INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA CHEN
As simply as you can for the wider audience out there who do not have knowledge of art therapy, please explain what it is and what it means to you.
Art therapy is the work of the art therapist, which is the combination of art and psychology into their practice, used with the intention of helping and healing through the art. Art therapy is suitable for all age groups and used across different demographics. It is especially successful in engaging non-verbal clients as a form of expression.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be an art therapist? Was being an art therapist your first career choice?
I was previously from an arts background, where I did visual communications. I was in branding and advertising for a long time, but found that the job was not fulfilling. Then, I started to work in charities, doing marketing and events for various non-profit organisations. I wanted to help the children directly, instead of doing marketing and events and started to explore from there. One of my colleagues who was a counsellor suggested to look into the art therapy profession and I have not looked back since then.
What is the greatest joy, to you, about being an art therapist?
My work as an art therapist involves children and seeing them have a breakthrough and begin their healing journey is one of my greatest joys.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced as an art therapist?
The greatest challenge is insufficient time. Recovery is a process and takes time. Sometimes we work on a very limited time frame for therapy, where more time which is needed for the healing process. Each individual is different and thus healing and progress will be different, some do require more time with the process, which is sometimes insufficient.
What are some common misconceptions about art therapy you have come across?
Healing is a process and continues beyond the art therapy session. The misconception of art therapy is that after the sessions, the client is expected to be all better or have completely healed. Some improvements in the mood and behaviour are part of the healing process, but the journey of healing is often a long one.
How has being an art therapist affected other aspects of your life?
Art therapy has a positive effect on my life personally and professionally. It allowed me to look at life, especially my own, with a new understanding, explore different perspectives and look through a different lens. I find it fulfilling to be able to help others through my work as an art therapist.
“Healing is a process and continues beyond the art therapy session."
“(Art therapy) allowed me to look at life, especially my own, with a new understanding, explore different perspectives and look through a different lens."
How did you find out about The Red Pencil?
Red Pencil was introduced to us through LASALLE College of the Art, where the Masters in Art Therapy course was being conducted. We were invited to participate as interns for their art therapy programs and workshops. I attended quite a few of the programs and events.
Can you share with us more about the greatest moment or most unforgettable experience you have had thus far working with The Red Pencil?
One of the most interesting projects that I have done with the Red Pencil was the Tang Tee Khoon Grand Series Arts Therapy Experience, where we combined music and art as part of the therapeutic experience for the children with cancer and disadvantaged children attending the workshops.
We had the children connect with the music and express themselves through visual art, an experience these children do not usually get. At the end of the workshop, we had them draw out how they felt on mahjong paper. There were happy images on the paper and huge smiles on their faces. The experience warmed my heart, and the fact that so many people and volunteers had put in so much time to make this workshop happen for these children.
Do you have any advice for budding art therapists out there who want to start this profession?
The work of an art therapist can sometimes be emotionally challenging, remember to be kind and patient with yourself, as you would with a client. You are your most important client!
Interview by Tammy Tham, The Red Pencil (Singapore) intern, January-May 2019