Crates of paints, clay and piles of colourful crafts. Looking at Abi Raymond’s tools of trade you might not guess what she does for a day job.
The Ponsonby resident works as an arts therapist for IHC’s IDEA Services, helping children and young people across Auckland with autism improve their communication and behaviour.
Arts therapy uses creative expression within a therapeutic relationship to improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
There’s a lot more to it than art and drama, but at the end of the day it’s still all about fun.
‘‘Kids with autism find it really hard to communicate verbally and socially and so arts therapy offers them an alternative way of expressing themselves,’’ Raymond says.
‘‘You get to see the playfulness and the joy when they engage in the arts therapy process and the confidence that comes from it. We have so much fun.’’
Each session is tailored to suit an individual person’s needs.
Social-skills groups can use movement and drama to help young people communicate better with their peers and one-on-one sessions with visual art can improve selfexpression.
Arts therapy can be used to help anyone of any age, whether they’re affected by mental health issues, disability or trauma.
A creative streak, playfulness and compassion for others are all essential traits for the role, Raymond says.
‘‘I’m a creative person so it gets my creative brain working in different ways. You need to be able to communicate with people in lots of different ways because a lot of people I work with are nonverbal or maybe blind or deaf.’’
Raymond credits an inspirational art teacher at Epsom Girls Grammar with leading her down this career path.
As a 16-year-old she was struggling at school due to dyslexia, but when the late Dwariko von Sommaruga took her under her wing, Raymond discovered photography and art design.
‘‘It’s amazing how one person can have such a big impact on you, having one person believe in you, how powerful that is,’’ Raymond says.
‘‘For the first time I started doing really well and from that strength of creativity I started to feel really good about myself.’’
Raymond went on to com- plete a Master of Arts in clinical arts therapy at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design.
‘‘My real strengths are working creatively and con- necting with people and this job is the perfect match for bringing those two things together. I can’t actually imagine doing anything else.’’