Su Mei Tan, AThR: Enhancing Family Communication Through Art Therapy | All Together #41

In this episode, host Dina Sargeant is joined by Su Mei Tan, AThR, an Art Therapist with a background in architecture. She also co-founded a charity that provided building and design services to third-world countries

This podcast episode dives into the fascinating topic of using art therapy to improve family communication. It covers a range of aspects, including the benefits of art therapy for families, common challenges in family communication, specific art therapy techniques, and the approach of the guest, Su Mei, to guiding and facilitating the therapy process.

Meet Su Mei Tan, AThR

Su Mei Tan has a background in architecture. She pursued a Master’s degree in Art Therapy at La Trobe University in Melbourne and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts Honours of Social Practice and Community Engagement from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), Melbourne University. 

She co-founded a charity that provided building and design services to third-world countries and discovered her love for sharing art with children during that time.

Su Mei now has experience working as an Art Therapist in clinical settings such as Northpark Private Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She works with individuals who have various mental illnesses, intellectual and physical disabilities, and diverse abilities.

She is also a trained Yoga Alliance instructor, completing her RYT 500 training at Brahmani Yoga in India and receiving Yoga Therapy Training from the I AM Yoga, Amrit Yoga Institute.

About the episode

In this podcast episode, Su Mei Tan opens up about her personal journey and the motivations that drove her to study art therapy. She shares that she even moved countries specifically to pursue art therapy because she recognized how well it aligned with the skills she had developed through her own life experiences.

The podcast explores specific art therapy techniques that Su Mei employs to enhance family communication. One technique involves a family drawing exercise where a single sheet of paper is passed around the table, allowing each family member to contribute quick drawings. This exercise serves as an assessment of comfort levels with group collaboration and cooperation.

Furthermore, one effective approach is to create a non-hierarchical space. Art therapy provides a playful environment where family members can express themselves without feeling pressured to “fix” problems. This approach allows for open expression and fosters a sense of safety and acceptance within the family.

Additionally, another approach is to use art directives. Art exercises like the family drawing exercise or bilateral drawing technique can help promote understanding and cooperation among family members. These exercises encourage collaboration and communication, allowing family members to gain insights into each other’s perspectives.

During art therapy sessions, it’s crucial to observe without interpretation. When analyzing artwork created during art therapy, one must avoid making assumptions or interpreting the family dynamics solely based on the artwork. Instead, the focus should be on supporting the family’s self-expression and allowing them to explore their own narratives.

Lastly, practicing honest communication is vital within the family. Family members should be encouraged to communicate honestly while respecting others and avoiding disruptive behavior. It’s also important to learn to respectfully agree to disagree, allowing for healthy dialogue and exploring different perspectives.

Other effective approaches she mentions are:

  • Apologize and reduce polarity: Saying sorry, even partially if appropriate, can help reduce polarization and cultivate peaceful relationships within the family.
  • Accept individuality: Embrace individuality within the family and recognize that it may deviate from social or family norms. This allows for freedom and the ability to make informed choices.
  • Consider family art therapy: Family art therapy can address issues systemically, focusing on the family as a whole rather than just individual sessions.
  • Model healthy communication: Demonstrate the importance of apologizing and expressing emotions to children, as they can learn healthy communication skills from observing adults.
  • Seek art therapy resources: Families can seek out private sessions or explore organizations offering art therapy programs. Training in art therapy techniques may also be available.

In conclusion

This podcast episode emphasizes the benefits of art therapy for families struggling with communication issues. According to Su Mei, art therapy provides a relaxed, nonverbal approach to facilitating expression, understanding, and cooperation among family members.

Unlike traditional forms of communication, it allows individuals to release emotions and make discoveries without the pressure of artistic skill or problem-solving.

Be the first to see our next episode. Follow us on social media to stay updated:





You can also subscribe and listen to our podcasts on your preferred podcasting platforms:

Apple Podcasts



iHeart Radio




Google Podcasts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.