Ingham believes art therapy is a weapon in the battle against addiction – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Ingham believes art therapy is a weapon in the battle against addiction

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As a youngster, Reilly Ingham watched some people in her life struggle with substance abuse and addiction.

“It was really difficult, which is why I can empathise with others who have friends or family or someone who has gone through that,” she said.

Ms Ingham recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, with a Master of Professional Studies in Art Therapy, with a specialisation in Addiction.

She hopes to use Art Therapy on the Island as a method for addressing mental health issues including addiction treatment and prevention.

Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that provides an alternative to verbal interaction and uses the creative process of art making as a vehicle for expressive communication, insight, healing, and personal growth.

It is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, can use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to foster self-awareness, reconcile emotional conflicts, manage behaviour and addictions, develop social skills, and increase self-esteem.

She described it as a powerful means by which an individual can give visual shape to thoughts, feelings and experience. And she said Art Therapy could be used as an effective tool in helping to improve or enhance a person's mental, physical and emotional well-being.

The 27-year-old was named the Duperreault Fellowship Award winner for 2012; she also received the Cummings V Zuill Scholarship Award.

The added financial support and encouragement from the award committees was very important to her, she said.

“I really appreciate and am so grateful for all that the scholarships provided me, not only financially but also as a supportive force in my education. It means so much to me that they believe in me and believe in Art Therapy.”

Ms Ingham had been interested in art since primary school and said creating art became like her own personal therapy — a way of expressing and understanding her feelings and experiences.

Then in college she studied psychology as her major and minored in studio art.

She returned to Bermuda in 2008 to work in the insurance industry, but soon realised it was not what she was most passionate about.

“My passion was really for art and using the art process to help people, so then I went back to school in New York,” she said.

While undergoing her post-graduate studies, Ms Ingham was able to volunteer at alcohol and substance abuse programmes throughout New York City.

She also interned at a continuing day treatment programme at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, for adult clients who were dually diagnosed with a mental illness and chemical addiction.

Those experiences taught her about how effective Art Therapy can be when used in conjunction with other therapies.

She said: “A huge part of Art Therapy is being able to meet the person where they are, share that moment, and offer validation and support through the healing process.

“There were times when people experienced a really powerful moment and achieved a realisation about themselves and their recovery through the artwork,”?she added.

Some patients she worked with were able to reflect on their body of artwork and showed an increase in their self-confidence. Many also felt more empowered because they were active in their own recovery.

“Through the art making process, the patients became actively involved in their treatment and were able to make their own choices and gain more control in their recovery, which allowed them to experience empowerment and healing,” she said.

“That feeling of empowerment is important, especially for recovery, because during the addiction a person may experience powerlessness over the substance and feelings of disempowerment so the art process allows the person to take control and get back the things that they lost during their addiction by making choices and taking ownership over their artwork.”

Ms Ingham said many of the patients she worked with struggled with socialising and had poor interpersonal and social skills.

She said: “The artwork and art making process fostered connections and encouraged interaction, interpersonal learning, and feelings of universality where group members used the art to recognise and share experiences and feelings.”

She said she was “really excited” about being able to offer Art Therapy on the Island. In addition to helping people battling addictions, it can be used in any setting and with any population or age group and is effective with children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

For example it can be used to help hospice patients, children, or a wide array of people with mental and physical disabilities.

“I really believe in it and I am really excited to bring it home,” she added.

Reilly Ingham - was the 2012 Duperreault Fellow. She recently completed her Master of Art Therapy as it relates to recovery from addiction and is one of just a few Bermudians pursuing this form of innovative addiction therapy at a graduate level.(Photo by Akil Simmons)
Reilly Ingham - was the 2012 Duperreault Fellow. She recently completed her Master of Art Therapy as it relates to recovery from addiction and is one of just a few Bermudians pursuing this form of innovative addiction therapy at a graduate level.(Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 10, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 09, 2013 at 8:35 pm)

Ingham believes art therapy is a weapon in the battle against addiction

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