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Newcastle business focuses on artistic expression

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Making art a key part of the healing process just makes sense for therapist Deborah Toohey. “I’ve been an artist and creative since I can remember,” she said. “As a kid, from day one, I was always able to draw and paint and do creative things.” At imagePathways, her Newcastle business, Toohey uses creative process and EMDR — eye movement desensitization and reprocessing — in her therapy and art programs. “(EMDR), which is geared to adults, is looking at those things in life that keep us stuck and keep us from becoming who we want to become,” she said. “It’s taking a look at our self beliefs and finding out where they came from and unraveling those beliefs.” Toohey completed a three-year graduate program at JFK University in the Bay Area and has a master’s degree in transformation arts and holistic studies. She also ran a transformation art program for children during the 1980s. “I’m basically pulling together my years of experience into imagePathways,” she said. “It’s 35 to 40 years worth of things I’ve tapped into and dabbled at — art being the core of all of it.” She opened her therapy office two years ago and expanded to a second, larger creative arts space next door last October. “I have tons of art supplies, therapy space and even sand play for therapy,” she said. Her summer programs include a creative process camp for ages 8 to 17, where participants build a town out of boxes. The project teaches collaborative effort as well as promoting individual expression. “It’s their job to come together as a group and create the (town),” Toohey said. “They have to create as well as give and take, work together and communicate — all the things that in life we need to be able to do. They’re seeing things from another’s perspective and coming up with something that everyone is happy with and feels good about.” Her fall programs include Creative Tuesdays, which focus on building things using flowers or recycled materials. “Anything (recyclable), I put it into containers and the children use those supplies to create whatever they want to build,” she said. “It’s working with kids to use imagination and critical thinking skills as part of the creative process. It’s open-ended art. There’s no structure to it.” Children need to be old enough to use a glue gun, she said. There’s also a more structured afternoon art program for ages 6 to 12, tentatively planned for Wednesdays or Thursdays. “Kids come in and we give them different media to use,” she said. “We might be doing print making or drawing. We introduce them to different kinds of artistic modalities.” Another of her programs is “Little Hands, Big Hands.” That’s for children ages 4 to 6 who don’t know how to use a glue gun. The child and a parent or caregiver build things together. The classes cost $15 per session or $50 for four sessions. The art sessions provide children a great way to communicate, Toohey said. “When you are using image, you go beyond words,” she said. “So children are able to express themselves in a way without using words. … They are using critical thinking skills. When they are in the creative process, they’re picking and choosing from a huge array of things they can build with a glue gun.” Newcastle resident Annie Walsh’s daughter attended the summer camp program as well as the weekly art classes. “It is special for my daughter because she loves to create,” Walsh said. “…She loved having the guided camps, but there are other times when it is open and she can go in and create things with the recycled items and it is a wonderful outlet for her. She is such a creative person. We are getting quite a collection of animals made from recycled materials. We have chickens, a frog, a horse and a cat and we have lots of little chicks she made with cupcake tins... .” Newcastle resident Christine Wunder’s two daughters have attended sessions, too. “They absolutely love it,” she said. “For them, it is just to have the ability to have access to so many different objects and be really self-inspired and not directed so much of their day. … To be able to go into a setting that is quiet and introspective and create a physical presentation of what they are feeling at that moment has just been great.” During the mornings, Toohey offers several home-school art enrichment programs. The fall schedule also includes classes on holidays and camps during the longer school holidays. On the counseling side, Toohey offers one-on-one sessions for children and adults. “With the stresses of life, it’s beyond a talk therapy,” she said. “We do talk about issues but use art and creative process. It is similar to art therapy but uses image and art as a way of expressions.” ----------- imagePathways Where:?461 Main St., Newcastle Phone: (916) 652-7709 On the Web: imagepathways.com Facebook.com/imagepathways