I was asked to facilitate an arts therapy workshop for the National Rural Health Alliance Council’s CouncilFest gathering in Canberra on 8 September 2019. Council members are representatives of the Alliance’s 41 member bodies - national organisations representing health consumers, health care professionals, service providers, health educators, students and the Indigenous health sector. It was a crisp and sunny Sunday morning when we all met at the Vibe Hotel for the event. The theme of the workshop was to inquire into the participant’s response to the question: “What inspires you to support the wellbeing of others?” My intention was to provide a space for those attending to reflect on what they do as a health practitioner in a rural setting and to demonstrate my process experientially.
My approach uses the MIECAT Institute’s form of inquiry which values multi-modality within practice. I use multiple creative processes, such as visual arts-making modes, movement and dance, literary forms, as well as voice and music, to make sense of lived experiences, in the hope of improving overall wellbeing. I believe this approach enables exploration of experiences to support healing and growth, to develop self-awareness and acceptance and to find healthier and more adaptive ways of being in the world. The creative arts therapies are often referred to as a “right-brain approach”, however, within my inquiry-based approach, there is an integration of right- and left-brain hemispheres. Experience emerges for my client-inquirer through creative outlets and is then reflected upon with my support as a therapeutic companion. We inquire further, reflexively, to arrive at approximations of meaning. Multi-modality within therapeutic practice is particularly helpful when there are few words through which to express or process difficult experiences.
In the workshop for the Alliance Council, each participant was invited to create their own ‘nest’ out of shredded paper. The inquiry process was broken into two sections. In the first part, participants were given instruction about how to create their nest. They were invited to document their thoughts, feelings and sensations during their nest creation and to write down key words as a response to the question: “What inspires you to support the wellbeing of others?” These key words were to be used in the construction of their nest if they felt this was a good fit. I also had yarn, wool and feathers available for participants to use in their nest construction.
With shredded paper strewn all over the meeting room, we moved to the second phase of the inquiry process. Participants were invited to get into pairs and take turns to describe their nest, reflect on the process of creation, and on the question: “What inspires them to support the wellbeing of others?” The listener noted down any key words. Each participant was then invited to take their own key words and create an approximation of meaning, in the form of a poetic response, statement or a drawing.
Then it was time for the group to share reflections on the theme and/or process. Some shared their intimidation at the task at hand, but they pushed through and reflected deeply on what the theme of wellbeing meant for them. Themes of self-care, gratitude, connection to nature, being inspired by the resilience of others and vulnerability shone through.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of facilitating this workshop and meeting a group of people passionate about the health of rural people. My hope is that this inquiry will deepen their connection to the underling thread of what inspires them to support the wellbeing of others in their everyday practice.
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Jemima Beaumont is a Registered Creative Arts Therapist (ANZACATA). She completed a Masters in Therapeutic Arts Practice at the MIECAT Institute in Melbourne in 2018 and has a small private practice in Canberra working individually with client’s aged five years onwards as well as running community arts workshops.