Aslıhan Özcan | Art Therapy: Finding Connections through Colors

Aslıhan Özcan | Art Therapy: Finding Connections through Colors


First I want to tell you who I am. I’m a therapist. I studied psychology and sociology as an undergrad. In my 4th year I realized that I really love therapy but it’s kind of killing a part of me and my creativity. Then I said ”well, I’ll just finish these, I’ll just leave all of this and go study arts.” One of my professors realized that, and she said ”What are you doing?” I said ”Well this is killing my creativity and I’m going to go and study arts.” She said ‘why do you have these horse blinders on? Just look at it from different points.’ Then I started to think about it and I said ‘I love therapy and psychology and here in other side, I have arts and creating. How can I connect these two together?’ Doing some research, I realized that there is something called ‘art therapy’ which connects the two for me. Then I ended up in United States, studied art therapy. I worked in different hospitals, doing art therapy with children adults in different settings. Coming back home where we don’t have a field like art therapy, I was again with all these different dots in my life. I was like ‘OK, how am I going to do this now? I have this passion, interest for children, and psychology. I want to work in a hospital. I love to work with cancer. I love colors and arts and creating but I want to heal. So, how these all are going to come together? Eventually, I designed a project and I decided to work with pediatric cancer patients, helping them with art. Children dealing with cancer like adults as well, deal with lots of psyco-social difficulties. So they have PTSD, anxiety, depression.. lots of things. Art and play is a natural way to deal with these emotions. When children play and when they are engaged in arts, their blood pressure decreases, their stress level decreases. They are more cooperative with treatment, they are motivated and they are relaxed. So eventually I designed this project ‘Colors of the hospital’ aiming to provide psyco-social support through art to pediatric cancer patients who cannot afford treatment. I did individual and group art therapy with more than 50 children in Okmeydanı SSK, Çapa and Cerrahpaşa hospitals for 8 months. Children use art in many ways. They use art to express their feelings about their illness, to relax and to have fun even in hospital settings. To reframe, as you can see this is a medicine box turned into a robot. So they used art to reframe their experiences, to have fun even with medical issues basically as you can see. To cope, to built coping skills. At the end of the project, children used art to reflect on their experiences, express their feelings and beliefs. They created the artwork and the artwork helped them to find meaning in this illness and in their lives. So art really brought color in their life. With this project children are connected with art and that means that they are connected with expression, self-expression. They know more about their feelings. Awareness of the feeling brings coping and after comes acceptance. When you connect all these dots together, you can see that there is healing. Yes, art is healing. Healing is more than being cured. So, physical wellbeing is connected to spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Creativity helps you to do that. It helps you to be more resilient. Art making is a behavioral intervention to get better. In telling stories through art, people find pathways for recovery and transformation. So what I want you to take from this very short presentation is that; think about the world as your canvas, all these opportunities, people in need and your skills are the dots. You just need them to connect them with colors and shapes that are your ideas. So, put all of this together and create your own artwork. Thank you very much

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