Small Doses, Big Difference: How a young Philadelphia Artist creatively addresses mental and health wellnessOct 30, 2021 03:00PM ● By Syreeta Martin
Isis Kirton, 25, in her Philadelphia home and creative space. Photo by Tezarah Wilkins for Love Now Media
“A small dose of healing can lead to an ease of pain, even if just for a moment.” – Jason Stuckey
For folks who are navigating a global pandemic and life, the hour-long therapeutic art session run by 25 year-old Isis Kirton via Zoom provides just that: a moment of ease. Isis, a Delaware College of Art & Design graduate and co-founder of KLIK photography collective, has used the power of art to tell the stories of Black people, and Black women specifically, for years. But as she sat in church one day, reflecting on her own mental and spiritual pains (such as experiencing assault at a young age in a church community), Isis came to the realization that she was not broken and neither were others like her.
In that moment, the seed of a different way to use her artistry was planted.
“I believe that I am called to create space for them–for us,” she says. “I may not have always felt love in the community, but as a Christian I am called to Love Now in whatever position I am in.”
In February 2020, Isis started Small Doses of Healing, which she describes as an art therapy-based workshop. For a month she held weekly sessions in person, until COVID-19 hit and the U.S. quarantined. After restructuring the program, Small Doses of Healing relaunched 6 months later in September 2020. Isis now virtually guides participants through structured sessions that provide mental health and wellness resources, art-therapy techniques, and group discussions.
Pandemic aside, she’s faced considerable challenges along the way, mainly backlash from members in the church community. Their criticisms have varied. There were those who simply didn’t understand the program while others were skeptical of such work given her younger age. One person thought it foolish to name the workshop “Small” Doses of Healing “because in the church we want to take God and his blessings in big portions.” And then there were those who questioned her qualifications.
“It is understandable, because I am not a licensed therapist–which is why I make it clear in the program that I am not licensed and I highly recommend a licensed therapist for a specific goal plan and diagnosis, if needed,” she says. “I have a good friend who is a licensed clinical therapist as well, and she has been such a great help to me as well by providing resources and insight.”
Thanks to a skilled supportive friend, along with research, and insight from current art therapists, Isis has created a program unlike anything she’s ever personally experienced and others had yet to. Folks like Jason Stuckey, 26, who had never participated in any kind of art therapy prior to the program.
At the pandemic’s onset, Jason was going through a break-up and already navigating anxiety and depression. He found mental health resources to be scarce, an issue that has been documented through studies and reports. In October 2020 the World Health Organization reported that, “prior to the pandemic, countries were spending less than 2 percent of their national health budgets on mental health, and struggling to meet their populations’ needs.”
In Small Doses of Healing, Jason saw an opportunity to not only provide moral support to a friend but to possibly receive some support needed for his own well being. He’s found the sessions to be helpful. Based on his experience, Jason says the goal is never to have the best piece of work. Instead, it is to focus on “trying to visualize the feelings you have and slowly work on how to explain your work in words,” for which Isis provides guided prompts.
“One of the weeks we did work on connecting with our inner child; I think it was one of the more impactful sessions because there’s a lot of trauma we face as children that’s hard to get resolved,” he explains. “To have the chance to talk about such a sensitive topic, that sometimes we might feel is extremely esoteric, is really a blessing.”
While the program started in the Christian community and, geographically, at her church, it’s not exclusive to those of Christian faith. Since its inception, Isis has seen more folks who are not of Christian faith attend the workshop than those who are.
“This pandemic has brought out a lot of harsh, ugly realities for so many of us, but one beautiful result is the conversation about mental health in churches,” she says. “There is still so much work to be done, but this is the start of something even more beautiful. With that being said, I feel honored to be a part of this movement.”
For her part in “the movement,” social media has directly contributed to the growth of the program despite its known toxicity for spreading the negative faster than the positive.
“Overall, I believe social media has done more harm historically than good, but the good is catching up to us,” she says. “We don’t have to give up yet.”
It’s that kind of hope and faith in not giving up yet, that inspired the program’s name.
“Just as taking medicine in small doses can heal your body over time, having this dialogue in conjunction with creativity can bring healing and change the course of your mental health as well,” she explains.
Jason’s thoughts on his experiences in Small Doses of Healing seem to reflect as much.
“…to me, being able to make a physical piece of art along with [the program experience] serves as a memento of what progress I have made or [am] willing to make,” he says.
It seems a piece of art has the power to become an act of self-love. Therapy, according to Isis, helps us to not only love ourselves more, but to also love the world around us by encouraging growth past pain. As an artist, she believes deeply that when one creates anything, they are taking small pieces of themselves and showing it to the world. These kinds of core beliefs have kept her motivated even in the face of criticism and amid her own journey of healing.
“Learning to persevere has been a good thing for me. Love isn’t always easy for us to give, but it’s necessary,” she says. “[So] I choose to Love Now because the world needs more space to be safe and vulnerable.”
Yes, a small dose of healing can lead to an ease of pain — if but for a moment, which can lead to another and another. And while the dose may be small, its impact can become big over time. They say God works in mysterious ways and the universe opens doors. Maybe this is what a big blessing and opening doors look like for a young woman who realized one day that she was not broken, and decided to help others do the same.
For more information on Small Doses of Healing, email Isis at [email protected] or follow @smalldosesofhealing on Instagram.
This story is originally published by Love Now Media, with permission to share on FunTimes Magazine.