As Educators, Counsellors and Psychotherapists, we offer creative arts therapies developed over many years during our core training and through personal and professional development. We look at these methods as part of our specialist experience, training, and expertise. This page is oriented towards NDIS services, however the information is also relevant to our private and community organisation clients.
Counselling Psychotherapy and Creative Arts Practice
You will first want to know where we are coming from with creative arts therapies.
While to the lay person this point is technical, to others who study and work in these fields of practice the meaning is important. At the end of the day, it becomes important to clients. Because where your therapist is coming from influences their approach, and the approach can colour the outcome of therapy i.e. your goals, experiences, and sense of satisfaction.
We are Counsellors and Psychotherapists primarily so we do not identify as ‘Art Therapists’ formally as its own separate professional group. But we are art therapists within our existing profession and in terms of our experience, training, and expertise.
We see art and the creative process as inherently psychosocial and therapeutic in nature, and art is universal to education, counselling, and psychology. This is why our primary affiliation is with the Australian Counselling Association, because our professional identity is based in an educationalist psychotherapeutic and holistic human developmental approach.
As senior practitioners and lecturers in our fields, and being among the founders of the Counselling profession in Australia, we also feel that when practitioners gain specialist training too early on in their careers and then attain membership in art therapy or other specific modalities through their respective associations, this tends to narrow the focus prematurely and can tend to limit the practitioner’s exposure to wider psychotherapeutic and counselling theory and practice.
This page outlines Dr Kennedy’s and Dr Bowers’ areas of expertise and experience in creative arts therapies. It is important to note that both practitioners carry skills and capacities across cultural, linguistic, psychodynamic, and professional artistic expression and experience. We are not simply therapists, we are artists and musicians. These are not simply roles, but form integral layers of cultural and minority cultural and community connections. While many creative arts therapists likely share these layers, acknowledging the integrity of these connections provides important acknowledgement for everyone who enters the field of arts therapies. Regardless our level of skill or capacity, arts are integral to human ecology.
The Art-ist Counsellor Psychotherapist
In relation to creative arts therapies Dr Dwayne Andrew Kennedy is a well known painter, with emphasis on Aboriginal Australian art forms. His paintings convey the traditional lines and dot work of the Waradjuri and Kamilori nations that form part of his heritage. Dwayne has advanced degrees in Counselling with a Master Honours in Indigenous healing, and a PhD in Counselling with creative arts therapy among Indigenous men. He has also studied for several years at TAFE in Fine Arts and related areas, with a great deal of talent across the areas of textiles, design, graphic arts, and visual arts.
Dr Kennedy’s works have appeared in such places as the Logo used by the Australian Counselling Association’s international research journal, and in exhibitions as far away as Cape Breton University in the Mi’kma’ki nation in Eastern Canada. Dwayne uses creative arts and painting, symbol work, sand tray work, clay or moulding work, with individual approaches, and in groups and training events.
Dwayne’s approach is deeply intuitive, emotion-honouring, person centred, positive and solution focused. Dr Kennedy is a Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Trained Teacher with Paediatric Early Childhood Specialisations, and with extensive disability and mental health experience. He is highly sought after in many fields, and people who have the opportunity to work with him are often surprised by the new options and solutions that come from creative and intuitive therapeutic work.
In relation to creative arts therapies Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers is well known as a musician, singer songwriter, guitarist, percussionist, painter, poet, and author. He has exhibited works, performed over many years, and published several books including on the use and practice of traditional arts in therapeutic methods. Dr Bowers has been well known by students in university and workplace training events to perform psychodrama demonstrations, as well as to perform as a musician and singer, often using improvisation to effect therapeutic change in using client or student content while modulating sound and energetic frequencies toward optimal therapeutic neuro-somatic outcomes.
Joseph Randolph has worked with creative arts therapies over many years including improvisation theatre, role play, psychodrama, and with visual arts including painting, clay work, sculpture, symbol work, sand tray work, and with music more directly in uses of percussion instruments, guitar, singing, as well as for many years in past teaching voice and beginner guitar. Life coaching and empowerment often go hand in hand with these efforts, as many people exploring music and creative arts appear to seek self-development, life skills, and to cope with issues of trauma or everyday relational stress and anxieties.
Dr Bowers’ approach is emotion-honouring, intuitive, psychodynamic, and often integrates advanced psychotherapy strategies to assist the client’s desired change like neurolinguistic and hypnotherapy methods. The approach is person centred, holistic, existential, and pragmatic as helping clients in seeking solutions and solving problems are often at the forefront of therapeutic and educaring work. Joseph Randolph is a Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Human Ecologist, Hypnotherapist, and while he has in past been registered as a qualified teacher in NSW Board of Studies he does not maintain an active membership as his emphasis is in community based education and therapy not school teaching. This being said he is often sought out by parents, teachers, and trainers for assistance and solutions with difficult cases.
