The word “animo” in Latin closely translates to “mind” in English. Molly Irvine chose this name for her practice as it brought together art and the mind, which is what art therapy is all about.
Molly launched Animo Art Therapy in 2021 and began renting a space at co-able. We were delighted to welcome Molly as one of our first tenants.
We’d love for you to get to know her too, so we had a chat to Molly about the service she provides and the benefits of art therapy.
How long have you been an art therapist for?
I have worked in the disability sector for the past five or six years now, in medical administration and peer support. In 2021, I got my diploma and started practicing as an art therapist.
I've been an artist in general since I was a little baby, but art therapy was an idea I came up with when I noticed that the disability sector was kind of lacking in that area. A lot of occupational therapists and people who would do art therapy are more focused on report writing and the NDIS side of things. I noticed that they just didn't have the time for it. So I thought making a business and making a living out of art therapy would benefit not only myself, but a lot of other people.
When you tell people you're an art therapist, do they usually know what that means?
Not usually. A lot of people assume it's just an art teacher, which, I mean, is definitely a big part of it. But I have to explain that it's not only teaching art, but also analyzing art and helping people through life struggles, or any issues they may have, through art activities.
What kind of art do you do with your clients?
At the moment, I offer anything from painting, drawing, sand art to clay work. The new thing I've introduced is also doing art through virtual reality headsets. People are quite interested in that one.
What would a standard appointment involve?
Normally, it starts off with a little bit of what I like to call “free association art”, where you can just draw little scribbles on a piece of paper and get used to the materials that are provided. From there, depending on the person, it will involve different activities for different goals that they're wanting to achieve through art therapy. A lot of times, it's about three different activities in a session. It would range from doing a little bit of painting, to then doing some sand work, and then doing a coloring book through virtual reality at the end. It's mainly catered towards each individual person and what they're wanting to achieve.
Is art therapy for everyone? Who might benefit from art therapy?
It’s definitely for everyone. I work with people who are looking to get career development or get a bit of motivation to progress in their career. I work with people with anxiety issues and ADHD, who struggle to focus in their day-to-day life. Some people just want to do art recreationally and they want to have somebody there to be a kind of a cheerleader in the corner saying, “You're doing a good job!” or to just do the art with them in a friendly relationship as well. So it's a wide range of people who are interested in it. I've also just become qualified to work with people with chronic pain. Art therapy can give these clients a bit of an escape from their day-to-day world ruled by pain, and take their mind off of that.
Do you have to be good at art to participate in art therapy?
No. I run by the motto that it's about the process, not about the end result. If you enjoy the process, even if you don't like the outcome, the next time you can think of what you didn't like about the art you did in the last session and we can try and improve at the next session. You know, by all means, I'm not a fantastic artist either, but it's the process for me.
Does art therapy involve talking about your thoughts and feelings?
Usually it's mainly just the art. A lot of people who do sessions with me don't enjoy the one-on-one verbal communication that comes with doing a usual therapy session. But through the experience, depending on how the sessions go, some people do start opening up or talking through their artwork with me and they find that there's quite a lot of emotion behind it that they probably didn't realise beforehand. So it's up to the person if they actually want to chat about their lives or if they just want to chat about absolutely anything.
What do you love about your job?
I love connecting with people. As an artist myself, having that be my day job is extremely exciting, especially since I am a new mum and I really don't have time to do it in my personal life at the moment. So it's been a great experience to be able to introduce people to art and share the enjoyment I get out of it with other people. And also to introduce people to art who have maybe never done it in their lives and make them feel comfortable in it. Sometimes I think it can seem a little bit overwhelming and that's why people haven't engaged in art before, because they just don't know where to start. So I enjoy that part of being able to introduce people to it.
What kind of space do you rent at co-able?
I rent my own room. It's really a nice area and fully wheelchair accessible, which is fantastic for me and a lot of my clients as well, we're all wheelchair users. It's nice to be able to say my practice is fully wheelchair accessible, including bathrooms, kitchen and everything. With a new business, I was concerned about that.
In my previous experience as an employee, a lot of people aren't willing to change things around or even aren't willing to employ you because it's just in the too hard basket to make it accessible. So being able to come into a place that's just accessible from the get go is rare for me.
It's also modern. The colour scheme is inviting and warm. There are plants everywhere, which for me, as a big lover of nature, is a huge thing. And just the fact that it is a co-working area, and there's going to be a lot of different people working in the same area is nice for me. I like the social aspect of that, but not necessarily having to work in the same business as each other.
Sessions with Molly at Animo Art Therapy are available by appointment. Click here to get in touch.