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06 March 2012

Alicia Clarke - Art Psychotherapist

Alicia Clarke - Art Psychotherapist

Alicia Clarke is an art psychotherapist in training. Her career started with a BA (Hons) in international marketing with Spanish, followed by 13 years of managing a number of major digital media projects in financial services, telecommunications and retail. 

She has now happily jumped off the corporate hamster wheel and is in the final throes of a MA art psychotherapy practice postgraduate degree, where she is enjoying the pursuit of her passion for working with people and with art.

What did you want to be as a child?

I remember wanting to be an air hostess, travel agent or bi-lingual secretary. At school I was very good at art and languages so this followed naturally. However, growing up in the industrial north during the 1980s, I do remember the perception from many people that ambitions to leave my home town, use foreign languages at work and travel round the world "was well above my station" and that I should instead try and get a "nice office job".

How did you end up being an art therapist?

My journey to therapeutic practice was quite a long one. I have always managed to incorporate some aspect of creative practice in my day-to-day life, but it wasn't until I witnessed a family member experiencing the transformative power of using art as a method of alleviating distress during treatment for cancer, that I began to formally investigate the possibility of combining artmaking and some form of psychology.

How can the arts connect with hopelessness?

Proverbs 13:12 says: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. 

Hopelessness is caused when you lose your dreams or can't see any prospects in the future. The arts connect because they reach out to the 'longing part' of a person, and absolutely everyone has this part. In art psychotherapy we use art to make a connection, help people find out what the true source of a problem is and support them through the process of transforming negative and overwhelming feelings into more positive or constructive ones. The arts give you permission to just imagine…to dream.

What's been your cultural highlight of the year?

The impact of the summer riots on the Church.  For years I saw the Church struggling to understand its role in contemporary society.  I saw it as feeling slightly embarrassed and apologetic about overtly proclaiming the gospel.  For me this year's riots have illustrated our worst fears about what happens when you spawn a generation with absolutely no knowledge of Jesus. In my opinion we are now reaping the results of apathetic Christianity. 

As a result of the riots I see the Church responding with a strong sense of urgency, more cross-working between churches and a renewed focus on what (or who) really matters.  I hope we don't ever lose this sense of urgency - salt and light is what we are and people need Jesus right now. Not tomorrow, or when we have a new building, or "when the next six week set of 'who is Jesus' talks commences…", but right now.  So in 2011, those horrid riots have been my cultural highlight.

What biblical text or narrative inspires you in your work?

Proverbs 3:5. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." 

I have finally realised that sometimes I simply don't have the answer and I just need to trust Him.

What's your best memory of your study days?

My enduring memory of my first degree is the sheer volume of house moves. I took a year out halfway through study and stayed in Mexico City for an extra year.  Over my 4+1 years at uni I think I counted 14 different addresses –North/South/East London, Madrid, Mexico city. It was fantastic to meet so many people and experience so much change. 

Having said that I vividly remember the day that I finally bought my own place and wrote my (permanent) address with a pen, instead of pencil.

What's your biggest disappointment so far?

Tricky one. I am a glass half full kinda girl so I can't think of anything I'm really disappointed with. If I had to come up with something I did play the lottery once when it first came out and I didn't win – that was disappointing. I was in London at the time and looking back, I should have spent that £1 on a single dark chocolate covered cherry from the Godiva shop on Regent Street.  Bliss.

Any advice for currently unemployed graduates?

My advice is to just get involved with something you find interesting. Graduates often look to achieve that 'perfect job' straight away, or something that they think will clearly lead to said perfection. I advise to seek to follow a passion rather than a wage packet and just stop worrying so much. I know that doesn't sound practical, but it's easier to become really good at (and earn well in) a job that you love. Graduates need to see their careers as a journey rather than a full stop.

What's your vision for your profession?

Kate Middleton has recently chosen The Art Room as one of her charities. My vision for my profession is that with increased publicity, funding will come! I long for this, as it is a continuous battle for mental health services to secure funding for the amazing work that it does.

Tell us a joke

Q: What's ET short for?

A: Because he's only got little legs.

Q: How does Bob Marley like his doughnuts? 

A: Wi' Jammin.

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