Aditi Kaul is a psychologist and a Grade 5 certified creative movement therapist affiliated to the Canadian International Institute of Art Therapy. She has been heading the expressive arts-based therapy wing of the department of mental health and behavioural sciences across the country for Fortis Healthcare for 7 years which includes working with persons diagnosed with Trauma, anxiety, depressive disorders, disorders of childhood, adolescents as well as stresses of day to day life using psychotherapeutic techniques including visual art, movement, writing and story-telling.
Aditi has co-authored 2 books titled Life Skills for Children and Life Skills for adolescents published by MacMillan.
Let's get to her and her amazing work.
Q. What is art for you?
A. Arts for me is an extension of the language, a way to communicate through images, symbols, metaphor, movement and sound the depth of what we feel while also being innately healing. The arts for me have always been grounding and safe, but also a space that can both challenge me and allow for insight and growth. The arts still remain for me one of the most real forms of magic.
Q. How will you explain your work life?
A. My work as an art therapist and psychologist is extremely personal. I started this journey not just being intrigued by the subject of psychology but also understanding first-hand trauma and the role that therapeutic intervention can play in healing. My work with Fortis healthcare focuses on working with clients that struggle with mental health issues or that are diagnosed with a mental illness. Additionally, as part of the Art Based Therapy Program, we also conduct interactive talks and workshops for students, teachers and parents, designed to address concerns around the child and adolescent mental health. These workshops are geared towards enabling positive parenting, effective teaching, creative and divergent thinking and providing stronger coping skills to children and adolescents. Key initiatives include peer mentoring based life skills modules and self-sustaining art based anti-bullying campaigns.
Q. What is your interpretation of joy in life?
A. I see joy as the outcome of pushing through struggles, working past challenges. I see joy as creativity, family and friends that support us and give us strength (both given and chosen). I see the joy in the balance of work and rest, the thrill of adventure and the miracle of nature. I see the joy in learning to find joy even in chaos, because can one really exist without the other?
Q.Throw some light on optimal anxiety?
A. There is no optimal anxiety, but there is Eustress or an optimal amount of stress that allows us to be motivated, pushes us to perform and sustain a task yet to not be overwhelmed.
Q. According to you, how important is mental health?
A. To me, the question Is like asking how important is our physical health i.e. integral to our living and well-being. They are one and the same. Our mental health allows us to retain our emotion, motivation, cognition, our will to action and is essentially the balance is what makes us live a life in a functional healthy way.
Q. How is therapy chosen for or by the people?
A. Ideally one reaches out for professional help when the struggle one is confronted by becomes intrusive on more days than not across a period of time which varies across illness as given by the DSM V TR, and also when we feel that it is seeping into our everyday life from work/school, interests, interpersonal relationships and leisure. However, one can also choose to access mental health professionals when we need support with a day to day stressor or struggle that requires support.
Q. What can books do for you?
A. Books have always been a road to the imagination, a space to explore stories, journeys and fantasies beyond the boundaries of our homes both real and fictional. Books also allow us to experience a range of emotions, project our own, process struggles, and experience joy, grief, victory through narratives. Story writing is often used in the arts as a therapeutic intervention as well.
Q. What is the first step one should take if life feels hollow?
A. Even though it might seem extremely tough, the goal is to try and not focus on what is not in our control but instead focus on what we can control to change or move through the feeling of emptiness. Reaching out for support from family, friends or professionals, engaging perhaps in new creative spaces if one has lost interest in other activities often allows individuals to heal.
Q. How do you guide school kids to fight stress??
A. To identify the stressor, also identify individual strengths and to recognize that both can exist. To also recognize the range of emotions and experiences they have and that they will continue to have and that one exam or moment is not a make or break. Peer support can become an important aspect of working through stress as well as creating space for balance, including some form of exercise, leisure and joy, along with studies, keeping time for themselves and their interpersonal relationships as well.
Q. How can we as individuals help people in depression?
A. As families, friends’ people can help destigmatize mental illness and support our loved ones when they struggle. To not negate their feelings or normalize them saying “everything will be ok” or “be strong” instead of valuing their struggle and asking them what support they need.
Q. How important is - success, inspiration, aspiration for you?
A. I don’t like the word success because I feel it gets misinterpreted often and makes people put undue pressure on themselves. Inspiration is extremely integral to me and my journey as a person and professional and I constantly strive to support the battle for mental health and wellbeing through all the work I do, and that constant trying and unrelenting passion for my field is my success.
Q. Being a mental health professional yourself, how do you manage to take care of your own mental health?
A. I ask for help when I need it, from supervisors and peers in the field when it's professional, from friends and family when it's personal. I constantly focus on striving to practice what I preach and hope to find a balance that helps me support my mental health. But the key for me has always been that I have always found the strength to ask for help when I need it and not been afraid to do that, whether it's from people around me, or from my art.
Q. One message that you'd like to give to the youth of the nation.
A. Understand that struggle and strength go hand in hand and that life will have hurdles that seem almost impossible to move past sometimes. But if we reach both inward and outward and recognize both the strength we have and the strength we can get from the support we can move past it to find so much positivity, growth, and magic. And yet the cycle continues with more challenges along our path but that is also what builds the moments and spaces of happiness, adventure, wellbeing and my favourite word, a little bit of “magic”.