Based Arts Program For Youth In Low-Income Communities: A Multi-Method Evaluation”. Child And Adolescent Social Work Journal 23 (5-6): 635-652. doi:10.1007/s10560-006-0079-0.

[4] Stuckey, Heather L., and Jeremy Nobel. 2010. “The Connection Between Art, Healing, And Public Health: A Review Of Current Literature”. American Journal Of Public Health 100 (2): 254-263. doi:10.2105/ajph.2008.156497.

EDUCATIONAL JOURNEY WITH ART FOR GOOD

6 July 2018
Catholic High School Entrepreneurship Programme Learning Journey

Catholic High students visited our Art Outreach programme location and where our founder Amanda Chen shared about Art for Good as an arts social enterprise. The children asked meaningful questions about how the organisation gives back to the community through art. The children created messages of love which will be gifted to the children from our Art Outreach programme.

19 September 2018
Riverside Secondary School Learning Journey

Riverside Secondary School students came for their learning journey at our Art Outreach location. Our founder Amanda Chen shared about Art for Good as an arts social enterprise. The children created messages of encouragement, which they could gift to someone they knew who might need some empowerment or encouragement. Two of the children left their cards behind for Art for Good, to encourage us to keep doing what we are doing and use art to do more good!

1-18 November 2018
CIP Project with students from ITE

With special thanks to Nurin Najwa Binti Amran, Ang Zheng Quan Dion, Cheng Qi Ting Joanna, Lina Li Yuan, Nick Bryan Tan, Tan Xuan Xin Dulcie!

6 students from ITE volunteered with Art for Good to create their own art program with the underprivileged children and followed by fundraising by selling these keychains at our Christmas booth. They made plastic shrink keychains together with the children from the Art Outreach Program, where the drawing and colouring of the keychains was done in the classroom. The ITE students then brought them back to microwave and attached the keychain mechanisms. The children from the Art Outreach program got to keep two keychains while the rest were sold at the booth. Keychains are available on our online shop!

7 January 2020
Interview for Research Project with students from Kangnam University

A group of Korean students from Kangnam University visited Singapore to do research on Social Enterprises in Singapore. Art for Good was happy to participate in their project! The interview was held at Art for Good Art Studio. Afterwards, we brought them out for a scrumptious Singaporean meal!

Sean-e1566978932582-300x300

Sean Yew
Project Manager
Lithan Academy PCP Program
Nov 2017 - July 2018

I had the opportunity to learn about managing a micro business, particularly a social enterprise that works closely with various partners, ranging from government to non-government organizations, educational institutions as well as corporate entities. Art for Good also focuses on employee development, as I was a beneficiary of the Professional Conversion Programme, a 9-month course which equipped me with digital marketing skills to boost the company’s marketing efforts. The most memorable experience through my time here was making a difference to youths at risk, through art and art therapy. Watching them grow and express themselves better through art made my job all the more meaningful.

Jerlynn-300x300

Jerlynn Yap
Republic Polytechnic
June - August 2019

This internship has provided me with many opportunities, where I have gained experience that helps me both professionally and personally. By helping out behind the scenes for events and handling the website requirements, gave me insight to how such organisations are being managed. One of my experiences was that I had first-hand contact with the beneficiaries like special needs children and underprivileged children. Previously, I have done volunteering work for underprivileged elderly, but helping the children gave me a different vibe as the children are active and constantly smiling. For these experiences, I am very grateful to have worked with Art for Good.

Zenieth

Zeneith Yee
Republic Polytechnic
March - August 2020

My Internship with Art for Good provided me opportunities to handle tasks which I would not have imagined myself to learn. Not being very IT Savvy, helping with the back end of the website was daunting in the beginning. However, I got to learn many things just from handling the backend of the website as I navigated and familiarised with the system. Handling the Social Media design and posts, I feel more confident with myself and handling my tasks as the days go by. Knowing more about the Social Enterprise Model gave me a different view on how we could use art to improve the lives of others. Most importantly, art improves mental health and improves well being. All in all, my internship with Art for Good allowed me to learn and experience new things and I am thankful for the opportunity given by Art for Good!