NDIS Funded Art Therapy Counselling Psychotherapy
The title of this section is long winded for a reason. NDIS Participants can employ an Art Therapist who does not do any other work or have other qualifications such as Counselling or Psychotherapy or Behaviour Support. You can hire an Art Therapist for a specific event or group work or private therapy with individuals.
But you need to understand that under the NDIS generally, therapy attaches outcomes that ought to be measurable and accountable. In this way, all the NDIS contracted work we do with clients regardless of the modality/method leads to an outcome under the person’s NDIS Plan. These goals, hopes, and dreams become part of the therapy.
So if you employ an Art Therapist under NDIS, you will likely include goals for personal development, skills, social skills, fine motor or eye-hand-body coordination, and other goals for example leading to life satisfaction, expanding choices, options, and experiences, or working on deeper therapeutic goals like healing from trauma, learning from difficult experiences, or gaining self confidence. Depending on the goal, you want to know that your therapist has the right skills and ability to help you reach your goals.
Ability Therapy Specialists and Drs Bowers and Kennedy focus on creative art therapies within counselling and psychotherapy as well as behaviour support goals and outcomes. Most of our clients seek us out within our primary professional roles. Most of the clients we work with see art as something that people do that helps the main goals of counselling therapy as the focus of the work. Also by allowing greater flexibility here instead of offering only art therapy, because counselling and psychotherapy are very broad, clients actually tend to have greater choice and control over what they do with us, and what goals they create in therapy.
In this light, people may sign up for art therapy specifically but easily get bored with doing art activities and others are not interested in art group activities. Hence, our approach is very flexible and our expertise is on tailored solutions for individualised work that is quite specific to a person’s intellectual, cognitive, emotive, social, psychological, physiological, age, developmental age, and interests, likes, and dislikes.
A Broad Example: Yarning Circle Therapy
Simple and fascinating as well, over many years and spanning university training and community practice settings Dr Bowers has engaged a process of Yarning Therapy in groups. These events can engage familial memories, stories as medicine, and a deep sharing and openness among participants.
The process uses four traditional Indigenous colours of yarn – Red, Yellow, White, and Black. Depending on the energy and needs of the group, the therapist may begin the process early in life with childhood stories, or later in life with stories of grandparents and family origins in time and place. Each person gets to hold the one colour of Sacred Yarn, and they get to share their story or insight or feeling, and to speak whatever they choose and is on their heart to say. Others in the group are tasked with listening supportively and without comment. Over time the Yarn is passed around the circle in a web of interconnections, itself symbolic of our connections in relationship and across time and place.
A Yarning Circle Therapy session can last from a couple of hours to a full day and evening. In more intensive settings, the process can go over four whole days, integrated into other cultural and spirituality levels of training, educaring, and coaching processes.
More recently Drs Bowers and Kennedy are co-leading such groups among disability support staff, community groups, and others including sometimes also families and extended family groups. These group experiences can be extremely powerful and often bring up heaps of memories, stories, and valuable emotional energy and human intimacy.
In a world where Facebook clips and media blips dominate most of our lives, people appear to take time to adjust to actually sitting together and listening. People are often lost for words. Sometimes silence is part of the experience. Others will remain patient until the person chooses to pass, or to share their inner world in some way.
An Example of Individualised Options: Crochet Therapy
Interestingly enough, because Dr Bowers loves yarn, textiles, and is an esteemed crochet artist, over several years the group yarn therapy approach has translated into crochet-as-therapy and is now used with NDIS and other private clients.
Crochet therapy is a psychodynamic and neurolinguistic method and allows clients to crochet during therapy, and/or to sit with a therapist-crochet-artist, who uses the pace and process of sharing crochet to engage with psychotherapeutic and hypnotherapy strategies to assist with a range of outcomes.
For instance, clients use the crochet time to simply relax and allow rapport with the therapist and to talk about whatever comes up.
Other clients may seek help with their pain management and pain reduction (yes, psychotherapy is useful alongside or instead of medications for a range of chronic and acute pain episodes).
Clients seek to work on their sleeplessness, insomnia, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, social phobia, other phobias, trauma issues and recovery, grief and loss, stress, weight management, or a wide range of other issues. Crochet therapy provides a uniquely human shared experience, time, and space for psychotherapeutic outcomes. It is quite surprisingly amazing that such a simple but elegant and cultural art form has so much relevance in counselling and psychotherapy. Many people find this creative therapeutic work highly valuable and useful, not to mention its affirming, empowering, and deep familial and ecological connections.
