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Episode 9 – Belinda Ryan

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#SeriouslySocial The Podcast

with Simone Douglas and special guest Belinda Ryan of 


Our guest this episode is Bel Ryan from Ignite Art Therapies. She and Simone chat about how to put your health first, about business goals that go beyond the dollar, and the continuing stigma surrounding mental health.

Special guest: Bel Ryan

Hosted by Simone Douglas

Videography by Marie Carbone

Audio by Chris Irving

Music used in this episode is “Alte Herren” by KieLoKaz, used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence

This production is protected by a creative commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.

Chris Irving 0:00
Welcome to the Seriously Social podcast with your host, Simone Douglas. This episode, our guest is Bell Ryan from Ignite Art Therapies. She and Simone and chat about how to put your health first, about business goals that go beyond the dollar, and the continuing stigma surrounding mental health.

Simone Douglas 0:21
Hi. Okay, so today I’m joined on the red chairs by Bell Ryan from Ignite Art Therapies for your episode of today’s Seriously Social podcast. So Bell, maybe just give us the cliff notes version of who you are, what you’re about and how you ended up on red chairs today.

Belinda Ryan 0:38
So I’m an art therapist, so I work with people on some of their big life issues, or the goals and things that they want to establish in life. So I dislike counselling, but we use art as the tool to be able to verbalise things. So it’s really hard to describe some experiences where you might be lost and don’t really know what’s happening, s o I help people to navigate their life have a look at what’s happening for them and what they need to do with that.

Simone Douglas 1:03
What are some of the different modalities that you use in art therapy?

Belinda Ryan 1:07
It’s such a variety, and it really depends on what’s happening for the person as to what we use, so we might use clay or painting or drawing or it’s really the symbolic metaphor that comes out through the art that’s the important part. So not up to look good art to express.

Simone Douglas 1:23
Yeah, fantastic. I think all art should be to express but that might be something to do with the quality of my artwork. Do you find that therapy has a place in a corporate environment or in a team environment when you try to uncover something excavate something for the team?.

Belinda Ryan 1:40
Yeah, definitely. So I go into organisations and do wellness workshops, as well as team building processes, so it really is about people having a hands on experience and reflecting on what’s happening for them. But also, how does that work with the team and everything that’s happening there as well. So yeah, I love going into organisations and really helping people to have a different way to find new perspectives and looking at what do I do with all of this? And how am I and how am I really? Yeah, and what where do we go with this?

Simone Douglas 2:12
Do you think that we’re getting to a point where there are more robust conversations in the business world or the employment environment around, you know, mental health in general and, you know, issues that are facing people, or is it still completely stigmatised, and you know, people are shut behind?

Belinda Ryan 2:33
I’d like to think that we’ve come a long way, but I know that it’s something that we still got a lot of work to do. So there is, and I think, as business owners, people were recognising that if you look after your staff, it’s a happier culture, there’s more productivity, people want to be there. But there’s so many barriers that can get in the way, and that’s not just what happens at work, it’s what’s happening in life as well. And one thing that I’m really passionate about is for people to recognise that life does happen and that’s not always the sunshine and rainbows and happiness. Look, we really trying to strive for this thing called happiness. But I don’t know whether we actually ever get there – well definitely not 24/7, and the thing is that we need to balance that out with the whole aspect of the things that may not be going so well, the things that we feeling, our behaviours, that might not always be the way that we want to behave. What’s behind that? And what do we do with that?

Simone Douglas 3:34
Well, and I think, too, it’s about certainly as an employer, and having you know, lots of very different teams, it’s the conversation that I have with them is I know that you didn’t wake up today and go, you know what, I’m gonna come to work and do a shit job. Yeah. And I’m gonna, like, mess up, and I’m not gonna follow through on something or I’m going to be rude to the other member of the team. Generally speaking, if you know that those are like, ab-reactions, or unnormal. The first question that I like to ask is, are you okay? Yeah, you know, you don’t seem yourself, or you seem like you’re under stress, or you’re struggling, you know, and I’m a bit loopy. So you know, like, I might go and like, wire them up to some kind of a meditation app or something like that, that helps them calm down while they’re at work, but I think having as the business owner normalising the fact that actually you’re allowed to not be okay. Your allowed to have a bad day? You can’t leave there, but you can have a bad day.

Belinda Ryan 4:30
Yeah. And I think the thing that you’re talking about is actually noticing because there are signs. And so often people are so afraid to have that conversation and to recognise that. But the thing is, if we do it early, it means that people were actually able to work through it. You know, doing a bit more of that preventative stuff, and that awareness and acknowledgement of what is actually happening, and then what do we do with that? So something like meditation or even I just, you know, feel under the pump at home, and I need a day off, or all of those sorts of things are really, really important for people’s well being.

Simone Douglas 5:07
Do you think that we’re going to get to a point where that old school business owner or manager, you know, is a thing of the past in terms of, you know, we’ve seen with COVID, for example, that when people are sick now it’s like, don’t come to work, or you’ve got the sniffles, you stay home, whereas back in the day, when I was in hospitality, I would come into work practically diying with razor blades your throat and God knows what else, and so we’re seeing that shift away from that, and it’s, you know, sometimes a challenge for the staff, because you know I would rather have the pay you to go home. But you know, that thing about you more than just a number? Are we gonna get to a point where the bulk of business owners sit on this side here, where you’re human beings first. And and then, by treating people like human beings, we’re more successful, as opposed to I think we still have a large segment of the current model, which is, you’re a number and a productive output, and your job is to make me money.

