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.

“A lot of what I do is not always expressive arts therapy. Because we are in such small communities we deal with everything under the sun – from addictions, to anorexia, to sexual abuse.”

Sara works with a huge range of people, school children right up to elders, some who are interested in expressive arts and some who just want to talk.

“The education and skills I learnt in the [Expressive Arts Therapy] program are so applicable to anything you need to do. The program arms us with the ability to be really grounded and present and I found that invaluable. I feel like I have this great tool where I can go into any situation with what I’ve got and there is always a place to start.”

The biggest challenge of her job, Sara says, is the isolated nature of the work and location. “There aren’t too many expressive arts therapists in the Northwest Territories so it can feel pretty isolating. It can be a challenge for somebody like me who loves to engage with others.”

Sara particularly enjoys working with youth and kids, as they are more open to jumping into the art making process. Her passion for the art making process sparked her desire to start her own private practice, which she has been running since last summer.

“People take to visual arts very well up here. It feels safer for people. It’s interesting for me to figure out how to incorporate the arts into the kind of work that really needs to be done up here.”

During the practicum element of the Expressive Arts Therapy Program, Sara found herself up north working with school children alongside a supervising Art Therapist (“a tremendously awesome resource and person to learn from”). Despite describing her discovery of Expressive Arts Therapy as “haphazard”, Sara says has found a line of work she feels passionate about and confident in.

“The program was absolutely life changing and eye-opening for me. It gave me a form to work in a way I had never dreamed of: a new dimension, in a way. And I feel really grateful for that.”