An Artist in a Doctors’ World

Natalie Rahr - Student Story

Dr Natalie Rahr Natropathy and Expressive Arts.jpg

Dr Natalie Rahr, ND said that coming to expressive arts therapy was a personal endeavour for her. With a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, a doctorate in naturopathic medicine and an established private practice in Vancouver, Natalie was looking for an experience that would fulfil and nurture her creative right brain.

“I knew that there was an artistic side of me that had always been interrupted or suppressed. I just never had the opportunity to create anything for the sake of making. I never knew it was a valid thing to do until recently,” Natalie said.

Despite being pushed towards the sciences, Natalie moved to Boston after graduating from biochemistry to work as an art teacher at an international school for kids on the autism spectrum. She said, “It was challenging work and meant a mixture of neurobehavioral support, fine motor skills and life skills.” Natalie marks this as her most formative experience in her journey towards Expressive Arts Therapy.

Natalie moved to Vancouver in 2004, where she continued her work with children on the spectrum with the Vancouver School Board before developing an interest in more ancient and holistic healing practices. “I travelled to India, Nepal, Tibet, Europe - places where you’re exposed to far different ways of healing and seeing the body, mind and spirit,” Natalie said.

She dived head on into naturopathic medicine but found it to be more medically minded than she expected. “I decided to use my naturopathic work to explore ancient healing modalities and energetics,” Natalie said.

At this point her careers began to intertwine, “in my naturopathic world I treat kids who are on the spectrum biomedically,” Natalie said. Knowing sooner or later that she would need to fulfil her expressive side, Natalie began exploring her options. Soon after discovering the Expressive Arts Therapy program at VSEAT, enrolled and started class.

Dr Natalie Rahr Expressive Arts.JPG

“My favourite part of expressive arts is going in feeling blind and leading from my body, heart and core instead of my head. After all these years of being trained to trust in a specific scientific way, learning a system of theory that is intuition based is a whole other experience,” Natalie said. “In the science programs I felt like I was the artist in a doctor’s world. Now I feel like the doctor in an artist's world!

Natalie is primarily interested in working with adults in group settings and is particularly drawn to working with women.

“In my practice I see a lot of women going through transitions: into motherhood, out of motherhood, post menopause. After decades of service to your family, how do you reclaim who you are and find your true identity? How do you pick up a paintbrush and create something you’ve been longing to create for decades? Expressive Arts is helping me weave so much together so I can bring it to the people I already serve.”

Natalie will be opening a new office for her private practice on March 1st and is looking forward continuing to weave the threads of her experiences together.

Seeing the World Through a New Lens

Seeing the World Through a New Lens

Lara Barclay – Student Story

Lara Barclay has been passionate about dance since a very young age.  At 11, she left home to attend the National Ballet School in Toronto and, after graduating, spent over two decades working professionally as a contemporary dancer in Germany, Brazil, USA and Canada.

“I’m kind of old to be a dancer but it’s a hard habit to quit. I am fortunate to still tour and perform regularly but the reality is that my body is shifting and changing, so I have to adapt my approach” Lara said.

Now a mother of two, Lara started to explore some secondary passions after an arthritic injury resulted in her needing a risky surgery a year ago where there was a chance she may not perform again.

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Healing Trauma with Expressive Arts Therapy

Healing Trauma with Expressive Arts Therapy

Emily Campbell-Burdett - Student Story

With a background in the arts, including a BA in Fine Art Sculpture, Emily Campbell-Burdett was no stranger to the art making process. However since graduating from the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy and working as a School Art Therapist in the North West Territories, she’s discovered a deeper understanding of herself, her art and the art making process.

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A Bright and Meaningful Future

A Bright and Meaningful Future

Angela Carroll-Wallace - Student Story

Angela Carroll-Wallace grew up in a military family, describing herself as being from “many places”. Since having a family of her own, she says this has influenced a continuation of “this kind of nomadic trajectory”.

Angela moved to BC in 2005, largely due to her youngest child’s physical disabilities. They chose the Sunshine Coast for it’s temperate climate; the snow and ice prevalent elsewhere in Canada created too much of a barrier with her daughter’s disabilities.

“Temperate climate options in Canada are pretty small but on the Sunshine Coast we found abundant natural beauty alongside a creative and connected community. We lived in Robert’s Creek for 8 years before moving to Vancouver.”

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Stepping Stones and Self Expression

Stepping Stones and Self Expression

Bonnie Nish regards her career and life as a series of stepping-stones or transitions.

A stay-at-home mom, Bonnie was living with her family in California, about to do her masters degree when 9/11 happened – the catalyst for some major life changes.

“I came back to Canada, my marriage ended and I was supporting three teenagers on my own. I hadn’t worked in a while and needed a job, quickly,” Bonnie said.

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Craving Creativity and Surrendering to the Unknown

Craving Creativity and Surrendering to the Unknown

Allison Hunter has had a wide-ranging career as an actor, massage practitioner, yoga teacher and now as a certified expressive arts therapist.

“I’ve always craved creativity,” Allison said. “The link for me is the way that all of these practices move things in the body. Whether I was massaging or acting, it all came from the same place: having a heightened body awareness, breathing, playing, and surrendering to an alternate universe.”

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Fostering Discovery and Surprise

Fostering Discovery and Surprise

Jamie Norris, an accomplished theatre actor, writer and director will be returning to the faculty of the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy to teach the theatre module in the annual September intake of the program.

Jamie graduated from the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre School in 1987 after which he continued training at the University of Victoria and working as an actor, touring all around Western Canada throughout the 1980s and 90s.

