Community art counsellor
Community art counselling is a South African model of creative healing based on the following frameworks: art therapy, psychodynamic theories and counselling methods.
Community art counselling was developed in 1994 by the art psychotherapist, Dr Hayley Berman, out of a need to address the lack of mental health resources available in South Africa. The training equips trainees to work effectively as community art counsellors within the complex psychosocial situation in South Africa, but applicable over the world. Central to all learning is the importance of image-making and the value of objects. Images and objects can hold meaning and healing potential which will be explored in depth in the training.
Art transcends language and cultural barriers. It has proven to be a powerful and effective way of promoting positive change in diverse countries such as South Africa. Lefika La Phodiso’s intention is to enable community art counsellors to work in a wide variety of contexts and set up sustainable projects. The types of places that are worked in include community organisations, schools, clinics, hospitals, correctional institutions and tertiary facilities where mental health services are not readily accessible.
It is a practice effective for both children and adults in a group setting. It is a material exploration and expression that uses a variety of media and image-making processes such as drawing, painting, clay work and collage. Each material and process may evoke different feeling states and the work created often reflects the unconscious forces that shape a person’s life. Images may elicit associations, desires, fantasies, hopes, dreams and memories and are held within a therapeutic relationship between the community art counsellors and the group. The role of the community art counsellor is to help create a safe space in which the meaning of the image can be explored.
The starting point as a trainee community art counsellor is to:
It is not necessary for group members to have experience in art-making. However, it is essential for you as a trainee to have had many image-making experiences by the time you facilitate groups. This will heighten your sensitivity and awareness of the potential emotions that can be evoked while making images and therefore enable you to respond appropriately to group members.
The founder of Lefika La Phodiso and community art counselling in South AfricaDr Hayley Berman is an art psychotherapist, social activist, practicing artist and the founding director of Lefika La Phodiso, an NGO in the inner city of Johannesburg, which trains community art counsellors. In addition, she has a private practice working with individuals and couples. Hayley completed her BAFA (Hons) at Wits University in 1990 and trained in the UK at St Albans in 1991 as an Art Therapist. In 2012 she completed her PhD degree in psycho-social studies at The University of Western England, Bristol.
She is affiliated to the South African Psychoanalytic Confederation and the Institute of Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in South Africa. She has presented at several local and international conferences and published articles in both the UK and South Africa. She is a registered member of the Health Professions Council of South Africa and of the British Association of Art Therapists.
Hayley is currently a senior lecturer of the MA in art therapy programme at the University of Hertfordshire and a visiting lecturer at the University of Johannesburg’s art therapy honours and MA programmes.
4.2 Motivation for becoming a community art counsellor
What is a community art counsellor?
A community art counsellor is a mental health professional trained to use art in a therapeutic manner within a group setting. Their scope of practice includes short-term community art counselling groups created around a specific theme. A community art counsellor cannot diagnose or treat mental illness, but can offer support in the management of clinical outcomes in a multimodal team. Community art counselling a supervised practice ideally with a registered arts therapist. Lefika La Phodiso offers group supervision on a weekly basis.
Why are we here?
When you become a community art counsellor it is important to investigate your motivation for entering into this profession. One helpful way to look at it is to explore Carl Jung’s concept of the Wounded Healer. He suggests that a psychoanalyst is compelled to work in this profession, treating clients and patients because the psychoanalyst is “wounded”. That is to say that perhaps as a community art counsellor you consciously or unconsciously understand the predicament of your client because you too have experienced some kind of similar emotional experience.
4.3 Elements of community art counselling
The key elements of community art counselling include the following: