Philippa Glossop with some of the artwork that was created by students with anxiety. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Philippa Glossop with some of the artwork that was created by students with anxiety. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Maple Ridge teacher uses art to help her students overcome anxiety

Philippa Glossop teaches glass fusing, painting, drawing, sculpture with clay, hand-built ceramics, hand building, textiles, collage and armature.

Philippa Glossop’s art school students always show up to class wanting to do well, usually with preconceived notions of what they are going to create.

It might be a portrait or a landscape with a sunset, a barn or a tree.

One student, who sits down at one of the long lines of tables in Glossop’s Maple Ridge home studio, begins to draw: a line.

However, the line is not right and the student, who is unable to move past this imperfection, becomes fixated on this fact. The student’s mood quickly turns dour, feeling inadequate. Self-esteem and motivation is lost.

Glossop often sees the anguish of a situation like this presented in a panic attack, where the student feels like their breathing is cut off, as they deal with feelings of fearfulness and no longer being able to cope.

And after 27 years as an art teacher, Glossop has noticed that she is seeing more and more students with these types of anxiety issues. Some have been diagnosed with the mental condition and others simply have anxiety at one level or another.

When she first started teaching art in Kamloops, she figures that maybe one in a class of 27 had some sort of anxiety issue. Now, she says, it’s more like three or four and sometimes even five children in a classroom that have an “unhealthy” level of anxiety.

“There’s a certain amount of stress in your life that is healthy. But these kids are experiencing something on the other side of that,” said Glossop.

So she started paying attention. She began by watching carefully for signs of what she calls “negative self-talk” – negative thoughts about themselves. She tries to pull them out of those thoughts right away.

Then she gives them tools – through art – to deal with those emotions.

Usually, she starts by asking them questions about what they are doing at the class and what is happening at that moment. Then she asks them what direction they see themselves going in, then assures them that she will help them get there.

One problem some of her students have is a notion that they can be a perfect painter without putting the hours in.

So, early in the class, they talk about not being good at things right away because they are learning and how to deal with their frustrations.

One tool that Glossop uses is turning a painting upside down.

“[Painting] a picture of a lion or an animal when your image is upside down, it’s not so much an animal anymore, you are just looking at shapes, you are looking at colour, you are looking at pattern, all the elements and principles of art and design, but in a way that it doesn’t stress you out,” she said.

Glossop stresses that she is not an art therapist, but instead uses her art as recreational therapy.

She has two undergraduate degrees from Queens University in Ontario, one in fine arts and the other in art history.

She completed her master’s degree in education at Thompson River University in 2014. Her thesis explored the relationship between self-compassion and creativity, called It’s Not Perfect, I Need To Start Again, a common refrain she hears from her students.

It surprises her that, as part of her thesis, she was working with children as young as five who had anxiety issues.

Over the years, she has found that children between eight and 12 years old have a tendency towards anxiety.

“I would say that I am a specialist with children with anxiety only because I’ve seen, over many years of teaching, I’ve seen this develop,” she said.

And she has become so good at helping them work through their issues that Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district brings her into classrooms.

Most of the children she works with put pressure on themselves to excel, for perfection, that she feels is often passed from parent to child.

But by learning how to cope with their anxiety through art, her students are transferring that knowledge and using the same tools she is teaching them to deal with other issues at school, such as taking tests.

“We talk about planning and we talk about how to approach things and what happens if you start to feel inside that you are starting to get worried that it’s not working the way you want,” said Glossop.

“What do we do, we step back, we look at it, we talk about it, we take a breath, we count to 10,” she added.

In Glossop’s classes, students can paint or draw what they feel.

Lessons might be about colour, or what makes a good brush or a technique or something based on art history. Then it is up to her students to interpret the lesson in their art.

Another tool she teaches her students is to ask them what advice they would give a friend who couldn’t work through a problem. Because, she said, most people are harder on themselves than others, that they lack self-compassion.

“Think about what you would tell a friend and then tell it to yourself.”



mailto:cflanagan@mapleridgenews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Road work is underway in Penticton so traffic controllers are asking drivers to be aware. (Submitted)
Message to Penticton drivers: Slow down and pay attention in Cone Zones

Over the last 10 years in B.C., 12 roadside workers died and 207 were injured

Meghan Thompson and her daughter Kennedy Lanteigne were awarded bravery awards on Saturday for helping to save the life of a baby drowning off a Naramata beach last June. (Submitted)
Penticton mom and daughter receive bravery awards for saving baby from drowning

Off duty Penticton fire captain also awarded for saving the boy’s life last summer in Naramata

princess margaret
Penticton high school has COVID-19 exposure days

Princess Margaret Secondary had potential days of exposure May 10-12

Brandon Messier of Messier’s Concrete and Landscaping has added some unique, glowing features to his front yard at 28 Huth Ave. (Submitted)
PHOTOS: Glowing boulders popping up in Penticton yards

Local landscaper Brandon Messier also brought the Lost statue to its new home

There is nothing left of a structure that burned down in rural Summerland Saturday night. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Nothing left at fire scene in Summerland

Summerland firefighters arrived when the structure was fully engulfed in flames

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Salmon Arm RCMP seize a handgun, drugs and cash at a Silver Creek property on Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Police seize handgun, drugs and cash at a Shuswap property

Salmon Arm RCMP said warrant for Silver Creek revealed cannabis, possible cocaine, magic mushrooms

Vernon Search and Rescue, along with Shuswap members, rescued three kayakers near Lumby Sunday, May 16, 2021. (VSAR Instagram)
3 kayakers rescued in North Okanagan

Shuswap, Vernon search and rescue teams make swift-water rescue Sunday

Salmon Arm RCMP are seeking witnesses to a single-vehicle collision that occurred on Highway 1 on May 16, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP seek persons who transported injured driver, motorcycle to hospital

Motorcyclist involved in a single-vehicle collision on Highway 1

Pictured is a bear in Chilliwack in Sept. 17, 2008. (Jill Hayward/Contributed)
Residents urged to stay indoors as bear wanders Kelowna street

The BC Conservation Service has been notified of bear in Cameron Avenue area

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

A kite surfer gets some help out of the water from his wife and dog after the wind left his sails on Swan Lake Monday morning. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Downed parachuter on Swan Lake just a novice kite surfer

Emergency calls were downgraded after reports of a downed parachute changed

The first of the extended closures is wrapping up, with the Trans-Canada highway re-opening on weekends for travel. (Jack Stuemple photo)
Trans-Canada highway to open on weekends

The highway will be open starting on Friday for the long weekend

Rescue crews search for a missing diver in Okanagan Lake at Hot Sands Beach by the William R. Bennett Bridge on Sunday, May 16. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Missing Okanagan Lake diver presumed drowned, recovery efforts continue

Boaters are asked to stay away from the area as crews continue the search

Most Read