DOING GOOD THROUGH ART DURING COVID 19

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE VS COVID-19 : DOING GOOD THROUGH ART

During Singapore Circuit Break Period, Art for Good did our part by helping migrant workers in dormitories that are affected greatly during the Covid-19 Pandemic through the ‘Let’s Spread the love for Migrant Workers’ fundraising program by @sugarfreesaccharin.

Art for Good helped to promote and reach out to wider audience through our Social Media page for this fundraising project. Every donation of $5, donors would receive an e-greeting card of their choice specially illustrated by artist, @sugarfreesaccharin. All proceeds went to the Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving conditions of low-wage migrant workers in Singapore.

The ‘Let’s Spread the Love for Migrant Workers’ fundraising program managed to raised a total of near $10,500 in just 7 days!

Read full article from Ignite Media here

MENDING TIES THROUGH ART (STRAITS TIMES)

Ms Chen encouraged the girl to communicate with her mother about her struggles.
Ms Chen says: “The last I heard, she was not sent to a girls’ home.”
Names of parent and child were withheld to uphold client confidentiality.
Ms Chen is one of a growing number of art therapists here.

A quick Google search turns up at least 10 local-based companies offering art therapy, some of which were set up less than a year ago.

According to a Straits Times article in 2013, the number of therapists registered under the Art Therapists’ Association of Singapore (ATAS) had then tripled to 30 since it first began five years ago in 2008.

President of ATAS Jeanette Chan says the association’s membership strength has since grown to 45, and adds that the number of certified art therapists here is “much higher” than that figure.
Art therapists here say they have seen a growing number of clients in recent years, especially in the form of children and parents who have behavioural and emotional issues ranging from defiance to depression.

However, they add that any individual who is struggling can also benefit from art therapy.
Art therapy involves a participant using art materials of any medium to express themselves.
Based on the process and the product of the session, therapists are able to guide the participants to better understand their own thoughts and emotions.

One does not need to have any art-making skills to do art therapy.

Says art therapist Huma Durrani, 44: “Cognitively, you may not be aware of the issues you are facing. But through an image, you can express and uncover deep-seated, unconscious emotions.”
She set up art therapy centre Coloured Canvas in Bukit Timah last August. There, she holds individual, group, and family art therapy sessions.

For family art therapy sessions, some activities she facilitates includes asking a parent and child pair to draw on a shared piece of paper, or having them paint a house together while sharing a single paintbrush.

Mrs Durrani says that after making observations such as which party takes up more space on the canvas, who uses which medium, and how the participants control their art tools, she is able to ask the pair guiding questions.

Examples of these include: What did you draw? What happened as you made the artwork? How can you change things?

It is every therapist’s hope that the questions they ask will bring healing to broken relationships between family members.

Mrs Durrani says: “The art therapist does not interpret the client’s artwork on their behalf, but facilitates insight instead. Also, the client is never forced to make art.”

She intends to further extend her family art therapy services by offering art therapy group sessions for caregivers on a regular basis.

Fellow art therapist Ms Chen, who founded social enterprise Art For Good in Upper Changi last August, conducts art therapy programmes and workshops for vulnerable children both here and overseas.

Locally, she has worked with primary and secondary schools and organisations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association of Singapore and Rare Disorders Society Singapore.

At these sessions, art is an outlet for the children to release their negative feelings.

Based on the artworks and what the children share, Ms Chen then works closely with social workers and the children’s parents to make professional recommendations on what would be most beneficial for the child, in the hope of bringing about positive change to the family situation.

Some art therapy organisations have tools to help families deal with their ongoing challenges beyond the art therapy sessions, which typically cost $100 and above per hour.

International humanitarian organisation The Red Pencil, for instance, encourages their clients to draw or paint something daily in a Visual Journal.

The Red Pencil was founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife pair Alain and Laurence Vandenborre, and seeks to help the vulnerable of society via art and arts therapy.

The Visual Journal allows clients to continue to express their inner thoughts and feelings, even upon completing the arts therapy process.

Beyond art therapy, The Red Pencil also uses music, movement and dance to help children and families who have been through overwhelming life circumstances to express themselves in a creative yet safe way.