“At theatre school I was lucky to work with directors and teachers who didn’t tell me what was right or wrong. I had to figure it out for myself and find what the truth of the character was for me. Something clicked for me there.”

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The Magic of Play

The Magic of Play

Mike Funergy– Student Story

For several years, Mike Funergy has been fascinated by experiences that help people to rediscover their ability to play. From organizing flash mobs, offering free hugs to strangers, doing improv comedy, laughter yoga or facilitating interactive art projects at music festivals, Mike has always loved being able to engage people with games.

“Play is a powerful force that many adults have forgotten,” Mike said. “I see how people’s faces light up when I play with puppets in public or go down the street with a flash mob. It changes people.”

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A Community of Kindred Spirits

A Community of Kindred Spirits

Originally from Nova Scotia, Natasha Duchene spent the last 6 years living in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories working as an arts educator, film maker and musician; three threads that ultimately led her to the world of Expressive Arts Therapy.

Natasha studied music at university and has released two albums, ‘Inside Journeys Outside’ in 2013 and ‘Kindred’ in 2016. However, it wasn’t until she started doing vocal improvisation in groups, that Natasha fell in love with process-oriented, rather than product-oriented, work.

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Releasing Trauma and Setting Your Authentic Self Free

Releasing Trauma and Setting Your Authentic Self Free

Canadian-born Naomi Leboe spent half her childhood in Japan where she was separated from her parents to attend boarding school from a young age. These early experiences have played a key role in her life and shaped her subsequent career choices.

“I didn’t see my parents a lot. Even when I was younger I had a nanny and babysitters, so I didn’t really attach to my parents very well.” Naomi said. “When I went away to boarding school, there was a lot of abuse that happened there and I experienced a lot of trauma.”

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Addictions Counselling, Reconciliation and Expressive Arts Therapy

Addictions Counselling, Reconciliation and Expressive Arts Therapy

Miriam Windsor - Student story

Miriam Windsor is from Kitamaat Village, which is the primary residence of the Haisla Nation, on the North Coast region of BC.

In 1999, Miriam left Kitamaat Village to attend a six-week addictions program at The Namgis Treatment Centre in Alert Bay. The centre was located across from St. Michael’s Residential School, where her father was placed at the young age of five.

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The Power of Creativity in Helping People Heal

The Power of Creativity in Helping People Heal

After graduating with a creative writing degree from The University of Victoria, Julia Kochuk began giving creative writing workshops at men’s transitional homes and shelters.

“I witnessed first hand the power of creativity in helping people heal,” Julia said. 

Since moving to Vancouver, Julia has worked with Megaphone Magazine, a non-profit magazine that is sold by homeless and low-income vendors and the OnSite Detox & Transitional Housing Program.

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The Value in Vibration: Finding Therapeutic Experiences Through Sound

The Value in Vibration: Finding Therapeutic Experiences Through Sound

Can artistic practice be combined with therapeutic learning and explorations in finding new hybrid experiential based methods that become useful to society? What is the psychological impact that current global and societal culture drives or affects our human minds? What are our present and future needs for our collective well-being and how can artistic experience become a tool for such purpose? Why would we need more healing or therapeutic learning environments in the future and what art forms or types of engagement would they adopt to suit our present or anticipated culture or psyche? 

Gopika Dahanukar’s pursuit in Expressive Arts therapy is focused within this area of questioning and creative inquiry. Before she began her journey in Vancouver to become an Expressive Arts therapist, she was a graduate student of Applied Craft and Design.

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Haphazard Discovery of EXA takes our first ever grad to the Northwest Territories

Haphazard Discovery of EXA takes our first ever grad to the Northwest Territories

Sara Dickhout was the first ever graduate from the Vancouver Expressive Arts Program. Originally from Vancouver, Sara moved to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories after graduating where she travels to remote communities doing therapy work through the Indian Residential School - Resolution Health Support Program funded by Health Canada.

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Restoring Dignity and Beauty through Expressive Arts Therapy

Restoring Dignity and Beauty through Expressive Arts Therapy

Mary Reich is on faculty at the Vancouver Expressive Arts Institute teaching movement improvisation, embodiment and somatic practices.

Mary is a post-modern performer and maker of dance from San Diego. She began dancing in college and continued studying dance at University of California, Irvine earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance. When a torn ACL stopped her from performing, she turned her focus to teaching and choreography, setting her on the path to discover a new way of working in the arts.

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From the Community to the Classroom

From the Community to the Classroom

Kelty McKerracher is living proof that a successful and fulfilling career can be built on a combination of seemingly incongruent passions and interests. 

Kelty came to VSBM in 2011 for the Spa Therapy program. Her background was in dance and the arts, giving her a unique approach to bodywork and massage. After graduating, she successfully founded her own private practice, Embodywork Holistic Arts and returned to VSBM as a teacher’s assistant for the Body Mind Integration course.

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Combining Dance and Therapy

Combining Dance and Therapy

“Expressive arts was attractive to me as it offered a way to work with people in the creative process with a focus on personal growth and healing,” Jennifer said. “EXA is grounded in the physical body, so it felt strongly related to my love of movement and connecting with one’s own physicality. Once I started working in my practicum, and experiencing the work for myself during intensives, I was enamored by how powerful this way of working had the potential to be.”

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Successfully Navigating the Art-World

Successfully Navigating the Art-World

After graduating from the University of Alberta in 2007 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, Jessica Delorme, like many artists, was unsure of how to make ends meet while successfully navigating the art-world. 

“After leaving the bubble of art school and struggling to pay the bills, I felt like I lost the purity of my art making practice,” Jessica said. “I wanted to reconnect with my initial intention to help people through art.”

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