January 29, 2020
Tell us about yourself
I am a Certified and Registered Arts Therapist, with a background of professional Counseling. I began practicing arts therapy at Raffles Hospital in Singapore for a few years before opening my own private practice “The Arts Therapy Studio”. For years, my interests have included working with adults and family dynamics, in a multicultural context, dealing with self-esteem and self-confidence, relationship issues, stress and emotional traumas, addictions, depression, bereavement and parenting issues. During 15 years, I have had the chance to pioneer and practice arts therapy at Singapore Changi Women Prison where I handled individual and group cases, as well as programmes specially designed by the prison to help inmates struggling with mental issues. In early 2012, I moved to the Maximum-Security Men’s Prison.
I have a Master of Arts in Germanic Philology (Dutch and English) from the University of Louvain-La-Neuve (LLN, Belgium) and graduated in Teaching Aggregation from the University of LLN. In 2002, I graduated in Corporate Coaching from USA Corporate Coach U; I hold a diploma in applied skills counseling (Singapore), as well as a graduate certificate in Expressive Therapies from the Australian Institute of Expressive Therapies. In December 2004, I completed a one-year program of expressive therapies with the US National Institute of Expressive Therapy. In 2007, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy with LASALLE College of the Arts, accredited by Goldsmiths University. Occasionally I was involved at LASALLE as a visiting lecturer and as an advisor to the Research Theses. I have been a member of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) since 2002, of the Australian and New Zealand Creative Arts Therapy Association (ANZACATA) since 2010, and of the British Art Therapy Association (BAAT) since 2018.
What excites (or inspires) you most about your job right now?
Today I have the chance to be the Founder and Managing Director of “The Red Pencil”, an International Arts Therapy Humanitarian Organization whose mission is to bring the benefits of arts therapy to children, adults and families on their pathway to recovery and well-being, with a particular attention to those facing overwhelming situations for which they have no words, yet whose sufferings need attention, expression, relief, release and ultimately healing. Those situations include natural disasters and conflict zones, long-term hospitalizations, abuse and violence. Currently, The Red Pencil has four formal entities: Singapore (a registered charity, governed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, as well as an Institution of Public Character), Geneva (a Swiss association) overlooking our International Operations, Dubai (a registered Not-for-Profit organization with the International Humanitarian City) to cover the Middle East, and Brussels (a Foundation of Public Utility) to cover our operations in Europe.
Since 2011, the overall organization has intervened in 24 countries and is fully committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through its work that leads to the building of a more just and inclusive society. The Red Pencil Humanitarian Mission has a dedicated focus on Change and Improvement for our beneficiaries, as well as Sustainability of our therapeutic work. Evidence is given through a Monitoring and Evaluation procedure which is constantly adapted to the arts therapeutic process. The organization is writing manuals to inform the arts therapists and give congruency of our approaches to arts therapy informed trauma and related. It is a great joy for me to witness the impact of The Red Pencil’s team and work and I also enjoy participating conferences globally to bring further awareness of arts therapy and of the specific work done by The Red Pencil internationally.
Has working with a particular client group shaped your professional focus or specialty? What have you learned from working with these clients?
I have had a long commitment towards prison work as I consider this population to be at times hardly judged by family, friends, and society. Besides, I believe arts therapy is particularly relevant for those who have been themselves challenged in their childhood in many ways, who are sincerely struggling to be rehabilitated, but also to be surrounded by good coaches for their future. What I experienced from working with this population is humility and the importance of compassion for everyone.
What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy?
Keep cleansing your own mind and soul on an everyday basis, through the creative process of art making, to make sure that what you give to others is detached from your own past challenges and truly based on a deep human understanding.
What are your hopes for the future of the art therapy profession?
I have received the Red Pencil Mission as a blessing, I feel entrusted by something way beyond who I am. My hope is for The Red Pencil to continue its journey to reach out to as many vulnerable children, families and communities around the world towards healing and a future they can be proud of.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
AATA represents an emblem of professionalism and the outstanding resources provided are guiding arts therapists globally. I am grateful of the collaboration between The Red Pencil and AATA when AATA advocates for our humanitarian missions.
My long-term goals include to advocate for a gentler and more peaceful world where arts therapy serves the purpose to heal the past of each individual through the creative process of letting go and to reinvent a better and hopeful future, for oneself, for others and as an inclusive community.
“Woman at work – a tribute to all hardworking women” by Laurence Vandenborre. Oil painting. 2012.