Some organisations have also begun looking at how art can be used to facilitate better communication and bonding between parents and children.

Last month, business partners Steve Lawler and Tanya Wilson, the co-founders of Kult – a multi-disciplinary design studio, art gallery and publisher at Emily Hill – launched Eyeyah!.

Eyeyah! is currently a social enterprise that produces a child-centric activity book, in which art is used to stimulate creative thinking, creativity, and conversations between parent and child.

Their first issue of this activity book is about the Internet. Made up almost entirely of images created by artists, the book also comes with games, colouring pages, and uses the artworks to convey the dangers of the Internet, such as addiction and online strangers.

Future issues will look at themes like Supermarket, where little ones will be taught about genetically-modified foods and sugar consumption; and Money, which will convey messages about saving and investing.

Ms Wilson, 39, says: “Parents who typically do not talk to their children about difficult issues can use the hard-hitting images within Eyeyah! as a tool to begin a conversation.”

Read Straits Times Article here

ART CLASS VS ART THERAPY – IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

Before we start an art therapy session, we usually inform the clients of the difference between art class and art therapy. This is so they will know what they would be expect in an art therapy session and enhance their art therapy experience.

The chart below provides and overview of the elements of an art class and an art therapy session.

There are benefits to both, art class and art therapy session, of which each achieves very different objectives. For an art class, one learns about art and art making techniques. For art therapy, one discovers more about oneself. In an art therapy session, the client can ask the therapist on art making techniques, where learning these techniques provides a certain sense of mastery and provides the adequate tools for self expression. The difference in this circumstance is that there is no final grade or mark on how well this art technique has been learnt.

While most will find art-making to be therapeutic and have therapeutic benefits, this is not defined as art therapy unless an art therapist is present. This can be called art as therapy and not art therapy. Art therapy works on a triangular relationship between the art therapist, client and art-making. The certified and professional art therapist creates a safe space for the client to explore, guiding and emotionally holding the client where needed. There be some who would like to regard their art classes as art therapy, claiming the therapeutic benefits obtained from the art-making process as art therapy, simply because it sounds good or helps to boost their marketing or appeal for their classes.

Regardless of the reasons, these art classes cannot be regarded as art therapy and it is important to discern and know the difference.

WHAT IS ART THERAPY? SOME HELPFUL INSIGHTS

What is Art Therapy ?

As an art therapist, I often get this question. On a social context, without the need for powerpoint slides and stuffy presentations with profound academic explanations, in my simplified version and definition; Art Therapy is a blend of Art and Psychology, used to help all kinds of people. The next question would usually be closely followed with an assumption that Art Therapy is only for children. This is completely forgivable, given that art therapy is a rather niche industry and the concept of art making seems to be reserved mostly for children. It is scientifically proven that art therapy has much success with children, especially for children who are non-verbal or less verbal, as art provides them a platform for self expression.

Amanda Chen, MA-AT

Art Therapy at a Glance:

• Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy utilising creative modalities within a therapeutic relationship to improve physical, mental and emotional well-being.

• Art therapists have been trained to work therapeutically using visual arts, including drawing, painting, and sculpture.

• Art therapy has been recognised and regulated around the world by organisations such as the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), Australian and New Zealand Art Therapy Association (ANZATA), Art Therapy Association of Singapore (ATAS) and Canadian Art Therapy Association (CATA).

• Art therapy is traditionally based on, but not limited to, psychoanalytic or psychodynamic principles using varied practice-based and evidence-based theoretical frameworks. These include depth analytic, humanistic, behavioural, systemic, and integrative approaches.

• Art therapy can be practiced with individuals as well as groups and is not limited to age.

• Art therapy does not rely on artistic knowledge or ability, but by accessing imagination and creativity, qualities which all human beings possess.

• The emphasis is on the process of creating and meaning-making than the end product.

• The therapist and client/s develop an interpersonal relationship through the arts process, with clear boundaries and shared intentions.

