Reflections on Our 2018 Conference by Ping Ho, Co-Chair

At our annual conference, we offer 150+ multidisciplinary, hands-on sessions to explore, laugh, and cry together in service of learning how to transform lives through creative expression—to heal others, as well as ourselves, in the process.

Last year, many close colleagues remarked on how amazing their time at the conference was. I believe that the totality of the experience—including the presence of expressive arts therapists and other mental health professionals with educators, artists, and community activists—sparked a collective understanding of the meaning and power of this field, and its potential for social good.

In the opening event, keynote speaker Dr. Dan Siegel, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, noted that in “lighting one another’s candles,” we free ourselves from the constraints of competition, enabling our highest expression of self. Shared creative experiences provide an effective way to do this.

In the closing event, the Urban Voices Project choir, comprised of current and former skid row residents, reminded us through original songs to take a moment to breathe, tend to our needs, and smile through it all. I sobbed throughout their performance, humbled by their inspiring message and moved by the realization that these singers manifested the reason for our work and our conference: making the healing power of the arts accessible to all.
Just as Dr. Siegel described the mind as being greater than the sum of its parts, I sensed a collective “aha” at this event that what we offer to humanity is far greater than the sum of our parts.

Back in “the world” the morning after our conference, I felt the same soul connection with everyone I encountered, as if they had been with me at the event. Something powerful had indeed shifted.