An Example of Visual Arts Counselling Psychotherapy
NDIS and private clients, groups, staff groups, and organisations have employed our time to work with visual arts therapies. This includes one person working with a therapist, each beginning to paint a canvas or other medium, or a shared work of art depending on the choices of the individual. The whole process begins within the therapeutic relationship. The focus is not really on the art per se, as the emphasis is on the process. We mean the process can involve feeling, emotion, memory, associations, family, partnership, work, or issues that seem to take our focus. But usually within every issue there is a deeper range of energies and potentials.
Counselling Psychotherapy with visual arts may employ the canvas, paint, colours, brush, as symbols and used actively within symbol work and psychodynamic processes. This allows for using metaphors, associations, and dream-work to emerge within a creative flow.
Practically, the person or group may engage making a rather simple picture. Sometimes as simple as something drawn in pencil and painted in by the client, depending on their capacity and choice of what they enjoy and can attain. Usually the picture or painting will take on quite important symbolic meaning. Later this image can be used in further educational and therapeutic work that looks at new meanings, associations, skills, goals, and outcomes related to the creative therapy and its meaning for the person or group.
An Example of Creative Arts Music Counselling Psychotherapy
Music psychotherapy engages sensory visual, auditory, and kinesthetic systems. Every person uses their sensory systems differently, with one usually taking a dominant role.
Observing what of the three dominant sensory systems a person works from as an innate or instinctive approach to communication and interaction with body and environment can assist in the ways general therapy can progress.
With music psychotherapy this is particularly helpful. We seek to understand the neuro-physical and neuro-social ways that people actually process music as a sound, to imagine and see music as an imaginative process, and to do music as an action and a physical-emotive-energetic feeling. The latter kinesthetic system may relate to use of hands, feet tapping, body movement, or body interaction with instruments.
For example, how a person holds a hand drum that sits between the legs or on the lap. The drum interacts with the body in different ways. A person takes time to get comfortable with this, and to use the instrument as an intension of their self expression. Normally these ways are learned via experience.
Certain clients may benefit by learning about an instrument and the formal layers of music, so that they come to terms with what that means for their self expression and skills in making music.
Through interaction with physio-kinesthetic experience a person gains access to emotion, memory, and sensation, as well as associations come up that may lead to new insights or simply to a helpful cathartic and therapeutic session that releases energy and helps a person indirectly work out other issues or problems.
Music also engages the olfactory and gustatory systems particularly when used in conjunction with social times around food, drink, or with use of burning herbs like sage or with aromatherapy substances requested by and safe for clients.
Music at the experiential and technical levels includes sound, rhythm, tempo, resonance, pitch, intonation, notes, frequencies, sound waves, as well as many other elements. Vocalisation and/or singing engage a wide range of experiential domains. The actual making of sound and silence provide quite profound opportunities for reflection, experimentation, and gaining of new skills and awareness.
Music psychotherapy with a person who has intellectual disability and autism may include all of the above elements and many varied experiences. The words and labels for the experience may not be important to the person. But understanding how the neurological, physical, emotional, psychological, and social familial layers of music come together can often assist in broader terms in therapy.
For example, knowing a certain song from a client’s past was very important can assist in creating a therapeutic calming space during music or other forms of creative arts therapies. Having the music playing, or creating a recording for a client, say by using guitar and voice in a simple direct melody, taking an older orchestrated song they had growing up, and turning that song into a simple sing-along melody, may become a therapeutic path toward opening neuro-physical and emotional capacity for learning skills. Perhaps the mind space creates openness to trying new behaviours, or simply settles existing behaviours. These therapeutic insights can then be translated into other day to day environments.
Music with children’s groups in schools or in group therapy sessions provides another example where shared skills are learned, exposure to new sounds are provided, and therapist-teacher performance and modelling of behaviours provides multi-sensory input and relational-based experiential learning.
We have found that music has a particularly powerful place for Aboriginal people, and in other groups where cultural traditions and instruments can be employed. Music can assist with learning across ages, and provides immediate experiential wisdom for cultural learning and story-telling, self-awareness, and other-awareness. Assisting children or adults to sing in unison and create together a choir or music group is a profoundly vital process for the facilitator and for each participant.
The space music creates can be even more powerful when say dealing with grief and loss after a suicide, taking music into a family to work with you who are facing the loss of a loved one, or engaging with music during the post trauma recovery cycle that follows death or crisis over the five and ten year period after an event. Many people do not consciously take the time to address these issues and concerns, and life gets busy and we overlook the patterns. Music and creative arts therapies allow a space and time to reflect on deeper issues, life cycles, passages of life and death, and gives us ways to celebrate life events. Having all of this affirmed by music counselling processes enhances people’s every appreciation and awareness. This helps people to deal with bad days, and down times, and gives us a place to turn when we hit a wall.