Expressive art therapy is an effective tool to get in touch with one’s innermost self, says Rosa Granadillo, a psychologist, who conducted a workshop in the city recently

Sometimes a blob of paint or a string of words can bring out and lay bare a whole range of emotions buried within. Emotions that are hard to confront otherwise. Art is undoubtedly one of the most effective tools for communication, says Rosa Granadillo Schwentker, a psychologist who specialises in Expressive Art Therapy. On a visit to Kochi recently for a workshop at the Amrita Institute of Medical Science, Rosa says she believes art provides people with a language.

“It is extremely handy for people who do not find it easy to express themselves through talking. Art provokes a process within them. When you employ analytical psychotherapy to their artistic creation, you understand what is troubling them,” she says. Rosa is adjunct faculty at Sofia University (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology), California.

Expressive art therapy involves a combined approach using dance, drama, drawing and music. “All these modalities are integrated. But what works with one person need not work with another,” Rosa says. So whatever path is appropriate for a person is used. Rosa mostly engages with groups when she does expressive arts therapy. When it comes to visual arts, the group is asked to draw or paint. The paintings would then be analysed. “The works reflect their mindscapes. What we do is not treatment per se, it is more of an intervention,” she says.

Over the last 15 years, she has developed a model integrating creative arts in psychology. Though Rosa was exceptionally bright in academics, she says arts have always been a part of her life. Born and raised in Venezuela, she has worked as a singer, dancer, composer and a recording artist, too, before immersing herself in the intriguing world of psychology. She did a post doctorate in Energy Medicine and has done studies in Energy Psychology, too. She travels to Europe, Asia and South America for lectures.

Rosa says most of her methods have been evolved during her interactions with different kinds of groups. “I have worked with people in the psychiatric wards and people with terminal illnesses. I have to encourage them to walk with me and show them I am listening to their stories,” she says.

The method also works wonders with people who have had to deal with abuse. “I have conducted sessions for women in jails in South America, adolescents and with the immigrants living in San Francisco. The problems they have to deal with are manifold and they have no way to express what they are going through,” she says. “Especially in the case of migrants, expressing themselves helps in rearranging their identity. It helps them in coping with a different environment.”

However, expressive art therapy is something everyone can try. “The science is for everyone. It is all about well-being. Art is a sacred space. But once you enter it, you can use it as a platform to connect with your deeper self,” she says.