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Who am I?

Diane Farnsworth | Expressive Art Therapist

Expressing myself through art has been the backbone of my existence.  My former training and experience is in silversmithing, acting, dance, creative writing, stand-up comedy, voice work, film-making, and theatre directing.  Prior to becoming an English teacher and expressive arts therapist, I studied at University of British Columbia where I majored in Creative Writingand studied directing, later producing, writing, and directing short experimental dance films and video shorts.

Yes, creating art has kept me relatively balanced and happy throughout my life, but that is not entirely why I became an expressive arts therapist. You see…as an ESL teacher I witnessed my students effortlessly gain confidence and find their ‘English-speaking identities’ when I incorporated acting, film, movement, and creative writing into their curriculum. While writing scripts, acting, or making films, my students were no longer focused on what they could not do, but what their rich imaginations were able to create! Even the shyest students became animated and fluent when they played. They were no longer focusing on the fear of ‘looking foolish’. Like with my students, EXA, gives the client some distance when dealing with fear and trauma.

What type of expressive arts therapist am I?

I am an experiential-intuitive type of person who enjoys collaborating with clients.  Because it is your exploration, I become your witness, supporter and facilitator.  I will ask pertinent questions about your experience in creating your art, instead of analyzing it.  You will discover your own meaning from your work.  Sometimes emotional shifts and self-discoveries will occur hours or even days after sessions.

In other words, this work is primarily experiential. As pioneer expressive arts therapist, Paolo Knill explains ‘art disciplines engage, to some extent, with all the sensory and communicative modalities.’ In essence, expressive arts therapy offers a client to engage in a conversation between mind, body, and soul. I feel that this convergence relates to my own lifetime-belief that a correlation exists between creative-zoning and meditation, both of which require an in-the-moment awareness.

I believe that all humans are creative souls with a desire to express and communicate, which becomes difficult if one’s free spirit has been thwarted at an early age by trauma. I have a natural desire to play, laugh, and inspire others to play and laugh. That is my modus operandi. It is my job as a therapist to provide a safe environment where I am better able to guide my client to engage in conversations between mind, body, and soul at whatever pace she/he/they chooses.

As a therapist, I have learned that intuition and sensitivity are two of the most important tools for this work, as well as for the client because expressive arts therapy is as experiential as improvisation. Although these two qualities are not often thought of as ‘skills’ in our society’s job market, they are paramount in the arts. Ironically, my own ‘skills’ that were developed in my former professions as teacher, actor, and director, have proved to be the most useful as an expressive arts therapist.

In any given session, I have found, like a director working on an inter-disciplinary performance, the work often directs itself into the next art form and the client, like the actor, is usually prepared to proceed, intuitively knowing there is a transition ahead. Expressive arts therapy is extraordinary work because it is collaboration between client and therapist.

My Training and Experience

I am a registered expressive arts therapist, REAT, having trained in the expressive arts program at Langara College. Since graduating in 2014, I have been studying with numerous therapists and educators such as, Daria Halprin, founding director of Tamalpa Institute, EGS dance therapy professor, Markus Scott-Alexander, sound-expressive arts therapist, Amber Field, and more recently, with the founder of Somatic Experiencing, Dr Peter Levine who taught Trauma First Aide in real time online.

My private practice begun in 2014 when I started working with Langara College expressive arts therapy students. Since then, I have facilitated expressive arts workshops for the empowerment of women in California and in Salt Springs and have worked with recovering clients at Pacifica Treatment Centre, where I begun my practicum in 2013 in an open studio setting. Throughout the years, I continued to sub for former supervisor, Sarah Peacock, until I was asked to create a drama therapy program for recovering clients; I facilitated two drama therapy groups weekly. I have also worked with children and teens, as a drama teacher and expressive arts therapist.

How does a session begin?

I simply start a session by asking my client how they are doing.  Sometimes a prior session with a client inspires a particular art modality or theme for the next session.  But most of the time, whatever the client brings to the session will determine what art modality to start with.  I feel that my prior experience as an artist, working in collaboration with other artists on inter-disciplinary projects, has helped form who I am as an expressive arts therapist. Search for: