MSC’s Therapeutic Art Workshop – a Pop of Color Amidst Routine

By Harold de Guzman and JE Mariano (Class 2023)

Last October 22, 2018, the UP Medicine Student Council (MSC) conducted a Therapeutic Art workshop. With the tagline “Bringing color to well-being”, the event was held at the second floor of the MSU and was facilitated by Ms Danielle Marie “Denden” Parreño of the University of the Philippines Diliman Department of Psychology and ArtPsych Circle, Inc.

Ms Parreño kicked off the evening with a brief lecture on therapeutic art: its definition, goals, and differentiation from art therapy and other modalities. This was followed by a mindfulness exercise, Hinga, reminding participants not to fixate on their preoccupations but instead to be fully present in the activity.

The mindfulness exercise, or mindfulness meditation, as taught by Ms Parreño, is a simple activity in which a person sits calmly, with eyes closed and straightened back, and focuses on their breathing. Any spontaneous thought that arises is simply acknowledged and the mind is refocused on the act of breathing. This three-minute exercise helped participants clear their minds in preparation for the subsequent art activity.

The workshop proper consisted of making stone mandalas. The mandala, literally “circle”, is a spiritual symbol placing emphasis on a visual center, with specific patterns radiating outward. The stone mandala as an activity was a call to realize one’s center and to express this through an artistic medium.

Participants each chose a stone, which they felt was best for their purposes and most reflective of their personalities, to serve as their canvas. They were then asked to reflect on their core reasons – “para saan o kanino ka bumabangon?” These ideas were transmuted into a pattern at the center of the stone, from which would radiate designs that embodied what one felt to be their other sources of motivation.

Having completed their stone mandalas, the participants took turns showing their creations and sharing the reasons and stories for the patterns they designed. Ms Parreño facilitated processing of the activity, reassuring the group of a safe space in which they could freely share their thoughts and feelings. Processing allowed each person to reground themselves in their nuclear motivations, imbuing them with renewed vigor for facing future challenges.

The participants unanimously expressed their appreciation for the activity, having found it to be both an insightful venture and a way to relax amidst the stresses of medical school.

In an interview with Ms Parreño, she mentioned starting therapeutic art workshops as a result of her interest in “the synergy between (visual) arts and therapy.” She realized she could encourage others to take care of themselves by letting them engage in the form of art with which she is well versed and help them see whether it is relaxing for them as well.

Her advice to medical students? “First, find time to rest! Even a five-minute break can make a difference. Therapeutic art is not only limited to visual arts, so [you] can explore music, acting, writing, journaling, crafting, etc. This can also mean learning a new hobby that you can do during your break times. Also, I hope that engaging in therapeutic art or rest for that matter won’t make you feel guilty and stressed that they’re taking a break. It’s part of self-care. More importantly, you should enjoy the moment!”

The Therapeutic Art workshop is the first of several activities organized by the MSC as part of its Mental Health Week celebration from October 22nd to 26th.

Photos courtesy of the UP Medicine Student Council

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