Advantages of the Art Therapy:

Art Therapy can help people resolve conflicts, develop interpersonal skills, manage behaviour, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and achieve insight. Art therapy can encourage clients to:

• express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise

• explore their imagination and creativity

• develop healthy coping skills and focus

• improve self-esteem and confidence

• identify and clarify issues and concerns

• increase communication skills

• share in a safe nurturing environment

• improve motor skills and physical co-ordination

• identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth

INTERVIEW WITH ALENA ON SOFT PASTEL NAGOMI ART

What is Soft Pastel Nagomi Art?

Soft Pastel is a dry medium made of pure powdered pigment and a binder. Soft Pastel Nagomi Art is a style of art healing originally founded in Japan where it uses soft pastels and fingers to produce a gentle, warm and colourful piece of art utilising simple painting techniques.

The word ‘Nagomi’ means “harmony” in Japanese. It allows one be more aware of their state of mind and the emotions they are feeling in the moment. The outcome focuses on the process of self-acknowledgement and affirmation and not the final product. The process allows us to express our innermost emotions and thoughts onto paper through the expression of art. The process is relaxing, soothing and therapeutic.

 

Why did you want to do Nagomi Art? And how did you start?

By chance, I stumbled upon a Pastel Nagomi Art workshop in 2017 and found it so intriguing. Even with no formal art background, I found that the process was an easy approach and the outcome of the art piece was pleasing to the eye. The process reminded me of the blending application of eyeshadow when doing makeup. The calming feeling and creative outlet for self expression are some of the therapeutic benefits from doing Pastel Nagomi Art.

I resonated so deeply with this art form that I pursued the Diploma in Associate Instructor course and the Diploma in Advanced Instructor course consecutively. I am very passionate about this art form and have done numerous workshops and classes for all age groups and facilitated team bonding activities at companies using Pastel Nagomi Art. One of the more interesting experiences I had was having taught at the Singapore Prison!

The art making process allowed me to focus on creating “me time”. I began to find pockets of “me time” which allowed me to get in touch with my inner most feelings and the space to express my emotions and thoughts while painting. The process of choosing colours, grinding the powder, looking at the imagery you are trying to create, blending and erasing allowed me to realign my thoughts and feelings. At the end of the day, when I admire the final art piece, I feel a sense of accomplishment. My own personal life experiences and self-realisation, self-awareness and self-affirmation during the painting process, has motivated me to start up Touch Art Peace to spread the benefits of  Pastel Nagomi Art.

 

Who can do Nagomi Art? Who will benefit most from Nagomi Art?

Regardless of whether or not you have an arts background, from a pre-schooler to senior citizen, anyone can do Nagomi art!

Due to the relaxing, soothing and therapeutic nature of Pastel Nagomi Art, it is especially beneficial for people seeking healing, self improvement and personal development.

 

How does this form of artwork help parents and children?

Soft Pastel Nagomi Art can be a family fun activity where it creates time for family bonding and allows parents to bridge communication with their child through art. Through an interest based learning, children learn to be more focused as they explore their creativity.

The tactile feel of soft pastel is a new and sensory experience for the child which most children usually enjoy. The child is assured that it is alright to make a mess and even encouraged to get messy!

Most importantly, the process is more important than the outcome. Children should enjoy the process of exploration and dare to be adventurous by trying out new things. With encouragement and affirmation, the child generally tends to perform better.

 

What is the collaboration between you and Art for Good?

My collaboration with Art for Good is very meaningful to me, as I resonate with the same mission in using art to do good. I conduct the Soft Pastel Nagomi Art workshops at Art for Good, in hope to spread the mission of “renewing the sense of self” through self awareness and self realisation through the art making process.

 

How can I start?

Find some quiet time at the end of the day and spend about 15 mins to reflect on your day to get in touch with your feelings. Start by using colours that attract you and begin by drawing in a journal.

“Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and simply just feel.”

ART PIECES DONE BY ALENA

INTERVIEW WITH JULIAN ON PHOTOGRAPHY

What is photography to you? Is photography for everyone?

Photography is a form of expression to capture one’s perspective through a lens. It also allows us to document life and the events around us. Photography can be for everyone and in fact, digital technological advances in photography have allowed it to become even more accessible to everyone.

