Shepherd’s Door women using art to help solidify recovery process

Robbin Van Rys facilitates her art therapy class at Shepherd's Door.

Robbin Van Rys facilitates her art therapy class at Shepherd’s Door.

For the women in our yearlong New Life Ministry at Shepherd’s Door, recovery is a challenging process to go through.

In the safe, healing environment of Shepherd’s Door, these women learn to invite God into the wounds of their past, healing the root causes behind their addictions. The process often involves self-discovery through a variety of ways – including through art, thanks to Staff Ministry member Robbin Van Rys.

While not an official part of the recovery program, Robbin created a six-week art therapy class for Shepherd’s Door in hopes of providing yet another outlet for the women to navigate their recovery journeys.

“I find when you work with art, it opens up a different type of way to process things,” Robbin said.

Around five women at a time participate in Robbin’s art therapy class, and each woman who comes is typically nearing the end of her time in our New Life Ministry. Topics cover everything from family dynamics, to personal identity, to even more inward-focused activities like self-portraits. All use art as a way to explore each topic uniquely. Experience and skill aren’t needed.

art-piece-3“One of my expectations and one of my rules is that they have an open mind, and at least try everything we do in the class,” Robbin reiterates. “Once they realize they don’t have to be skillful, it’s kind of up to them how far they want to take it since a lot of the class is really self-guided.”

One resident who found it especially enjoyable was Lazara, one of our most recent New Life Ministry graduates.  After a year of embracing recovery, Lazara appreciated Robbin’s art therapy class as a refreshing change of pace from some of the more “heavy” aspects of the program.

“I really enjoyed doing something different than all the other classes,” Lazara said. “I considered myself a doodler at best … It was really nice to be able to express myself in a new way. I think Robbin is really onto something.”

Considering where the women are at in the program, the class also adds another layer of recovery on an already strong foundation.

“My goal is to hopefully help solidify their identity in Christ along with their identity as a strong woman who doesn’t need to use substances,” Robbin said. “I want them to know more about themselves, how great they are and what skills they have all while pointing them back to Jesus.

“And with art, maybe it’s just another way to process it and possibly relearn it by building more pathways that are healthy.”

Shepherd’s Door is currently serving 48 women and children in the northeast Portland facility.