Meeting People Where They Are

Sara Brown – Student Story

Sara Brown Expressive Arts Therapy.jpg

Originally from California, Sara Brown completed a Bachelor’s degree in History and Italian before starting her career in telecommunications. She continued her studies with a Masters in International Relations specializing in Latin American Studies before returning once more to the corporate world.

It was after this she changed gears, became an art teacher, started a family and began to explore her artistic roots. “I’m the daughter of a painter so I’ve made art my whole life, but always through formal classes in subjects like painting and drawing,” Sara said.

When she moved to Vancouver in 2009, she took some continuing education classes at Emily Carr and began teaching at Luminous Elephant, a private art studio in the city.

“I started getting interested in ways I could stay in the creative world with a career that incorporated the arts. As a busy mom with two daughters, I also wanted something with flexibility,” Sara said.

She discovered expressive arts therapy and decided it was the right time to pursue her new career. Now, 7 months into the Expressive Arts Therapy program, Sara is immersed in practicum work, both working with school children and with adults in an art studio environment.

“Practicum has been a really incredible opportunity to both be learning the work and doing the work at the same time. I started practicum early on, which allowed me to jump in right away, develop strategies and go deeper into the work. Being immersed right away is a dynamic way of learning. It enriches my class time as I can reflect back on what I’m doing with my clients and apply it,” Sara said.

Having worked in a school as an art teacher before, Sara had no trouble adjusting to the environment but has found her new skills and knowledge have changed the way she teaches art. “The way I talk with my students about their pieces has really transformed and I’ve noticed a shift in the way they are able to discover their own next steps with their pieces,” Sara said.

Another key part of Expressive Arts therapy that she is enjoying is learning how to carry an idea through different modalities. “It provides space for a creative seed to really blossom. It’s a powerful way to learn and make discoveries. I now bring it into my own art practice,” Sara said.

 Sara with her two daughters.

Sara with her two daughters.

Prior to having children, Sara said her art making practice was very focussed on technical observation. She started noticing a shift when, for the first time, she began using her intuition to create – a central part of how expressive arts therapists work with clients.

“The experience of allowing myself to play in the materials without any particular outcome or judgement helped me get to know myself better. It was transformational. So I knew from experience how healing the art making process can be and I wanted to deepen that.”

Sara also works part time as an art teacher and helps out with corporate team building events while she completes her studies at the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy, where classes are held over intensive weekends.

“I’m certainly tired after one of our intensive weekends, but in a good way. I feel very inspired, fulfilled and connected to the community I’m now part of. Every time we have an intensive I have new things I can bring to my clients right away.”

Sara says one of her favourite parts of Expressive Arts is being able to witness another human in their transformative growth process. “It is really an honour. It’s very fulfilling and humbling work. I really feel like I have an expanded set of skills that I can bring to a session now. Not only can we paint and make stuff with pastels, we can go into poetry or song making or movement. It gives me the ability to meet people where they are.”

After graduating, Sara is considering continuing her studies at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. She hopes to build a private practice in Vancouver and would like to explore bringing Expressive Arts into groups in the corporate world for conflict resolution and team building.