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My Journey to Art Therapy
by Karen Adler, ATH Asst. Editor of Arts & Art Therapy,
Diploma Transpersonal Art Therapy, Grad Dip Material Anthropology


Perhaps the best place to start my first article for All Things Healing is with my own journey to becoming an Art Therapist. A journey that’s been long and convoluted, full of twists and turns, dead-ends and road blocks, false starts and turning back and starting all over again. Ah yes, not to mention lots of being lost and consequently, lots of searching - for both my own self and for a path that would serve me well through life. 

Such a journey - notwithstanding the fact that it was certainly not the one I planned for myself - has lead me [sometimes kicking and screaming] to where I find myself now. The detours and tangents and seeking and soul-searching have taken me to places I never would have gone to and introduced me to people I never would have met, had I trodden the path I originally chose. 

My journey thus far has given me a deeper insight both into myself and hopefully, into others, than I would have gained otherwise. Plus it’s enabled me to make use of some of my past dead-ends and wrong turns – librarianship, my love of books, reading and words, anthropology, art, writing - and incorporate them into what I bring to people as an Art Therapist.

Art therapy enables me to do much of what I love in life and to be a proud exponent of what I believe in and hold dear. And - most importantly - what I have found to be true. The making of art has enabled me to get through some of the hardest times in my life – the deaths of my parents, lost love, long periods of anxiety and depression. And what I love most about these memories of difficult times is that I turned to art instinctively, intuitively – long before I studied Fine Art and many years before I knew about art therapy.

Life as a journey, a time-honoured way of looking at life in most spiritual and cultural traditions, came to have concrete meaning for me when I did the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage in Spain, in 2005. Walking 600 kilometres across a country can do that to one, I think. Walking upon the earth every day – well, ok, most days - for 7 weeks, gives the mind a chance to quieten, to get in synch with the body, to work with the natural rhythms of our world. 

As, I believe, does art. In a different way, of course but built into art is the notion of process. To concentrate on the process rather than the product, as we are taught in art, translates very well into the journey, not the destination. 

The gift I returned with from the Camino was the realisation of preciousness of life, of my life, of each of our lives. And the finiteness of life. As each journey must end so must each life. To live our lives with this realisation recognised and accepted gives a different perspective to what we do with our lives, to how we travel our journey. 

Armed with these gifts and realisations, I now run workshops called The Journey Journal which combine art therapy, journaling with the concept of life as a journey. The workshops are designed to enable participants to view their life from this perspective of journey – a very gentle and forgiving concept and one that inherently contains the principles of change and movement. Participants are enabled to consciously access the wisdom they’ve gained along the way and to thus, build their lives on a firm basis of self-knowledge. 

Art therapy, art, journey, journalling – such lovely things to both play and work with. I feel blessed to have found a way to combine what I love most in my life and to bring this to others in the world who are interested.

Copyright: Karen Adler 2011



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About the Author

Karen Adler, ATH Asst. Editor of Arts & Art Therapy, is a Transpersonal Art Therapist, an artist, writer and researcher. She is a firm believer in the inherent healing qualities of the Arts. She has run art therapy workshops for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, self-harming behaviour, eating disorders, for post-flood and cyclone trauma and for people seeking to bring about positive change in their lives. Karen also uses Art Therapy to help in the resolution of her own life difficulties and is continually surprised by the insight it brings. 
Contact Karen at karenadler222@gmail.com or karenadler@allthingshealing.com.






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