Art therapy in Bahrain

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Have you ever felt the urge to spill your emotions onto canvas? Maybe it’s time. Dalal Al Sindi opened Bahrain’s first art therapy centre back in 2013 so Yasmin Sharabi went to find out what the response has been so far and who it can benefit.

For emotional people all across the world, creatively expressing themselves is akin to dosing up on prescribed pharmaceuticals and, in many cases, producing art is far more effective in the long-term. Back in April 2013, just before Dalal Al Sindi launched Bahrain’s first Art Therapy Centre, we spoke to the art therapist about how this type of expressive outlet can help all types of people with mental health problems. Now, 19 months since the launch, we find out how the island’s perceptions have expanded to embrace this type of therapy for all manner of emotional disturbances. Professional art consultant Yasmin Sharabi went to find out more…

Have you noticed any changes in people’s perception of art therapy since the opening of the The Art Therapy Centre?
Yes, there is a heightened sense of awareness and appreciation of art therapy since the centre was established. I find more people willing to engage in art therapy and wanting to experience it to deal with their emotional and mental issues. I have also been approached by different professionals in the medical, educational and corporate fields who want to know more about art therapy and how it can be used for positive change in differing environments.

There is a definite increase of people’s awareness towards their mental and emotional health. I have noticed more people concerned with treating certain issues and who have a desire to tackle these issues using alternative therapy.

Do you think there is a segment of society that responds to art therapy more so than others?
I believe that the benefits of art therapy can be experienced by individuals struggling with mental, emotional, psychological problems in various segments of society, because art therapy is concerned with psychological development. I believe it can be used as a tool by anyone that is open to tackling certain issues with art materials. People of all ages and backgrounds can certainly benefit from art therapy, considering it’s a natural form of self-expression. Art allows an individual to let go of verbal restrictions and experience freedom of expression using creative materials. These artistic expressions are then discussed with the aim of bringing these symbols and images into consciousness and becoming aware of how this can lead to positive change for the individual.

How does art therapy differ in Bahrain from other countries in the Gulf? What are the benefits from being based here as opposed to elsewhere in the region?
The main reason for starting an Art Therapy Centre in Bahrain was to allow the Bahraini society to use this form of therapy as well as to develop it for various client groups, thereby opening doors and encouraging more Bahraini art therapists to begin their practice. In Saudi, art therapy is an established profession that is being used in large hospitals with in-patients and outpatients. It’s definitely more advanced than Bahrain in this way, considering there is only one centre in Bahrain that provides this service and only one qualified professional as opposed to a team of art therapists working in Saudi. I am very hopeful that the discipline will see further progress in Bahrain as it has for the past two years.

What would you like to see happen in 2015 for the centre and for art therapy in Bahrain?
My main aim this year is to increase awareness of art therapy for individuals and integrate art therapy into different hospitals in Bahrain.

I also aim to develop more art therapy workshops to spread awareness of how individuals can use art for their wellbeing.

The year 2014 was great for Bahrain creatively with grassroots movements that allowed artists and musicians to collaborate. Do you think there’s also the opportunity to develop projects that would see the interaction of art therapy with other forms of therapy and healing?
Definitely, yes! Art therapy in collaboration with other forms of therapy, for example, speech, music or drama, as it yields excellent results. I have collaborated with other therapists in the past and the experience was fulfilling for the client as well as the therapist.

Art therapy is typically used as a mediator for people that find it difficult to verbally express themselves. What are the challenges you have faced as an art therapist over the past year? Have there been cultural challenges or hurdles?
Art therapy is used to encourage both visual and verbal communication; the treatment begins when both drawing and talking are taking place.

Both modes of communication reflect the process of the client’s thought and feeling which is needed for a therapeutic outcome.

However, some challenges always exist such as a client having high expectations that full recovery will occur within a minimal number of sessions. This perception exists because certain segments of society have not been exposed to psychotherapy and the process of emotional therapy.

Another challenge that I faced personally was dealing with mute clients, but in the end, the challenge proved how important and sensitive creativity and art-making is, when images are the main means of communication.
The Art Therapy Centre is open 10am-9.30pm for appointments. Riyadat Mall, (3348 6060).

By Time Out Bahrain staff
Time Out Bahrain,

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