The Power of Creativity in Helping People Heal

Julia Kochuk - Student Story

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.

 photo by Rachel Pick

photo by Rachel Pick

“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.

“I was looking for more training on how to provide extra support to people in these creative settings and came across Expressive Arts Therapy. Reading about the program I thought, wow, this is what I’ve been looking for and have experience seeing”.

Julia had in fact been doing expressive arts work without realizing by incorporating different modalities like painting and drama into her writing workshops.

“What I didn’t really know was any of the ways to support people, which is why I was seeking more training. The program has helped so much. It provides a structure and a framework. I’ve learned how to shape workshops and sessions so you are really paying attention to what the group really needs and what the next steps are going to be.”

Before starting the program, Julia said she felt some hesitation about whether it was the right fit for her. “I came into the group as a quiet writer, and I’m the only one that identifies as that. I didn’t feel creative enough or good enough in the other modalities and we started off in movement and dance which was quite intimidating for me.”

“I was surprised that I didn’t have to be an expert in all these modalities to do the work and feel comfortable. A big thing in our work is to start off low skill. It needs to be easy enough for anybody to join in.”

Since starting the program in September, Julia has been exposed to a number of new modalities, which have challenged and reawakened skills in drama, movement, visual arts and more.

“I love being exposed to so many different creative people and activities. I didn’t have any confidence in painting, but after our weekend of visual arts I realised, I actually really enjoy doing this. I’ve also been so much more inspired to write. It’s nice to be living in the creative space.”

More recently, the 12 students in the Expressive Arts Therapy program completed a drama workshop as a component of the course. “I had so much fun. I reawakened a part of myself I loved who had been asleep since grade 10 in high school,” Julia said.

Julia says she plans on incorporating all of the modalities in her work moving forward. “What I love about expressive arts is the modalities you use are dependent on who you are working with. I enjoy the challenge of going from one modality to the other.”

Having previous training in social work with a psychological background and coming from traditional academic schooling, Julia said she didn’t know enough about Expressive Arts to know if it worked until she started the program.

“I’ve learnt the theory and experienced expressive arts therapy work in myself and the kids I work with in my practicum. I see them growing in amazing ways. It’s something I thought would happen but it’s still a great surprise to see it working!”

Julia is set to finish the program in June of this year. “I’ve had such a good experience and made some deep connections with this community and with my classmates. Everybody has a place in the group. I feel so at home in the work and the support of the classmates and Heather has been so great. I’m getting sad that it’s coming to an end!”