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Guiding Principals

The learning map, right, was my initial exploration of how 'Art For Your Life' would be guided. Using the four guiding principles — Daddirri, Healing, Power & Discourse; and Time, I am able to create resources that have a depth of meaning and healing that can help people connect to their own source of healing. Below, is an overview of each principal and how  

How does each principal relate to Art For Your Life?


Making repetitious marks, playing with colour, shape and line, with little idea of the outcome — the nervous system is soothed by the repetitious movement, gentle play and exploration, particularly when using childlike implements like crayons, felt pens and big paintbrushes with watercolours. 


Participants respond with surprise and delight at how seemingly simple exercises help them acknowledge problems or feelings that they were previously unaware of and how it helped them nut out a problem that they were aware of but hadn’t been able to resolve or let go of.


Sharing in a group setting can be a soothing way to realise you’re not alone, if the time and space feel safe and right. Some people are comfortable sharing; some are not. Either is ok.  


The main challenge for me as a facilitator is to let the 'client' lead and not spend any time correcting technique, style or even how a tool is used.  


Time is a tricky construct that can feel intrinsic, with a meaning that can be unquestioned — a 15 minute appointment with a GP; a 50 minute appointment with a psychologist; hour long work meetings; 30 minute fitness classes. In my experience, time is a useful tool for motivation — a 30-second drawing warmup will get people moving and way from their critical brains. 

When I facilitiate some exercises, I like to keep people moving, so it can feel quick — I find when doing warmups, it’s important to move, use your physical body and not let negative thoughts intrude. Deadlines (for example, you can use a timer — tell the participants that they have 10 seconds to use their first colour before switching to the second colour), can be really useful, because putting pressure on the time diverts attention away from expectation and outcomes. When working through these exercises, I like to check in beforehand and afterwards, to see how participants engaged with the set parameters. It’s very important, in a workshop, to read the room and make adjustments as you go. 

However, there are so many ways that time structures can be a hindrance — particularly if a client needs a slower pace, or reaches a critical moment. For some people, a on hour workshop just isn't going to work — consideration must be made for people who would benefit for more flexibility of structure.  

If I want to use time in a more culturally-sensitive way one possibility would be to conduct a workshop outside of the ‘four white walls’, or have a completely unstructured play time, using a drop-in philosophy which might be a way for different cultures to engage in a workshop. Less structure = more exploration and hopefully healing. A slower, more explorative creativity day rather than a specific workshop, or example. People can drop in for five minutes or more — because even five minutes can be enough.  

Reading list

Below is a curated list of further reading and viewing — from art therapists on instagram, to books about brain fuction and some other stuff
in between.

Please contact me with any recommendations you'd like to share.


Space 22.

A six-part documentary exploring how engaging in creative arts can impact the fallout from trauma — does art boost your mental health? The show follows seven people of different ages, genders and life experiences, who have all experienced trauma. 


Pooky Knightsmith — a mental health powerhouse, with endless resources and advice. Excellent for young people and their carers. 

Pooky on Instagram — Pooky on YouTube

Books on and around mental health and/or creativity

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari.

What Happened to You by Dr Bruce Perry & Oprah Winfrey

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Phosphorescence by Juila Baird

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté

The Luminous Solution by Charlotte Wood

Unf*ck your Boundaries by Faith G Harper

The Welcome to Country Handbook by Marcia Langton

Power & Discourse 

Michel Foucault: how is knowledge and power influenced and constructed by discourse (spoken/written). What becomes ‘truth’ and who benefits from these ‘truths’? 


Firstly, as the facilitator/teacher I bring my experience into the room and might be seen to be setting myself up as the expert. The attendees also bring their own levels of expertise and attitudes towards me and my work, but also towards art. In my experience, some people put teachers on a pedestal, some like to rebel. I love the energy around that — it is something that is a very useful thing to be aware of as each person responds differently and must be listened to on as many levels as possible.

 ‘I can’t’ — people with less experience of art seem to bring with them a notion that art needs a capital ‘A’ at the beginning of it — that only ‘Artists’ have the ability or the right to do art. I think it’s important to subvert that notion and just do the work. We don’t even need to call it art. We can call it play. We can call it craft. Whatever. We are not to succumb to the colonisation of art!


Incorporating Indigenous modes of learning (The 8 Ways) is something that would be of great benefit to a group art therapy workshop —  share stories, talk about the community in the room as well as in a broader context — the art community, school communities, families etc; deconstruct assumptions then reconstruct our notions of what art is, or indeed what a workshop is; use non-linear approaches — we don’t need to go in steps if that doesn’t work; land links — an acknowledgement of country has become almost an automatic murmuring. I’d love to incororate a discussion of what it actually means to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the place the workshop is taking place in; symbols and images can be explored beautiully in this exercise along with non-verbal spaces and exercises. 


For a definition of Dadirri, please visit the Miriam Rose Foundation. 

Whilst I don’t have permission to use Daddirri, I believe that in the workshops I facilitate, Being mindful, listening and awareness can be demonstrated when we stop, breathe and notice — the sound of our hands picking up a painbrush. The way our breathing slows as we focus. The quiet in the room that comes and goes.


These are all small, but powerful moments, and I hope in aligning it to Dadirri I am honoring the practise rather than appropriating culture.

Resources from Zoë Collins

You: Artfull Self-Discovery

A Guide to Exploring your own Creativity 

Books from a non-Colonial perspective

In 2023 I began a Graduate Certificate in Creative Therapies which demonstrated indigenous ways of learning. These approaches have been a great influence to my facilitation of art workshops. Below is a list of relevant books and information.

Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta

The Welcome to Country Handbook by Marcia Langton

The Dreaming Path by Paul Callaghan & Uncle Paul Gordon

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