How did you start photography?

I started photography since a tender young age of nine, I would snap photos of everyone and everything, everywhere I went. When I got hold of a film camera at fifteen, I started on a more serious photography path. My love for taking pictures had managed to get me a scholarship in photography. However, due to family issues, I had to forego the opportunity.

After army in 2006, I decided to make passion my career. I was working in Kodak as a consultant and trainer. In between, I worked on my craft by doing event and wedding photography.

In 2008, I enhanced my skills by joining a production company, starting from the bottom, as a photographer assistant (in other words, like a coolie), and slowly worked myself up. Photographer assistants were not allowed to touch the cameras. If I made any mistakes in lighting settings, I would literally get slapped for it. Only when I finally progressed to become a junior photographer, I started to learn a lot.

Due to family issues again, I had to work in another company as a marketing photographer, but I had more flexible working hours. I realised that this company belongs to Jacky Chan and started working with him. He liked my work so much that I was chosen to be his photographer which was to be based in Singapore representing the company. Then in 2012, I started my own studio.

Can you explain more about the benefits of photography?

Photography requires you to take a step back and make observations before taking the picture which you want to capture. Photography helps you become more aware of the things and people around you. Digital photography requires lesser motor skills order to achieve the end result, attributing to higher chances of success. There are different levels within the craft depending on how you would like to take it, to allow you to become more technical and creative with the process and final result.

How does this form of artwork help parents & children? // Does photography have any therapy benefits?

Being able to quickly capture special moments and sharing them is something unique to photography. It simply requires you to point as shoot, making this easy and accessible as a starting point. It is something families can do together and share in the moment and bonds relationships. It can help with focus, creativity and more importantly, find meaning. It can also be a form of exercise, if you count the walking around, plus carrying the equipment!

What is the collaboration between you and Art for Good? // Why do you collaborate with AFG?

My collaboration with Art for Good is using art to do good, which is through my photography. I find a purpose in helping people, especially since I have gone through difficult times as well as a teenager. I believe that photography is an art form of which can potentially help people to find happiness.

How can I start? // Any tips to take better images?

A simple exercise would be to walk around more, observe the world around you. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and simply just feel.

If you would like to pursue photography, you can join my photography lesson in AFG. For enquiries email hello@artforgood.sg.

THE RED PENCIL 2019 ANNUAL REPORT

Amanda and her work has been featured in The Red Pencil Annual Report 2019. For the full report, visit 2019 Annual Report.

The Red Pencil (Singapore) is a charity which provides art therapy to children in need, especially those from low-income families. Our founder and art therapist Amanda Chen is also an art therapist with The Red Pencil (Singapore) and has been featured in their 2019 Annual Report.

Since 2011, The Red Pencil (Singapore) team has been devoted to bring the benefits of arts therapy to many beneficiaries, working with partner organisations and the local art therapists’ community to achieve its objectives and mission and to raise awareness of arts therapy.

The red pencil participated in the Encounter Humanitarian Forum and Fair on the 1st of June 2019 at Catholic Junior College, Singapore. This event allow Red Pencil to meet other humanitarian organisations and interact with visitors who were interested in learning more about the organization and/or volunteering.

Founder and Managing Director, Mrs Laurence Vandenborre had the privilege to speak at the STEP Asian Undergraduate Summit 2019, a student-run international program organised by the University Scholars Programme (USP) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) last 17th July 2019.

In the small group sharing segment called Human Library, Mrs Vandenborre gave an inspirational talk on the life-changing benefits of creative arts therapy and how The Red Pencil ensures the sustainability of its work with its service users. During the Q&A, the students were very engaged and has a wonderful interactive session with the speaker.

Click to view full article.

Amanda Chen, our founder and art therapist, participated as an Art Therapist with Tang Tee Khoon Grand Series Mozart 36 for the Music and Art Therapy program for children with special needs.

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Amanda Chen was the Art Therapist for this project which speaks on how Art Therapy has helped a child regain confidence.

