Hannah McKimm, Founder of Connective Arts

Hannah is a trained Art Psychotherapist with experience in both the community and in hospitals. She has worked in the area of mental health, with children and young people’s services and with those who have learning disabilities.
 
With a primary career in the TV and Film industry, working as a camera assistant, this enabled Hannah to express both her creativity and develop tools for the viewer to explore other perspectives through storytelling. With a drive to do more and an opportunity to retrain in a field which combined both her love for creativity and a psychological approach to supporting others, in 2014, Hannah began her 3 year Art Psychotherapy Masters degree in the University of South Wales, Newport. Art therapy which falls under the umbrella of the Arts Therapies includes music therapy, drama therapy and dance and movement therapy. 
 
Alongside this training, Hannah was also expected to take part in her own personal therapy. “Through this journey I learnt how being vulnerable was more about bravery than weakness; I learnt the importance of self connection and self awareness and developed the ability to practice self care through setting boundaries and being kinder to myself and most of all learnt that this wasn’t being selfish but was about being able to give more”.
 
“I am still on this journey but now have the privilege of sharing this insight with my clients and allowing them to discover their own path and inner strengths through the exploration and relinquishing of past coping mechanisms that may no longer be serving them.”
 
The additional key element to her work is the inclusion of artmaking. The process of art making in the therapeutic process has many benefits:
  • Develops a connection with the body:
    • Improves body awareness through grounding – which helps us be present in the moment. Grounding allows our body to physically slow down; slowing the heart rate and breathing, allowing clarity of thought.
    • Our experiences of trauma are held within the body as “non-verbal sensory fragments” (Van der Kolk, 2014).
    • By improving our awareness of how our body feels, we become active participants in processing these past traumas by engaging in the physical act of artmaking.
    • The act of artmaking while speaking incorporates both sides of the brain
  • We create something/ bring something new in to the world:
    • Builds confidence
    • Can reveal aspects of the unconscious mind the client was not previously aware of
    • Reveals to the client that they have the tools within to heal themselves; revealing their internal resilience.
Through these processes, clients can develop a sense of wholeness, connecting to a sense of self and an internal resilience unique to them. With practice, this is a resource which can be accessed whenever they need it.
 
This process not only works on an individual level but can be beneficial in groups and as reflective practice within the occupational setting. The benefit of a group setting is the sense of synchronicity. “This is something I feel we are missing during this pandemic, except for when we all do the little dances around each other while we are trying to distance ourselves.” Synchronicity nourishes our basic need for belonging. Having this need met also builds our sense of resilience.
 
As we go through this pandemic, much of our experiences will be stored by our bodies and can manifest as feelings that we may not have the words to express. Many times, we don’t let our bodies do the talking; our minds take over and we feel we need to use our language to express ourselves. When we feel unable to do this, this can be frustrating. The medium of Art Therapy creates the opportunity to shed light on an issue or problem you may experience. Expressing yourself creatively doesn’t have to be something specific, it can just be mark making, doodling and using colour. So it’s important to remember that it’s the physical act of expression that is important and not the finished product.
 
Unfortunately due to the most recent Covid 19 restrictions, Hannah has postponed her upcoming therapy retreat. She will be aiming to run her next retreat on 29th November. If you are interested in hearing more about Art Therapy or would like to work with Hannah, please get in touch through her Facebook or Instagram, or you can email: connectiveartsni@gmail.com
 
Reference: VAN DER KOLK, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma.