Using art to solve life’s problems is a technique known as Expressive Arts Therapy. The therapeutic discipline has been a recognized tool in psychology since the late 1940s and incorporates drawing, painting, sculpting, music and dance.
According to the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association, “the expressive arts combine the visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing and other creative processes to foster deep personal growth and community development. By integrating the arts processes and allowing one to flow into another, we gain access to our inner resources for healing, clarity, illumination and creativity.”
Area residents will have a chance to learn more about Expressive Arts and how to use it in their daily lives when Mary Mac’s Café in the High Country Lodge will host a workshop by therapist Ruth Hamilton of Magdalena.
Her workshop, “Arts For Cellular Healing,” will be held Saturday, Mar. 17, from 1-4 p.m. The cost is $35.
According to University of Texas psychologist James Pennebaker, at about three months, people stop talking about a painful event. Those unresolved feelings are internalized and become toxic and spread until another painful event reveals these and other buried feelings.
Expressive Arts can help one process and transform their feelings before they are tucked away inside, Hamilton said.
“Expressive Arts can give you a perspective on your life that is like the dawning of a new day. The beautiful sunrise gives hope that your stressful emotions can be transformed,” Hamilton said. “With Expressive Arts, you can depict these stressful emotions and transform them just as the colors of morning transform the sky. All thoughts start first in pictures and imagery. In order to make changes, you must access the mind’s imagery. Art is the expression of the body’s inner language.”
In an Expressive Arts session, one does not need to be an artist, Hamilton said. “We’re teaching art, we’re teaching how express yourself through the arts.”
“Often simple pictures reveal the imagery. An expressive arts counselor will help you access the images that your body, mind, and spirit need to heal painful emotions and physical symptoms.
Life has challenges that cause grief and painful emotions. Time alone does not always heal these painful emotions.”
Prior to her involvement with expressive arts, Hamilton spent 21 years using humor in therapy.
“I actually founded the nonprofit Carolina Health and Humor Association in 1989,” she said. “It promoted therapeutic humor around the country. I spent those years teaching the staff in hospitals how to use humor in patients. You’re using a lot of stand-up comedy, which we saw improve their health.”
Hamilton even went to Russia with the real-life Patch Adams.
“It was a goodwill tour of hospitals in Russia to demonstrate therapeutic humor,” she said.
Hamilton made the transition from humor therapy because “I wanted to focus more on art for healing, and I like working with small groups.”
Her demonstrations on humor therapy were sometimes before audiences of up to 6,000.
“I did a lot of public speaking and tours. Now I work with small groups, like the one at Mary Mac’s” she said.
At the University of North Carolina Hospital she worked one-on-one with children who were getting chemotherapy. “I used watercolor techniques to help them become interested in the power of watercolors during their therapy,” Hamilton said. “I use big brushes, everything is oversized. It became a family kind of thing with family members joining in.”
At Duke Medical Center in North Caroline she used expressive arts with heart transplant patients.
“They’re able to visualize the body cells and immune system, because all healing must start with cells before healing can happen,” she said. “Illness begins at the cellular level. Some have an illness going on for years.
Hamilton explained that Expressive Arts sessions begin with relaxation exercises and inner focusing. “You’ll be guided to sense the body’s wisdom and to note the inner imagery,” she said. “Often the body is trying to tell you about stress producing situations in your life.”
Through visual arts using watercolor, pastels, oil crayons, and colored pencils attendees can learn to identify, display, and transform their images, she said.“Sound, laughter, and music activate vibrational healing to soothe the spirit. Movement, dance, and healing gestures mobilize the body’s healthy hormones. Storytelling and native and tribal myths help you tap into the wisdom of the ages,” Hamilton said. “Three dimensional design, mandalas, and sculpture bring focus and clarity that can release stress. All of these expressive arts help you create healing and growth pathways.”
Ruth Hamilton moved to Socorro County four years ago, but still spends part of her time in Durham, North Carolina. “I love being here in Magdalena,” she said. “I like the stories I hear in the cafés. I love the art that is created by the people here, and appreciate everyone’s love of music and going to dances in the area. Believe it or not, I teach clog dancing.”
Hamilton also is a designer of jewelry and uses gems and rocks she collects while hiking around Pinon Springs.
Her jewelry can be seen at the Market Place and Bear Mountain Gallery in Magdalena, and Alamo Gallery and Gifts in Socorro.
She says, “each piece of jewelry art expresses a healing combination of colors, gem stones, and precious metals.”
The “Arts For Cellular Healing,” will be from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 17.Call Mary Mac’s Café at 575-854-2063 for reservations or information. The cost is $35 in advance or $40 at the door.
MARY MAC’S CAFE – now located on Hwy 60 in Magdalena, in the High Country Lodge. We are open 7 DAYS A WEEK Monday through Saturday 7am – 7pm and Sunday9am – 7pm. Telephone number is 575-854-2063. We have a very similar menu to our former location with daily specials, soup of the day, jumbo muffins, cakes and pies plus Mexican food & other regional dishes. Dinner is served from 5pm-7pm. We also offer made to order whole pizzas to eat in or take out – with our own sauce recipe and crust. Pizza orders accepted from 11am – 7pm daily 7 days a week. Call 854-2063 to order. Large 2 topping pizza $15.95. Whole pies, cakes and cheesecakes available by special order. Meeting and banquet facilities. No charge or nominal charge for non profit group’s use of the meeting room. Call for details.