ART THERAPY FOR EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE

ART THERAPY AS A TOOL FOR BUILDING EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE

Smart ParenThink Magazine Issue 2 Mar-Jul 2018

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy, facilitated by an art therapist, which uses art materials and art making as part of the therapeutic treatment. It does not rely on artistic knowledge or ability and there is no right or wrong way of expressing yourself through art. By accessing imagination and creativity, it focuses on the process and not on the finished product. The art therapy experience encourages the exploration of self through art making.

Art therapy is often used in building emotional resilience, especially in children. It works best by using ‘directive-based intervention’, guiding the child to use an art activity to overcome negative experiences which have been causing pain or creating blocks. The art itself becomes a non-invasive approach to enable the child to talk about sensitive and deep emotions through her artwork.

Art is often used as a tool for self-expression, allowing the child to get in tune, consciously and subconsciously, with her emotions. The art therapist assists in allowing the child to be aware, via the expression of art, of what may be lying in her subconscious. It allows the child to be more self-reflective; the therapist guides her in the reflection, perhaps introducing new perspectives. The therapist helps the child process these observations and experiences during the art-therapy session.

One activity I often use for a group art-therapy session on resilience uses the theme of spirit animals. Spirit animals, originating from Native American culture, are symbolic: they represent the strengths, values, attributes, etc, the child hopes to embody. The use of spirit animals allows children to positively reflect on themselves and to understand their perceived strengths, building up their concept of self and self-esteem.

After group members have picked their spirit animal, they proceed to create a home for it, one where the spirit animal will thrive. They then share all this with the group. This exercise allows participants to explore what is important to them, what makes them happy, and what is essential for survival. During this activity, we carefully employ positive psychology to reinforce the traits required for true, sustainable happiness.

Finally, participants are told to hold on to their spirit animals while their homes are shuffled and distributed among the group. Now the spirit animal will have a foreign home. The final instruction to the group is to come up with improvements to the new home so as to make the home more suitable for the animal. This exercise allows participants to reflect on how they solve problems, adapt to new situations, and overcome difficulties.

The resilience-enhancing capacity of art expression are not found in any one art-based activity, but are inherent in the characteristics of art-making itself, and also come about from the relational dynamics between the individual and therapist.

Resilience exists in every individual; children, particularly, are naturally resilient. Sometimes, all you need is a well-meaning adult (parent, teacher, therapist) to point this out, to highlight a child’s strengths.

Art therapy provides an opportunity to think about resilience, about how different individuals have different coping strategies and mechanisms. Art therapy fulfills the necessity of nurturing, enriching and absorbing beneficial experiences, in both children and adults, so that neurological pathways are primed with good feelings.

Please contact us if you are interested in having art-therapy workshops or sessions at your school, workplace or organisation. Art for Good is a social enterprise which advocates providing mental-health support through art therapy. More information can be found on www.staging.hostpixelmechanics.com\/artforgood/.

RAINBOW CONNECTION MAGAZINE (ISSUE 2019)

Art Therapy

“You may have heard of the term “art therapy” and wondered what it meant? Or perhaps watched a movie or television show where you saw therapists encouraging a child to express his or her emotions by drawing. How does it work? And does it work? Certified art therapist Amanda Chen shares her insights with us.”

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Art Therapy is a human service profession that uses art media, images, art processes and client responses to the created products, as reflections of development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns & conflicts. The art therapy practice is based on human developmental and psychological theories for assessment and treatment, which include educational psychodynamic, cognitive and other therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behaviour, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation and increasing self-expression to explore problems using a range of art materials, enabling positive change and personal growth. The intention is not a focus on the artistic skills but in engaging in a creative personal process.

As art therapy encourages self-expression towards self-explorations through art, this encourages positive change and personal growth. The intention is not a focus on the artistic skills but the creative personal process. Through the process, the clients can become more aware of where they are at and learn to take care of their mental health and state. Art therapy also promotes self care, where you are taking the time to look inwardly at yourself and focus on you.

Art therapy usually comprises of visual arts. Arts (with an ‘s’) Therapy covers more areas to include movement, dance and music within the treatment and practice. For very specialised therapies, you have music therapy, expressive arts therapy and play therapy. Most importantly, an art therapist would be needed in an art therapy session, because without the therapist it would simply just be art making. The therapist helps the client to process and make sense of the artwork and the emotions derived from the art making process and the art work. The treatment is usually built on the therapeutic relationship and alliance that is build over the art therapy sessions.

