INTERVIEW WITH CRISTINA RAMOS
“I really felt I had found my professional identity."
In simpler terms, can you explain what creative arts therapy is?
Art therapy is a discipline which enhances creativity and puts it in value to cope with life in a more adaptive way.
What does creative arts therapy mean to you?
Art therapy is the approach with which I approach the world and the people I accompany.
How did you first discover creative arts therapy?
First time I discover art therapy was in San Francisco, at Creativity Explore, a studio-based collective in San Francisco that partners with developmentally disabled artists.
When did you realise that you wanted to be a creative arts therapist? Was it your first career choice?
After doing my master’s in art therapy, I got convinced that I wanted to be an art therapist. It was not my first choice since I had firstly studied Psychopedagogy but also had specialized in art at Baccalaureate, so I got enthusiastic when I knew about art therapy. I really felt I had found my professional identity.
From your experience, how has creative arts therapy positively helped young people?
Art therapy sessions are a blow of fresh air for young people. Firstly, some of them can doubt, specially those who are insecure or has a low self-esteem, but after two or three sessions they let themselves go and experience the benefit of self-expression in a non-judgemental and respectful setting. They can get very enthusiastic about their creations, mostly children, but also relieved with a feeling of self-acceptance.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced as an art therapist, and how did you overcome them?
As an art therapist I have experienced many challenges mostly when I worked with some patients with an eating disorder who were very self-damaged and traumatized, their self-esteem was very low, and they were quite insecure so they didn't trust on their creative capacity, so I really had to convince and to motivate them to try to use art to express themselves in a in an artistic way.
Then they could realize how art did many did them made them feel and they started to believe in their capacity. I have also thought of a psychiatric day care where I conducted session for groups of children to whom I had to teach how to use art to make it benefit for themselves, in a way that let them express their emotions without causing damage.
Also, when we work on in interdisciplinary teams, we have to explain constantly the benefits of art therapy and the sense of our interventions so it can be tiring but after showing their results or after realizing the effect it has on the clients and patients my colleagues started to understand better and value the discipline and its potential.
How has being an art therapist impacted you as an individual?
It has a great impact. I'm strongly attached to my profession. I feel that since I am an art therapist, I am complete. It really influences the way I relate to others and to myself and how I employ the time. Since I am art therapist, I only want to develop my profession, so I have devoted much time to make art therapy more visible, and to improve our situation as professionals and experts.
You also have experience of teaching art therapy to others. How is teaching others on this subject matter different from practising it?
For me teaching Arthur B is very close to practicing it since I have a very experiential approach so in most of my interventions, I propose a practice so people can personally experience the benefits of my approach and put theory it into practice. But in my case when teaching I am very honest and share the vicissitudes of my trajectory, the challenges, and the hits. I believe, I’m quite generous as a teacher since I try give my best and share my latest realizations. I experience great enthusiasm when teaching and I really love sharing my passion with other art therapist and students.
“I experience great enthusiasm when teaching and I really love sharing my passion with other art therapist and students."
What advice can you give to fellow art therapists who are just starting out and what they should look out for when working with children?
I would say to them that when working with children we must give them time. They need to trust in us, and we must show them that they can be themselves when they are with us. If we accomplish this, then they will give us their best, all their creativity blossoms and expands. I would say patience and love, as the highest expression of the acceptance of their singularity.
You also facilitated an online art therapy mission for The Red Pencil. What are the challenges and opportunities of conducting sessions online versus face-to-face?
Facilitating online sessions demands to build trust, to create the atmosphere that make all the participants feel secure. A great challenge can be to connect with people who do not have the best network coverage, it can be hard to communicate with them, however we could experience a connection emotionally and professionally. We must trust in their implication and probably need to be more explicit when transferring some messages and do it more frequently to guarantee the ideal conditions for a nice practice. We need to create new ways of being present in a symbolic way, but that's what for we are experts in creativity. We can get very nice results which I am very proud of having witnessed.
“…Art therapy session could be a path where they could find something that could be like a home in a symbolic way. “
What has been your most memorable experience in working with The Red Pencil?
Some of my most memorable experiences working with The Red Pencil was feeling a great connection with a group of Indian teachers, being myself European and not having ever been there in my life. With our way of expressing our joy and happiness, we could be very similar, and I experienced this with great joy. I could also say that in working with asylum seekers, I have experienced great satisfaction feeling that the art therapy session could be a path where they could find something that could be like home in a symbolic way.
Why do you think that The Red Pencil’s mission is significant?
Firstly, because it makes art therapy accessible to people who probably wouldn't have the possibility to access to the service. Secondly, because the art therapy approach is very human and provides with a subtle way to connect with people and to enhance the confidence, they have in themselves and in their creative capacity which for me is the capacity to build a future.
To sum up, because it provides art therapy to children but also to people who work with them dignifying their roles in society, giving them a creator’s identity, the opportunity to get in touch with their creativity and their capacity to express themselves in an artistic way. So, thanks to The Red Pencil which dignifies the existence of all the people we approach.