Business

The business of art therapy

BY DENNISE WILLIAMS
Contributor

Sunday, November 05, 2017

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Having seen the power of creativity and art to transform the lives of her own children, Denise Robinson knew that this was the business she wanted to pursue as a creativity consultant.

Consultants abound in the world of small business. In fact, we in Jamaica are now embracing the idea that life coaches in various formats can help us to reach our highest potential, and so Robinson believes that now is the time for a business such as hers to provide a service to the world.

“I have had the privilege of teaching hundreds of people, ranging in age from three to 96, with more than 28 years in the education system under my belt. I wholeheartedly believe in the creative process. Within it, there is much at stake and much to be gained.”

The theory that all working people, from high-level executives down to line workers, do better and achieve more when they are creative is gaining ground in Jamaica, and the business of creativity through the arts is becoming an accepted method of giving the brain that jump-start needed.

People don't like to admit that they are in a creative rut. Or that they are so stressed out that they have run out of ideas. And rarely do companies who engage in corporate retreats think that jump-starting the creative juices of their team members will lead to increased profits.

Robinson, a former art educator and now a creative consultant, saw a niche where she could create a business. That is, teaching individuals and groups how to use the arts to guide them to unlock their innate creativity.

First of all, Robinson explained the difference between art therapy and traditional counselling to help people get out of a rut.

“Unlike traditional counselling, art can offer insights into issues that lie at the deeper levels of the psyche and can give a voice to spaces where words fail or where there are no words. My sessions explore multiple strategies to discover innate gifts, rediscover their joy, and work towards greater fulfilment through the discovery of thinking and doing things in new and profound ways. This may promote personal development, increase coping skills, develop new and different ways of problem solving, teamwork and enhance cognitive function.”

However, Robinson does encounter those who say they have no skill at drawing. Does that mean you cannot help people who do not have an artistic bone in their body? In response, Robinson notes, “I love it when people perceive that 'they don't have an artistic bone in their body'! That is such fertile ground for tremendous self-discovery. You don't have to be an artist to be creative. Sure, that would be of value... but it can also be a hindrance. Entering one of my workshops as a blank slate holds tremendous potential for greater self-discovery.”

Many companies benefit from Robinson's training for team building and using creativity to unleash ideas to increase sales. But since the pressure that companies face to get things done with smaller budgets and smaller teams, some might not view art therapy as a necessity.

Robinson replies, “To those companies I say, look at the big guys and what they are doing: Microsoft, Apple, Virgin, etc. They all credit actively engaging and encouraging their teams to be creative. Think outside the box, make a new box, see and make connections where there are none obviously evident, take risks, and more. They invest time and money into this process, and the rewards are self-evident.

“I am convinced that most companies do realise that their most valuable resource is their human resource. So I would really encourage them to take a chance on our humanity; what makes us innately human is the right way to go. Our creative impulses came hard-wired in us at birth for a reason. The creative impulse drives our innovative thinking, and look where that has taken us. Our creativity is what makes us see beyond what already exists, making unusual connections, bringing forward new answers to old problems and challenges. Everything we see around us is a result of the creative impulse, including the way we show up each day to do our jobs.”

Now two of Robinson's early clients were actually her children. And she shares that story with us. “My first client was my daughter, who at an early age presented learning challenges with speech and language processing. As a very young child, her ability to express her 'voice' through art was in evidence. Her creative ability was her saving grace at a time when the Jamaican education system paid very scant regard to multiple intelligences and the different ways in how we teach and learn.

“My son was an entirely different story. At the age of 25, he had a stroke due to complications of sickle cell anaemia. He survived the near-fatal insults to his brain. When he came home after more than seven weeks in the hospital, he was literally like a newborn baby.

“As an experienced educator I worked with him every day, exploring multiple ways of alternative learning and expression. It was difficult, but eventually he found resonance with art, making and using dry pastels as a medium.

“With focus and persistence, the one-time UWI graduate and qualified statistician now emerged as an artist. Today his life is worlds away from what it once was, and statistics have been replaced with art. He has had three exhibitions. Art now offers him a chance to earn income where his former qualifications no longer obtained. He is a gold medallist in the JCDC National Visual Arts Competition. Art gave him back a life beyond pain and his disability.”

Overall, as companies realise that it is creativity that drives profits, Robinson's business grows, and she adds, “It is my belief that our creativity is not just important to pass the time as a hobby, but it is innate and vital to our continued existence as a species. Ultimately, I am following the adage, 'Do what you love and the money will come'. Creativity is not just a hobby, it is a way of life.”

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