In this issue:
At The Sanctuary Byron Bay, not only do we offer the most comprehensive mix of therapies, we also actively encourage our clients to have fun, to welcome functional self-expression, to delight in learning new skills and to discover greater meaning in their lives by participating in activities that promote self-expression, creativity and focus: for example;
Addictive behaviour narrows one’s options whereas engagement in creative arts expands them: The compulsive repetition of addictive behaviour, whether drinking, using drugs or other behaviours such as gambling or sexual acting out, results in a narrowing of focus in everyday life. The addictive behaviour becomes a block to real growth, especially when increasingly deployed to avoid actual engagement with everyday problems. Whatever relief the addictive behaviour initially provides becomes tainted with the mounting loss of previously valued aspects of life, such as relationships, self-worth, careers etc. The addicted person becomes trapped in a cycle of avoidance and degradation resulting in diminishing options and quality of life. As an antidote, participation in creative arts requires active engagement, not passive consumption: one must be involved and to be involved means facing what is before you – initially, the frustrations of learning something new, but gradually, the satisfaction of improving skills and understanding. With each little step, growth emerges.
Engagement in creative arts helps to increase one’s capacity to tolerate and understand a greater range of feelings and provides a channel to express them without self-harm: At the basis of addiction is the inability to tolerate a certain state of being, whether frustration, melancholy, sadness, a lack of self-worth, or perhaps, grief or anger. Resorting to a substance or a repetitive behaviour helps to keep ‘the wolves at bay’, but this very avoidance only serves to suppress whatever needs attention, thereby fostering an increasing sense of powerlessness and inability to cope. By contrast, learning to express yourself through the medium of creative arts can help to reverse this moribund trend. Self-expression can take a myriad of forms – and at The Sanctuary Byron Bay, you are encouraged to try out a range of creative arts to help you find another ‘voice’.
A young client of ours, who had been addicted for many years to opiates, finally learnt to cope with his feelings of boredom and lack of self-worth through regular guitar practice. In the beginning, he learned how to turn to guitar practice rather than drugs, to deal with feelings of frustration, boredom or loneliness, but before long, his increasing proficiency added new dimensions of joy and lightness of being to his experience of practice. For this young man, his initial feelings became the springboard for creative expression instead of habitual avoidance through the anaesthetic of narcotics. Stopping drug abuse was only part of his journey – he had to eventually learn how to face the feelings he was trying to avoid in the first place and how to engage with these feelings in a more constructive and expressive way.
The more you engage in creative arts, the better you become, thereby increasing mastery, self-esteem and ability to express one’s innermost self.
Resorting to drug use and addictive behaviours stunts emotional growth and becomes existentially tedious. One does the same thing, day in, day out - and each day becomes much like the one preceding it. Where drug and alcohol use is concerned, a marked deterioration in health can also prevail. It can be sad to witness once vital and healthy people fading to shadows of their former selves, their inner light fading or obscured by their repetitive behaviours. By contrast, learning to play music, or to write, or dance, or create art, can help to set the course towards the path of incremental growth. Repetition (or practice) in the creative arts actually increases mastery and skill – the more one engages, the more positive changes are engendered. Engagement in creative art also stimulates the type of brain activity that favours intuition, reverie and reflection. Vitality can be restored and with it, self-esteem can flourish.
In the coming months, The Sanctuary Byron Bay will be hosting “Meet and Greet” events in major Australian cities to connect with practitioners that we have had referrals to and from for the last ten years.
We are also excited to have the chance to meet professionals from around the country who want to know about us in an informal, relaxed setting. We look forward to the opportunity to share what makes us the most holistic and integrated treatment center in the world.
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Welcome to the Spring 2012 edition of our Sanctuary Byron Bay newsletter. Admittedly, it’s been a little while since our last newsletter, but the past eighteen months has seen us at maximum capacity over a long stretch. With the welcome challenge of maintaining the outstanding quality of our programmes throughout what has been to date our busiest period, the frequency of our newsletters has understandably lapsed, so I’m taking this opportunity to thank our subscribers for their patience and continued interest in The Sanctuary Byron Bay.
Over the past year, we have continued to thrive. In June this year, Global Healthcare Magazine announced their 2012 Top Ten List of Treatment Centres worldwide and I am absolutely thrilled we are listed in the top five.
In fact, the number of enquiries both within Australia and internationally continue to rise. I believe this is a testament to our now firmly established reputation as one of the most effective and renowned treatment centres offering unique individualised programmes.
One of the reasons our programmes are so effective is that our approach to treatment is truly holistic. We are extending beyond the conventional biomedical focus on disease to include considerations of meaning and wholeness. This is more in line with the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.
