‘Brighter than any darkness’: How Hope Center residents find healing through art therapy
The woman worked quietly on two masks in an art therapy session at the Hope Center as worship music played softly in the background.
The first mask represented the resident’s outside appearance – the face she showed to the world. It was vibrant, colorful, beautiful. It also had an X over the mouth.
The second mask, a reflection of the resident’s thoughts and emotions, was painted with dark colors. It revealed the pain she carried inside, parts of herself she hid from others.
“When she was finished, we sat and quietly looked at the mask side by side,” Mary Faith, the Hope Center’s art therapist, said. “It was a profound moment for the resident to see how she showed everyone around her beauty and strength while she is so hurt inside and how she has so many walls to keep everyone out. We were able to take this realization to Jesus. The resident left the session with more joy and hope. For me as an art therapist, there is nothing greater than being able to see the residents grow, heal, and find hope and joy.”
Faith, who graduated in 2018 from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a master’s in art therapy, joined the Hope Center team more than two years ago. Therapy sessions, centered on biblical principles, are usually one-on-one, which gives residents the time and space to create and reflect and then to discuss their artwork outside of a group.
“During reflection and discussion there can be discovery as to what the women may be experiencing emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes how this may be affecting them physically,” Faith said. “When things are revealed, we can offer validation, explore it and bring it to the feet of Jesus.”
Faith said art therapy enables residents to reduce stress, explore their emotions, and communicate without having to find words to express their hopes, joy, fears and pain. As the women decide which colors, textures, shapes and symbols to use in their artwork, those choices help reveal what’s churning inside themselves. It’s a process that helps trafficking survivors take another step on the path to recovery and healing.
“I never thought I would do art therapy with survivors of human trafficking,” Faith said. “In thinking about the levels of trauma they would be dealing with, I was not sure that's what I would enjoy doing. But when I visited the Hope Center, I knew I wanted to be here, and every day I am at the center, I am still in awe that I have the opportunity to be an art therapist here.”
Faith said the public can help the art therapy ministry in several important ways, starting with prayer. Craft supplies also are needed as well as brushes, paint and canvasses for painting. Supplies can be donated through the ministry’s Amazon wish list, and donations for the art therapy ministry as well as other Hope Center ministries can be made here.
The God of Creation not only is at work in residents’ lives as they paint, shape and sculpt. He’s also at work in Mary Faith’s life at the Hope Center.
“I have learned a deeper level of trusting in the Lord, in prayer and in having faith that every time I walk into the art room, He is there,” she said. “His love and mercy shine brighter than any darkness. My time here as an art therapist has allowed me to see the love, mercy and grace of Christ in ways that have changed my life forever.”