A strip of different artistic images including: 1. Photograph of coloured woodless pencils lying on a green and white drawing of a plant. 2. Pastel drawing with white love hearts randomly drawn on a orange background. 3. Handmade calico doll of screaming woman with arms stretched out and fire surrounding her, painted in orange, yellow, red and black. 4. Photograph of bright green algae underwater. © all images by Natalya Garden-Thompson, 2016

“The arts therapies are a form of psychotherapy utilising creative modalities, including visual art-making, drama, and dance/movement, within a therapeutic relationship to improve and inform physical, mental and emotional well-being”   ANZATA (Australian New Zealand Arts Therapy Association).

Therapeutic co-inquiry

Creative Arts Therapy is a collaborative and emergent process that can assist people in making meaning out of lived experiences and create actions for change.

Rather than being an “expert” the therapist is a companion to those she inquires alongside. She gently holds a safe space to witness, support and collaborate with those who seek to co-inquire with her. It is her belief that people have the answers within but at times need assistance to access them.

Creative Vitality practitioner, Natalya Garden-Thompson is trained in The MIECAT form of Inquiry – a process that includes a set of procedures that can be adapted to different contexts. It poses the questions: What do I think I know? What might I do with what I think I know? How do I want to be there in my life?

 Natalya also has a BA in Visual Arts and maintains a personal arts practice.

“Art-based enquiry is at the heart of what we do as arts-based therapists. It includes multiple ways of knowing, including affective, sensory, creative, observational, as well as the use of risk taking, discovery and meaning making through art making” (Kossak, 2013).

A strip of different artistic images including: 1. Painting of a red and orange faceless figure with arms stretched out and big wings, a green leaf like skirt on a blue and orange background 2. Abstract watercolour painting with green circular forms on orange circular lines overlapping each other. 3. Hand-written text "There is a fire inside, fuelled by passion, ignited with desire, it is burning strong. Dragon breathe emerges from the depths of my core being. I am not scared, I am grounded in my experiential knowing. Returning to the body to dwell and feel my fire roar".  4. Photograph of rocks and green seaweed on the beach. © all images by Natalya Garden-Thompson, 2016

 Creative Arts

Many different art modes, materials and processes are used e.g. drawing, painting, movement, performance, voice, sculpture, sand tray objects, spoken and written word.

The arts help to make invisible worlds visible. Art functions in therapy through its ability to uncover meaning and implement change. It is a vehicle of expression, unlocking feelings within and making them visible. By moving feelings “out” of the body and into an art “container”, the inquirer (art-maker) is offered a different perspective.  Art making opens up more possibilities for communication - the conversation is not restricted to the verbal. The process of art making takes the analytical mind back into experiencing the feelings within the body.

Artworks become access points into further empathic, compassionate and non-judgmental co-inquiry. Emotions, feelings, values, patterns of behaviour are often identified and choices can be made for preferred ways of being.

Attention is given to the body and felt sensing utilising focusing, mindfulness and embodiment practices. Safety and duty of care is practiced when inviting participants to drop into their bodies and emotional experiences.

A strip of different artistic images including: 1. Detail of watercolour painting of yellow eucalyptus seeds and a reddish stem. 2. Pen and water-colour drawing of a woman from the shoulders up with her eyes closed and text written on her face. There is a image of a person swimming on her forehead in murky water and words with a text written in a speech bubble. 3. Watercolour painting of yellow eucalyptus seeds, a reddish stem. and green leaves on a white background. 4. Clay sculpture of an abstract figure with what appears to be wings stretched out and a rounded stomach emerging from a circular base with round balls on it. © all images by Natalya Garden-Thompson, 2016

Approaches to Arts therapy

These definitions are often not distinguishable but rather interconnected and interchangeable:

Arts in Therapy: involves using the arts to make sense of life’s experiences. Rather than relying solely on               spoken words, the arts are used to support therapeutic work. The artwork becomes a vehicle for                           expression.

Arts as Therapy: in which the act of making art is therapeutic. This also includes the development of the                  “The Artists Identity” in Studio Arts Therapy”. By creating a space in which participants can engage in                      practical process’, they can practice vital life skills e.g. making decisions about how they would like to                        make their art, taking responsibility for maintaining a work space, developing a productive work ethic,                      working both in a team and on individual projects, engaging in shared reflection and critiquing of artworks.              The act of making art as a mindfulness practice can assist people to feel more relaxed, focused and                          reflexive.

Art making is a metaphor for transformation. As the maker manipulates the materials in their hands they can see their representation changing in real time. This gives the person control over what they are creating and the ability to make choices - lessons that can later be adapted into daily life.

A strip of different artistic images including: 1. Watercolour drawing of patterned lines in rusty red, yellow, magenta and light brown. 2. Etching of woman suspended by a piece of string on a rusty red background with what looks like tears or rain droplets falling around her. 3. Drawing of plant in green crayon and pencil. 4. Various objects in a sand tray including small pink dolls shoes,a shell, a gemstone and a cat. © all images by Natalya Garden-Thompson, 2016

Benefits of Arts Therapy

Everyone can benefit! You don’t need to have a particular “issue or problem” – rather be interested in creating changes in your life. The focus is not on fixing illness but rather on fostering wellness. Here are some of the specific and often-complex experiences people live with, which art therapy can be beneficial for:

Mental health challenges; disability (physical and/or intellectual); drug and alcohol use; acquired brain injury; general and acute health challenges; women's gynaecological conditions; pre-natal and post natal depression; dementia; disaster recovery; cultural diversity and integration; relationship challenges; family challenges; domestic violence; survivors of emotional and/or physical abuse; palliative care; transition into different stages of life (e.g. childhood – puberty); team building; business and life direction; creative "stuckness"

Ethics, Confidentiality & Accountability

As a professional ANZATA member Natalya, is committed to adhering to the Standards of Professional Practice and Code of Ethics of the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association Inc. An important part of maintaining this code is participating in continued professional development and supervision. Participant/Inquirer confidentiality and the creation of a safe space is vital to Natalya's practice. 


A strip of different artistic images including: 1. Vibrant and textured painting of a red love heart surrounded by white, yellow and green hues with a mixture of coloured fingerprints around and across it. 2. Segments of hand written words which appear to be mapped on a page including "Harness energy, tangents peak to peak, mental energy gets burnt out, energetic force". 3. Photograph of a handmade miniature ceramic cup and spoon next to part of a  red, and orange painted paper heart. 4. Pastel drawing on appear with white hearts with lines radiating from them on orange background.       © all images by Natalya Garden-Thompson, 2016