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How I Became an Art Therapist

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

My path to Art Therapy was paved with trauma. Some remember and many don't know that I was one of the survivors from one of the deadliest Tsunami's in earths history that occurred on Boxing Day in 2004.

It changed everything for so many. For me, it changed my life path. I was living in Japan, teaching English at the time and was thrilled to be traveling the world with no intention of returning home...maybe ever. Thailand for Christmas break with dear friends seemed like a dream come true. As we all know dreams can change quickly, one moment you are snorkelling in paradise and the next you are swept out to sea.

Now this may sound strange but being lost at sea wasn't the worst part of this experience. It was what came after that was traumatising. It was the aftermath that reverberates far after our shock wears off. I won't go into great detail of those surreal first days being fished out of the sea by a Thai fishing boat, witnessing humanity gone mad while navigating refugee camps in nothing but a bathing suit and a sarong, finally flying home seated next to a person with Tourettes who kept yelling obscenities while the only movie showing was Lost at Sea to arrive home in Canada and wind up as national news. This still wasn't the worst part. Shock was still protecting me. What was the worst was being asked to tell my story over and over, by curious friends, family, and strangers on the street; all unaware how each telling made me relive it, made the scarring deepen. My trauma label made me feel invisible.

So I ran away, back to Japan, cloaked myself in the winter silence and I started to draw my story. This felt better. I noticed as I expressed myself through line, shade and poetry that my symptoms diminished. I could sleep again, my flashbacks retreated and I was able to make friends with the sea. I was unaware that I was practicing art as therapy. It just felt right and I wanted to learn more. I enrolled in a graduate program in Art Therapy and left my wandering life to dive deep into the world of healing arts.

So why am I telling you this? In my career I have become a holder of stories of many amazing humans healing from their own trauma. It felt only fair to share my own because I CAN tell it now, without activation. I have integrated this chapter of my life into one that no longer controls my actions or behaviours. My education taught me what I already suspected, that trauma is not unpacked with words but through our senses. We store these horrific experiences in places words can't reach as a way of protecting ourselves. It is why years later a song brings it all rushing back or a smell unearths a memory we thought long forgotten. Our trauma lives within us until we find the right tools, at the right time, to spill it out on the page. This has become my lives work; to serve, to support, to unpack, with expressive arts and somatic therapies.

I shall stop my ramble here and leave one tidbit of wisdom, if you know someone dealing with trauma, try to listen more than you speak. You don't need to solve or fix this. What your person needs is a safe place to land and be heard when they are ready. If you have experienced trauma and you feel ready to use the gentlest of containers to empower you for the next chapter of your life, get in touch. Your trauma is not the end of your story.

Wishing you well, Lora

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