My first degree was in Visual Communication Design and having worked for a while as a Graphic Designer, it was soon clear to me that I wanted to use the arts to work with vulnerable children and young people. I became involved with a youth media charity and over a period of 15 years, worked with numerous children and young people, facilitating their creative thought processes into images, photography and designs. For nine years I project managed and produced a magazine entirely by children enabling them to have a voice and to discuss issues which adults often think children are too young to understand. The magazine proved that children are aware of the world around them and need a creative outlet to express themselves and have their voice heard.
I have worked in a variety of settings including both primary and secondary schools, adolescent mental health secure units, the voluntary sector, women’s aid organisations, small charities and for the youth service in two London boroughs. I also recently curated, co-ordinated and project managed an exhibition of art work and films by young adults with mental health issues. The exhibition ran for 3 months and focussed on raising awareness of the current statistic of ‘1 in 4 people who suffer with a mental health issue’. The exhibition aimed to dispel the stigmas about mental health conditions and to showcase the art work of brave, honest and open individuals in order to raise awareness of this important issue.
I am involved with a number of organisations, which work specifically with young people. I am also conducting some research for MIND and working with Victim Support, the CPS and the Institute of Psychiatry about how people with mental health issues are often victims of crime. I am part of a project for MIND focussing on the need for people with mental health issues to campaign and lobby in order to change attitudes towards mental health.
At the London Art Therapy Centre I am developing art therapy in schools and being an ambassador for the centre, enabling more people to access art therapy and to understand the benefits of art therapy.
I have always found image-making to be a valuable form of expression. Where verbal dialogue can be a barrier for communication, art can provide a focus and a way of speaking out. This is particularly effective for people who have been through traumas that are far too painful to speak of, and image-making can provide an easier way of releasing and opening up. Images are often full of symbolism and the art making process allows the client to tap into their unconscious, accessing emotions and feelings that may have not been able to reach through other means.
I am passionate about the efficacy of art therapy. I strongly believe in the healing power of art. The creative process is a journey of growth, self discovery and exploration. The art work is a tangible way of reflecting and looking at the issues in our lives, and together the art therapist and client, with the image as a focal point can find ways of working through these issues while repairing the sense of self. Creating images is also rewarding and many clients discover an inner artist in themselves. Art therapy can be fun too. Many clients enjoy having the time and space in the company of a trusting, holding art therapist to make art in a confidential, warm and safe setting.
Read an interview with Mirella http://arttherapycentre.com/therapy-interview-mirella-issaias-3/