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Alumni Profiles

CMU Alumni Profile: Lauren Harms, BA General Social Sciences

How art is mediating trauma and connecting individuals during days of isolation

Lauren Harms: Lauren Harms:

Lauren Harms (BA '15, General Social Sciences) wears two hats, that of a pastor and of an art therapist, which are taken on and off in the same room in the same Calgary apartment every day over Zoom. Founder of "Lily Inspired", an art therapy practice that focuses on individual and group art therapy as well as expressive arts workshops, Harms combines the creative process and psychotherapy, enabling her clients to explore their healing through colour, shape, and form.

There are times when Harms' two hats of pastor and art therapist fit best when worn together. Harms explains that "art is inevitably an expression of belief, a form of prayer. What art therapy in a community space can bring is a sense of interconnection, which is something that, I argue, the church also desires—a sense of belonging, a particular narrative of wholeness, which always comes out of art." Holding a CMU undergraduate degree that intersects Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies with Psychology, Harms' thesis research asks why people still choose to attend religious communities when church attendance appears to be depleting. Her answer, simply put, is art. Harms elaborates that "art brings things into healthy relationship, while also reveals unhealthy relationships, things that have been avoided for a long time. Art often indirectly helps to mediate trauma."

More recently, Harms hosted an online group session entitled "Pandemic Art" where participants were invited to process their experience of isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty from their living rooms over Zoom. Harms opens each session with an idea, intention, or focus to prompt participants to dwell on their own experiences. "In this workshop, we began by looking at losses which conjured images of what was missed during the pandemic," says Harms, "I hoped to create space for grief to be expressed without any set form for what that looked like."

Although art therapy continues to be a growing field in the world of therapy, Harms notes that many people still associate this practice with child-therapy exclusively. "I'd like to think these sessions can be for everyone" Harms observes, "yes, the artful space can be a space of play, but it can also be a very intense space." Trauma can often manifest itself through art in a subconscious way. Content which the mind has blocked or repressed can be obtained and communicated through the body that preserves and portrays it on the canvas. Harms continues that "trauma can be so deep as to be non-verbal." Sometimes, an image or colour might allow for an approach to trauma that can feel safer and more comfortable.

Harms has completed her training as an art therapist at The WHEAT (Winnipeg Holistic Expressive Arts Therapy) Institute in Winnipeg, MB. Her work through Lily Inspired is supported by Freedom Path Recovery, an addictions recovery base in Calgary, AB. She will be continuing to offer online workshops that can be found on her website or through her Facebook page.

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