INTERVIEW WITH DAPHNA ARBELL KEHILA

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.

Expressive art therapy uses the expressive arts—movement, visual art, music, writing, and drama improvisation—in a supportive setting to facilitate growth and healing. It is a process of discovering ourselves through any art form that comes from an emotional depth. Expressive art refers to using the emotional, intuitive aspect of ourselves in various media. We express inner feelings by creating outer forms. When using art as an expressive mode for self-healing or therapeutic purposes, we are not concerned on the aesthetics or craftsmanship of the visual art, the grammar and style of the writing, or the harmonic flow of the song. We use the arts to let go, to express, and to release.

How did you first discover art therapy as a practice?

I was engaged in art making all my life. Creative work was a way to express my thoughts and feelings and give it a new form and meaning. As a teen I was involved in teaching art and crafts and I could see how the creative work reflected people’s inner world, supported their well-being, and empowered them to connect with their strength. It was just natural for me to move from art making to supporting others doing their art works and self-healing process.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be an art therapist? Was being an art therapist your first career choice?

After many years of work as a theatre and interior designer (with MA in Theatre from Tel-Aviv University, and MA in Design from Musashino Art University in Tokyo), I felt I was more preoccupied with helping people, their needs and problems, rather than being focused on pursuing my own artwork. It made me realize the therapist within me.

“Working hand in hand with another person in this journey of exploration is a great joy."

“Art therapy has helped me to integrate my various skills and abilities, to feel connected to the community in which I live, and to feel engaged in meaningful work."

What is the greatest joy, to you, about being an art therapist?

Meeting people from all walks of life and helping them enjoy creative exploration of who they are, overcome their fears and challenges, empower them to realize that they can do wonderful and meaningful things. Walking hand in hand with another person in this journey of exploration is a great joy.

What are some of the challenges you have experienced as an art therapist?

Allowing another person touch your heart may be challenging. The responsibility is demanding and there is always a risk in connecting with vulnerability, something that I need to be conscious about.

What are some common misconceptions about art therapy you have come across?

People tend to think that they need artistic skills to do art therapy; and that the quality of artwork defines the art therapy process. These misconceptions are very wrong and often prevent people from gaining the benefits of the process.

How has being an art therapist affected other aspects of your life?

Art therapy has helped me to integrate my various skills and abilities, to feel connected to the community in which I live, and to feel engaged in a meaningful work.

How did you find out about The Red Pencil?

When I first arrived to Singapore in 2004, I could not find art therapy practitioners.

No one understood what this profession is. A few years after, when the art therapy program at Lasalle opened, I was invited to meet the art therapists’ community and was thrilled to meet Laurence and hear about The Red Pencil and the projects’ development in this growing area. Since then, I became involved with the Art Therapy Association of Singapore (ATAS) and with The Red Pencil, trying to encourage collaborations and new innovations of art therapy programs.

Can you share with us more about the greatest moment or most unforgettable experience you have had thus far working with The Red Pencil.

Introducing the benefits of art therapy is my passion. For me each and every team meeting is a great experience of development. I love sharing ideas and developing new programs with other professionals. The Red Pencil’s missions are always important socially and therefore exciting and rewarding.

Interview by Tammy Tham, The Red Pencil (Singapore) intern, January-May 2019