Art materials supporting the art therapy session, would be in the disciplines that the art therapist is familiar with. The basic art materials to start with would be pencils and paper. More rt materials provided can allow the client to become more expressive in their art. The art materials will vary from client to client, dependent on the interventions and desired outcomes for the client.

How does art therapy help? Pearl, aged eight, a quiet shy girl with low confidence, was not good at expressing herself with words and is socially awkward. She comes from a low-income family, where the brother was more favoured as he was a male child in a traditional Chinese family. After having gone through 12 sessions of art therapy, she was empowered through her expression through art, where she managed to find a voice. She began to find her sense of self, increase her confidence and come to terms with her difficult emotions. She became more vocal and now expresses herself better. She even started to join in for events and activities at the centre, made new friends and volunteered to join in a dance performance.

Meanwhile, Adeline aged 13, started acting out when she went into Secondary One. She was lying, playing truant and was even caught stealing. Her mother wanted to send her to a girls’ home as her behaviour seemed to be getting out of hand. Fortunately, through art therapy sessions, she managed to build confidence in herself, find a surer footing and we all began to see her behaviour starting to improve. She needed to get settled in to the many transitions that were taking place in her life, especially at home and at her new school, where she really needed a space to properly manage her emotions. Art therapy provided her with a safe space to explore these difficult emotions and express herself through her art and words.

Amanda Chen
Founder – Art therapist

Amanda is a certified and experienced Art Therapist (MA-AT 2015 Masters in Art Therapy) and Arts Educator (Registered with MOE-AMIS). She is active and current in the social work scene for the past decade and has worked for many charities and social enterprises like Red Pencil, Children’s Wishing Well, Center Pottery, Habitat for Humanity Singapore and was the Former Deputy Director of Social Creatives. She currently sits on the board as Honorary Secretary of the Rare Disorders Society of Singapore. Amanda is currently an Art Therapist with the Red Pencil and manages all the projects and programs under Art for Good.

Art For Good is a social enterprise which creates good through art. We help communities through art therapy, art enrichment and community art projects. Our beneficiaries are vulnerable children, those in poverty, with special needs, suffer from rare disorders & emotional / behavioural problems.

Art For Good is based on a simple philosophy of using art to do good. We focus on three different levels of which we use art for good, namely Art Therapy (healing), Art Enrichment (learning) & Community Art Projects (giving).

OVER-THE-RAINBOW’S WEBSITE : HTTP://OVERTHERAINBOW.SG/

OVER-THE-RAINBOW’S FACEBOOK PAGE : HTTPS://M.FACEBOOK.COM/OVERTHERAINBOW.SG/

ART ENRICHMENT IN ART THERAPY

By Amanda Chen

Art Therapy is more about the art making process, rather than the result or the grade, however there is an element of art education that still needs to be present. In the similar concept where words are not enough, where in some cases children have not developed the vocabulary and words to fully express how they feel, if the child does not have the basic art making skills, they would not be able to fully express themselves either.

For the case of Ann* (names have been changed to protect the identity of the child), while she was happy making marks using paints, she was not able to paint or create exactly what she wanted because she did not have any prior art making knowledge or skills.

During her first session, where an assessment was conducted, she did take well to making art, but what she could do was limited. She painted Thomas & Friends trains, something she liked and wanted to share. But looking at the image, no one could figure out what she was creating. (see image below)

During the second session, she was taught some basic drawing and colouring skills with pencils and markers, with the correct ways to use them. Immediately after the session was finished, on her own, she took out her sketchbook and began to apply what she had learnt into what she wanted to do. What she achieved on her own, after that session was amazing. She managed to create faces to her character and add more form and structure to her work. This was extremely encouraging for not only Ann, but for her parents and therapist. She was proud of what she had created and continues to develop a keen interest towards art and her art making process. (see image below)

From that one example, teaching a child a skill set that develops into mastery, an important attribute to the creative development process of creative self-expression.

