Katie Murray and Stephanie Dawson, Island women who had come to an end of their academic careers, wanted to create something new and desperately needed.
Beyond the Bridge Therapy Centre was born.
The first cousins have become as close as sisters over the years, encouraging each other to follow their passions in mental and restorative health.
“I don’t even know if we ever really sat down and came up with an exact idea. I think somewhere along the line, we said this was our destiny to do this,” said Dawson.
It was during Dawson’s master’s degree in counselling psychology at Athabasca University in Calgary that she suggested to Murray they should explore art therapy.
Murray was invested right away and flew to Nelson, B.C., where she would spend the next four years getting a degree in art therapy, completing 700 hours of clinical work.
When Murray returned to the Island, it was hard to break into employment, which led to the three-year project that has become Beyond the Bridge Therapy Centre.
“It has been a long process, but it is something we wanted to do together,” said Dawson.
The cousins said they had received major support from family and friends during the early and developmental stages of the centre.
Their Walker Avenue location in Summerside is accessible to all different types of people.
On the ground level, the centre has a reception area, art therapy room, accessible bathroom, shared office, counselling room and a space Murray and Dawson both hope to rent to another therapist in the future.
Benefits of art therapy
- Art therapy provides a non-verbal platform in which children can creatively express themselves without struggling to find the words for grief, trauma, loss or anger,
- For teenagers, art therapy can help while they search for identity and passions during their critical years.
- This form of therapy also allows adults and people living with mental health challenges to explore themselves through a creative process.
- These benefits can be important for seniors living in a care facility or a nursing home. Group sessions with seniors can be a way for them to build social skills and feel a sense of connection again.
- People living with developmental disabilities can benefit from the therapy as well do if they do not have the language or ability to discuss their emotions.
Murray and Dawson have both worked with a variety of different patients of all ages, mental, physical and cognitive backgrounds. Both said they wanted to offer their services to whoever they can and make their business as client focused as possible.
“There is such a demand for resources here. Yes, there are therapist and psychologists, but they are so overworked now, and their waiting lists are so long,” said Murray.
“We are just excited to open this new centre and offer our support.”
Murray said her work will focus on a holistic approach to therapy, where Dawson will work primarily with individuals.
Dawson will use a variety of different therapeutic approaches and interventions, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and solutions-focused therapy (SFT).
Both therapies focus on positive and improved coping skills for clients who are dealing with mental health issues.
Murray said art therapy is an expressive and self-reflective process – for all age groups – that involves psychodynamic theory and developmental psychology mixed with a creative aspect.
She said art therapy can provide children, adolescents and adults the opportunity for emotional healing and personal growth and promotion of positive mental health in areas of schools, hospitals, senior homes and businesses.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about art therapy is that you have to be an artist to partake in it,” she said.
“The only thing required is for people to be open to the art process and open to experimenting with the art materials. Art therapy focuses more on the creative process of the art rather than the final outcome or how it looks.”
One of Murray’s biggest goals is to get into the public school system on P.E.I.
When asked what the name ‘Beyond the Bridge’ meant and where if came from, both said it was a collaborative idea.
“We wanted to have a connection to the Island,” said Murray. “The symbolism of a bridge in therapy is massive and we wanted to show we are client-led and we will work together with clients to tackle any kind of path or bridge.”
“It has so much meaning for us,” said Dawson. “We aren’t your tour guide, we are your travel partner and whether it is repairing a bridge, burning a bridge, building a bridge or crossing a bridge, we will be with you every step of the way.”
Beyond the Bridge Therapy Centre will have an open house on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Those interested in Beyond the Bridge Therapy Centre can find the centre on Facebook, call 902-436-3945 or visit beyondthebridge.ca