After revealing Octobers’s Qualification Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Azizi Marshall, founder of The Center for Creative Arts Therapy!
Read on to learn all about Azizi and her business.
The Center for Creative Arts Therapy
WN: What is art-based psychotherapy? And how did you get involved in this field?
AM: Arts-based psychotherapy involves a licensed psychotherapist and graduate level training on how to incorporate the arts for healing others’ struggling with mental health issues. I use story making, role-play, music creations, collages, art journals, therapeutic performance, improvisation, and yes those coloring books for adults, to help a client gain new perspectives on their life. For example, a child with autism can come and see me to practice reading social cues, body language, eye contact and verbal expressions through role-play and improvisation. A stressed out working mother may use our sessions to explore her feelings of “mom guilt” through the use of an art journal, which allows her to express her feelings through images instead of regular talk therapy.
Growing up in a household of two artistic psychotherapist parents, I learned at an early age that people are beautifully complex. I was witness to how the arts could guide extremely troubled individuals and communities to a place of healing and growth. By participating in group therapy with my father’s clients struggling with eating disorders, multiple personalities, aggressive behavior, etc., I observed my father transform these individuals from people that hated life to people that loved themselves. It was not through traditional talk therapy, but through a therapeutic intervention called psychodrama; the marrying of psychotherapy and theatre.
After having worked as a professional theatre artist for many years, my father passed away from a heart attack when I was 21. I was lost for quite some time without his presence. I later stumbled upon an opportunity to do theatre with inner city youth. They were some of the most troubled teens I had ever encountered, and they had little knowledge of the world’s possibilities of growth due to their community’s lack of safety and financial stability. Through theatre I saw these kids grow, and learn about a world outside of their existence. They were able to give voice to their struggles and begin to form bonds with not only one another but also with the community.
WN: What classes do you offer? Do you have a favorite?
AM: We have both a Center for Training (where we train therapists on how to use the arts in their practice) and a Center for Therapy (where we offer individuals, communities, schools and organizations creative arts therapy services).
At our Center for Training we offer courses that lead toward a Registered Drama Therapist and/or a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. Our classes are specifically customized for our students’ interests, and include Expressive Arts Therapy with War Veterans, Drama Therapy for Eating Disorders, Multi-Modal Arts Integration, Therapeutic Theatre, etc. My favorite class to teach is our Psychodrama course, as it is the class I first taught with my dad as a teen.
At our Counseling Center, we offer support groups for New Moms, First Responders, and Teenagers. We also offer a Therapeutic Theatre program, where we create original theatrical performances that express participants’ personal stories through dance, music and story telling. They are the creators, directors and performers. While it is hard to pick one group over another, the one I get the most energy from is our Therapeutic Theatre program. During one of our projects at an all girls’ high school, we created an original musical based on their lives. The Illinois High School Theatre Association was so impressed by what we had done, that they invited us to be the first student-led workshop in their history. It was an empowering experience for those girls, and some have presented with me again at other conferences on how theatre is therapeutic.
WN: Can anyone take classes at the center?
AM: Anyone wishing to pursue a passion in healing others through the arts is welcome to take classes at our center. We typically get people from around the world with backgrounds in social work, theatre, dance, counseling, and education. Our therapeutic services are offered to everyone and anyone can come and take classes at the center. We offer individual, group, couples, families and communities mental health services that incorporate the creative arts. I have seen people as young as 3 and as wise as 91.
WN: What is your biggest motivation?
AM: Not to sound cliché, but I do this for my father and my children. I want to pass on the legacy that my father bestowed upon me to share. Growing up he taught me how to read people’s body language while sitting at the mall “people watching”, and express myself through the arts through our collaboration on an award-winning American Red Cross theatre performance program exploring community health issues such as AIDS/HIV and domestic violence. It was almost as if he was training me to be who I am today.
My two girls have grown up in the theatre world; watching mommy direct shows, choreograph routines, run through lines with clients. My oldest daughter directs her friends in made up dance concerts and plays, reenacts “Romeo and Juliet”, and lives through her art. It is where she breathes. My youngest has the muscle definition of an Olympic gymnast. She has always sought out the unknown. She is fearless.
My ability to heal others through the arts is one way my girls will continue to know and understand their grandfather, since they will never meet him. It is a sorrowful challenge at times, yet one that keeps me going every day.
WN: What piece of advice would you give other female entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
AM: Perfection is the enemy of done. As I write the answers to these questions, I am covered in a fine dust of insulation debris from construction going on at our house caused by a flood, syrup from my 2-year-old daughter’s hands during a goodbye hug as I went into the office, and pen scribbles on my hand as I slept, trying not to forget what I needed to do the next day. I have a “To Do” list that goes on for 3 pages, with additional “To Dos” attached to the other “To Dos”.
Life as an entrepreneur is messy, literally and figuratively. You never know what will happen minute to minute, let alone what you may be covered in. Having a plan and being able to deviate from that plan in order to push your business forward is important. You’ve go to roll with the punches, because if you wait to jump into your dreams for that “just right” moment, it will never come. I have failed so many times trying to get things perfect, because perfection does not exist. It’s just you and a dream, so go ahead and make it a reality.
WN: Anything else you’d like to add?
AM: When I heard that I had won this award, I had just finished presenting at an Expressive Arts Association Conference with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. I literally started to cry. It was as if the universe was telling me that I am on the right track; that who I am does make a difference. I have had many people throughout my life tell me that who I was was not important. “you love drama therapy too much”, “you smile too much” or “you have a strong personality”. It took me a long time to understand that what they said about me had more to do with their own insecurities than with me.
My passion for combining the arts and mental health extends beyond me as an individual, through my new creative arts therapy center for the community, and training center for drama and expressive arts therapy. Communities deserve to have access to creative arts therapy services and professional training. Through this grant I can continue to share these services with the world.
Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.
And if you’d like to vote for Azizi to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for her here.