ARTS FOR GOOD PROGRAM BY SIF

ARTS FOR GOOD PROGRAM BY SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION

30 ARTISTS FROM OVER 10 NATIONALITIES CONVENE IN CHENNAI FOR THE ARTS FOR GOOD FORUM HELD BY SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION

Arts educators, practitioners and programmers exchanged ideas and shared best practices to create positive social change through art at the Arts for Good Forum

Chennai, 22 February 2019 – The Arts for Good Forum, an international collaboration between the Singapore International Foundation and NalandaWay Foundation, was held in Chennai today at the Stella Maris College. The forum brought together a dynamic group of educators, arts practitioners and programmers. Individuals working with the arts and youth exchanged ideas and shared best practices to create positive social change in diverse communities.

An engaging panel discussion was conducted on the topic ‘Empowering Youth through the Arts’ to an audience of nearly 100 members of the public. The panel was moderated by Sriram Ayer, SIF Arts for Good (Fellow) and CEO & Founder of the award-winning NGO, Nalandaway Foundation.  He shared, “In a world that is increasingly threatened by growing nationalism, it is imperative for artists to play the role of peacemakers, connectors and negotiators. The Singapore International Foundation’s efforts to bring together a diverse group of practitioners, programmers, educators, researchers, and policymakers through the Arts for Good Fellowship programme is helping to build an ‘Arts for Good’ ecosystem that is much needed at present.”

The forum marks the end of the four-day Chennai Exchange Programme of the Arts for Good Fellowship organised by the SIF. Over the four days, 30 SIF Arts for Good fellows from 10 nationalities only gained insights into the arts for good scene in Chennai and but also carried out several arts-based collaborative projects. One of these projects saw SIF Arts for Good Fellows from Singapore, India, and UK collaborate to create a mural in a high school in Thiruvanmiyur. They co-created the mural with over 100 students from the high school. Portraying dreams, hope, faith, and creativity, the mural was completed over two days.

Another collaborative project was the infusion of a Tamil folk song with Malay dance movements for the students of a weekly Art Lab lessons conducted by the NalandaWay Foundation. Singaporean Muhammad Noramin Bin Mohamed Farid, SIF Arts for Good Fellow and Joint Artistic Director, Bhumi Collective led this effort with music educator Manjula Ponnapalli.

He shared, “From my collaborative experience here in Chennai, especially as an artist working with communities which is not my own, I still found openness amongst the students to take in what we were trying to communicate and learn alongside us. This is proof that there is possibility for intercultural exchange through artistic means. Although this is a very small example, this is something which can be replicated can be seen in other ways, through other artistic exchange and collaborations.”

Amanda Chen, Art Therapist from Art for Good, was proud to be one of the fellows who joined the Arts for Good Program by Singapore International Foundation 18-22 February 2019.

THE RED PENCIL 2018 ANNUAL REPORT

The Red Pencil (Singapore) is a charity which provides art therapy to children in need, especially those from low-income families. Our founder and art therapist Amanda Chen is also an art therapist with The Red Pencil (Singapore) and has been featured in their 2018 Annual Report. An abstraction of the report as below.

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The Red Pencil (Singapore) collaborated with talented musicians of the Tang Tee Khoon Grand Series on two private art and music workshops: one in May for children recovering from cancer and another in November for children with special needs and children from underprivileged backgrounds, held at the National Gallery Singapore and the Esplanade respectively. On both occasions, the children created artworks in response to the beautiful tunes performed by the musicians.

The Red Pencil sponsored the art materials used in these private workshops and coordinated the presence of an art therapist as well as art therapy student volunteers from the LASALLE College of the Arts.

We would like to thank all the art therapists who have worked with us for their dedication and commitment to our service users. We asked two of them to share their insights on the art therapy profession. Here is what they have to say :

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Healing is a process that continues beyond the art therapy session. The misconception of art therapy is that after the sessions, the client is expected to be all better or completely healed. Some improvements in the mood and behaviour are part of the healing process, but the journey of healing is often a long one.

Amanda Chen on some of the common misconceptions that people often have about art therapy