About Fiona Fitzpatrick, Sydney Art Therapist and Cancer Counsellor

I grew up on a farm.

My childhood was filled with adventures, animals and creative projects.  Like roaming paddocks collecting mushrooms, making daisy chains for the dog to wear and baking cakes.  I really liked making things.

My earliest memory is of my 3 year old self standing outside in front of an easel at Kindy.  Under the trees, brush in hand, making repetitive circular shapes with watery paint.  I still remember the dripping colours, the dappled light on the paper and the smell of the paint.  In a state of reverie and focussed attention, I didn’t notice the other children going inside for morning tea. Until it started to rain!

This is my first, most vivid experience of the power of creativity to induce a state of flow: relaxation, complete absorption in the process and being present in the moment. 

Through adolescence and into adulthood, I have continued to use creative processes in my own life as a way to pause, clarify thoughts and feelings and enjoy the life-affirming pleasure of creative activity.  From my own experience I also know the significant healing that creativity can offer through periods of grief, transition and change.

Art is my way of knowing who I am.

At times, getting on with life after a cancer diagnosis and treatment isn’t always easy.  There are fears, worries and doubts.  Yet, there are also moments of truth and beauty. The challenge is being present to the rich fabric of your life, as it is now and how you’d like it to be.  For me, helping people engage in creative processes as a means of imagining their life beyond cancer, is immensely satisfying.

Finding my path

I always knew I wanted to work with people in some kind of helping or teaching role. Making a difference in the world is important to me.

I attended University and gained a Bachelor of Education, majoring in special needs.  Throughout a number of schools and adult rehabilitation settings, the issues which most engaged me were the emotional challenges that affected the learning and well-being of students.

It was during a period of teaching in London that I came across the field of art therapy.  It was a life-changing moment.  I knew immediately that accompanying people through difficult times with counselling skills and helpful creative processes was exactly what I wanted to do.  It was time to find out more.

Becoming an art therapist and counsellor

In 1998 I gained a Master of Arts in Art Therapy from Edith Cowan University.  This program entailed significant coursework (including counselling skills), a thesis and over 750 clinical placement hours.  After a few years working in various oncology settings, I also began to see the significant impact that cancer had on the whole family.  It became clear that partners and children could also benefit from receiving support that met their unique needs.  In 2007 I completed a Graduate Diploma in Family Therapy with Relationships Australia.

My interest in working with cancer survivors came about through an invitation from an Orthopaedic Surgeon to develop a group art therapy program for post-treatment cancer patients.  It was during this two year period that I worked with men and women with a variety of cancers and treatment experiences.  I gathered data that measured people’s levels of depression, anxiety and stress pre and post art therapy program.  The results were significant.  I realised that I had a passion for helping people use creative and therapeutic processes to feel better. 

To support my growth and development as a counsellor and art therapist I receive regular clinical supervision to enhance the quality of my work.  I also attend professional development and training opportunities to further my skills and knowledge.  For over a decade I have provided individual, family and group art therapy to people in Sydney affected by cancer.

Qualifications

  • Master of Arts (Art Therapy)
  • Graduate Diploma of Family Therapy
  • Bachelor of Education
  • 3 year Diploma of Teaching

ANZATA: Australia New Zealand Art Therapy AssociationProfessional Membership

  • ANZATA : Australian and New Zealand Art Therapy Association.  Registered Professional Member  No. P2000N-093

Continuing Professional Development

  • Engaging in Effective Grief & Bereavement Support, Australian Centre for Grief & Bereavement
  • Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Brief Therapy Institute
  • Improving the Effectiveness of Your Clinical Work, Scott Miller, USA
  • Introduction to Gestalt Therapy, Gestalt Therapy Australia
  • ArtsHealth Conference presenter, Newcastle
  • Child Protection, The Children’s Hospital, Westmead

Publications

Media 

Community Newspapers

  • The Leader: Art Now a Form of Therapy  (Feb, 2008)
  • Northern District Times: Artist’s Pictures of Survival  (Aug, 2010)

What if you could find a way to discover a sense of hope and possibility for your life beyond cancer? 

If you’re ready to take the first step, please contact me on 0416 199 804 for your FREE 15-minute phone consult to hear about how I can assist you.