Kathryn Richards

/ Art Therapist

Kathryn is an art therapist working with every age group.

My art therapy story begins like this…

They sit, in an office, looking at test papers. Outside are more offices, grey and boxlike, towering over the city.

“So, what would you like to be when you leave school?” asks the careers guidance counsellor, in her lilting Canadian accent.

“Well, I’d like to become someone who helps people, changes the world and uses art,” replies the teenage Sydney school girl, thinking this must be an impossible ask. She looks glumly at the floor.

Her mother, sitting attentively nearby, rolls her eyes in exasperation.

The careers counsellor smiles, gazes out the window, as if seeing some beautiful view in the distance, then looks at both mother and daughter, both waiting in suspense.

“Art therapy includes art, helping people and changing the world. I think you’ll love it!’

This was how I heard about art therapy, way back in my teens.

Unfortunately, art therapy had not yet arrived in Australia then. It only existed in Britain, Europe the USA and Canada back in those days. So I studied B.Arts/B.Social Work, a combined degree, hoping to integrate art as therapy into my practice.

Many years passed.  I got married, moved overseas with my family, and continued to practise art and social work in very different contexts. I learned good Turkish and not so good Bulgarian, (enough to negotiate with difficult preschool teachers for my family!)

Thirteen years later, our family relocated to Australia, so I looked for courses to update my therapeutic skills in this very different Australian context. These were sad times for me, as I missed where we had come from. But I was amazed when my husband showed me an advertisement he had come across. Western Sydney University was now offering a Master of Art Therapy! So, after a lot of study and a challenging internship under the supervision of an experienced art therapist at Ashfield Infants’ Home, I became a fully qualified and registered art therapist. During these years, my Turkish neighbour helped me not to lose my Turkish language and feel more at home by sending me to a local Turkish women’s day group, where I began to offer informal art therapy as a volunteer, as I continued my study at Western Sydney University.

After I graduated, I began work as an NDIS provider of art therapy, for children. Now I am pleased to work together with Australian Disability Services here in Auburn.

Probably you’re still wondering what exactly is art therapy.

It is a type of psychotherapy where art materials become a vehicle for non-verbal expression. When doing art, we use a different part of our brain. This makes it easier to access and untangle difficult emotions, and begin to safely put words to them in the safety and confidentiality of a therapeutic relationship with the art therapist. Art therapists sometimes work with individuals, and sometimes with groups, depending on the needs of clients. Art therapy can help children to process grief, trauma, to learn social skills, and to build their capacity to cope with life with a disability.

Some people see art therapy as healing through creativity, however you don’t need to know anything about art to benefit from art therapy, as the art therapist is there to help you to express yourself safely, through art media combined with empathic discussion.

As you can see, I love being an art therapist!