In this Spring edition, we focus on the importance of the Creative Arts in a holistic approach to recovery. We introduce a few of our talented and dedicated creative arts teachers at The Sanctuary Byron Bay, all of whom have been instrumental in helping clients connect with their own creativity and passions.
Thank you for being a subscriber and friend to The Sanctuary Byron Bay. I hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and I invite you to contact me at any time about our exceptional treatment programs.
Paula has been a professional artist for over 15 years with her work placed in important collections both in Australia and overseas. Paula can teach most areas of fine art and craft, ranging from oil painting to needle point and will work with you to tap into your own unique creative process.
“The creative process is not only therapeutic but also enjoyable. No experience is necessary to create art – everyone is an artist and I’ve never had a client who wasn’t able to produce a piece of artwork in one form or another”
Usually in a painting class, I get the client to choose colours that appeal to them and then we do free painting. We work with whatever comes into their head: the subconscious mind takes over. It never fails, even if a person has no experience with art, they can always do free painting. Often people have a fear instilled in early education, where we get categorized as good or bad artists. It’s important even if we were told we were “bad” artists as children, we can find a way into our creativity through this free painting technique. If people come to us with more experience, we might do a more technical work. Everybody leaves with a painting they are proud of hanging on their walls.
Art stimulates right brain activity, where creativity comes from. Painting seems to be really good for anxiety – there’s a meditative quality to art that allows us to switch off our anxieties and really get lost in the process. Some clients who have never considered themselves “artistic” have gone on to go to art school after leaving us, having had the chance to explore their creativity without being judged. The left brain is so developed, to the point where it can criticize the creative side so much, it paralyzes us from going forward. This is why free painting is such a good technique, we can avoid the inner critic as there is just no mistake to be made.
If I had to think of just one, the most rewarding was working with someone who had been in the corporate sector his whole life, but always had a feeling that he would like to paint. Even at school, he only did academic subjects. In our very first class he painted a portrait that left me speechless. He went on to maintain his art practice, and wrote to me that “he hasn’t had a blue day since leaving The Sanctuary”. When someone does a painting that they didn’t believe they could do, you just see how much that opens up their perception of themselves. It is immensely rewarding to see.
Vanessa is a documentary filmmaker and television producer with 25 years of television and documentary experience. For the last 15 years she has been producing on ABC TV's biographical series 'Australian Story'.
She is also a freelance writer, writing teacher and published her memoir, Layla's Story in 2005.
In my classes, I use a free writing technique that helps get the critic out of the way, keeps the pen moving, and lets the words flow. I usually start with the client writing from life, as I find this easier than fiction. We might look at a time in their life that was a turning point, good or bad, and write about that experience.
The blank page can be a safe and private space to reveal the self in all its confusions, contradictions and complexities. Keeping a journal or just free writing through some difficult experiences or memories can be such a therapeutic practice, as much is revealed and thoughts and feelings can be explored without judgment or any need to change or fix.
After a few weeks of sessions, one client revealed that he would like to try writing a memoir about his struggle with alcohol, and all the crazy and self-destructive things he had done while under the influence. His turning point had been finding himself in the lock-up and not remembering what had got him there. It was exciting to work with him and to encourage him to really find his most honest self to put on the page. Even if nothing gets to publication, I have no doubt that just the process of writing will reveal a lot to him.
Leyla is a dance instructor specializing in Latin dance, Contemporary Jazz, Latin Ballroom and Cabaret styles. Having studied Classical Ballet from the age of 9, Leyla is an enthusiastic teacher who continues to perform and compete in dance events throughout Australia. She is a partner in a popular dance school in the local area.
“Dance can be such a wonderful addition to other healing therapies. Movement and musical appreciation will encourage self-confidence that is essential to everyday life. In a busy world.”
I place a big emphasis on fun in the classes, striving for an outcome that is completely pressure free. We listen to music that suits the clients’ preferred style, discuss the rhythm and history of the style if the client is interested. I introduce the basic footwork, we master each step before moving on. Each lesson is progressive, suiting each client, as we practice footwork to music.
For many of us it’s easy to get lost and confused - our busy lives can become overwhelming and confusing. Dance is not just physical activity, it can awaken feelings of joy and fulfillment that can otherwise be lost and forgotten. It can help us rediscover a physical connection with other people. Also discovering styles of music from different cultures can be pleasurable and uplifting. Dance and musical appreciation can positively help ‘fill the gaps’ that are left when confronting and dealing with negative addictions and chronic disorders.
Sometimes a little taste of dance can lead to a client seeking out lessons in the community, opening up a new world of self-discovery and social interaction. There is nothing more rewarding than a personal dance class with a client at The Sanctuary. To hear laughter and to watch a client emerge from their inner process is absolutely fulfilling. Being part of this discovery process is reward in itself.