Belinda Ryan 6:10
Yeah, yeah, I really hope that we’re making that shift and and I know, you know, people like you who are making an effort and really having that awareness. But I think that it really is about trying to shift that paradigm of we have to be productive because the irony is, if you look after your staff, and you have a great culture, and people are being acknowledged and looked after, then they’re going to be more productive as a consequence. So rather than feeling this pressure to you know, I do some supervision with organisations and something that I’m quite often hear from the employees is that we feel like we have billable hours, you know that the pressure is, you know, have this Have I made enough money for the organisation? Where if we shift that to, am I doing a good job? Am I, you know, feeling passionate about what I do, then the billable hours will look after themselves? So it’s, it’s trying to sort of find that balance, because obviously, as a business owner, money …

Simone Douglas 7:16
We still needs to pay our bills.

Belinda Ryan 7:17
You still need to pay the bills and, and have everything flow, but I think the recognition that people’s well being is is important in that, is really shifting.

Simone Douglas 7:27
Yeah, I think so too. And I think one of the things that I’ve had, so Patrick Lencioni is one of my favourite business authors and so he talks about the Five Dysfunctions of the Team, and one of the dysfunctions is not having a common goal. Like it’s right up the top. But you know, most businesses, their common goal is I’d like to turn over $1.5 million, or control your labour percentage to this, or, you know, this, that the other the common goals in all of my businesses are the story of how we engage with the client. So you know, like, when I look at the pub, and we just did this workshop on Monday with the team, I’m like, so who are we really, and what what is our common goal? Our common goal is, you know, here at the Duke of Brunswick, the outside world doesn’t matter here, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re a staff member or customer, the minute that you walk through those doors, all of the judgments, all of the things about whether or not you know, you’re good enough, okay, acceptable, you know, a pain in the ass, whatever it might be, they all have to disappear. And that’s the environment that we try to create. And I said to the guys, you know, that’s a goal, we can all helh check ourselves against, you know, we all can contribute to and if every single one of us is making sure that stepping into this venue is like stepping into your lounge room only better, then the money thing just will happen, and it does the money things just happens.

Belinda Ryan 8:52
And I think it comes down to that human connection. You know, a pub, for instance, is such a community, and that important thing of people feeling part of something and, and connecting, it’s not just about coming for a meal, it’s so much more than that. It’s the the feel, and the way your treated and everything that happens with that and to not have judgement you know it’s a bit like a therapy session. That thing of I feel safe here, and part of something is really important for people when that happens in workplaces. It happens in home situations, it works so across every part of life.

Simone Douglas 9:31
Yeah, and I think it’s, you know, and, you know, having had my own counselling practice for a while, you know, the biggest challenge I found for most of my clients, and even for myself, as I continue to grow up, I say, I’m still not grown up are still working out my stuff is, you know, once you get to a point that fundamentally who you are as a person is okay, and you actually know that and believe it … I think that’s the experience that you try to create for your team in making the most for things so what would you say to someone that’s like listening to us you know, talk about all these wonderful environments and things that are happening, and they go, my workplace has shit, and my life is difficult, you know, how did they help themselves to a degree because they cannot really only control their world in their reality? What would you suggest to them?

Belinda Ryan 10:18
I think one of the things that’s really important is self awareness. To go, okay. I’m in the situation where I might be reacting to things, I’m not liking life, my relationship isn’t feeling fulfilling. Whatever is happening in life is to actually go, what’s happening for me in this? Because you’re right, you can’t always change other people’s behaviour, and you know, there’s the cliche of, you can only change how you behave in responses, but the important thing, I think, is for people to recognise that all of the things that have happened in their life, or the programming or the messages we’ve been, we’ve taken on, really play out in our behaviour and our reactions. And I think it’s really important, rather than just going ah, don’t worry about that not I should think positive, and it should be all great is to actually go, I need to work through this and understand it, so then, next time, I have a boss who likes to tell me what to do, and I react to that, when I understand where that comes from, for myself, I can then react in a different way. It’s not just as simple as flicking a switch and going, I’m not gonna react.

Simone Douglas 11:25
No that would be nice

Belinda Ryan 11:27
Yeah, and we project everywhere, you know, our behaviour is a response to something that we believe about ourselves or the world. And one of the things that’s really tricky in our society at the moment, is we have this perfectionism sort of thing going on, which can be really detrimental to people beacuse they feel less than because life isn’t perfect, but our life isn’t the highlight reel like life is life. So I think one of the things that I can’t stress enough is to go and see somebody obviously, an art therapist would be not to be biased, but that thing of going, not allowing it to get to a point where you crash and burn. A lot of people come to me when it’s, it’s in dire straits, and, you know, relationships about to break down, they are completely burnt out and have no choice but to stop, so wouldn’t it be great if when the signs start coming is to go, Okay, I’m just gonna go and see Bell was somebody else and have a tune up, you know?

Simone Douglas 12:28
Absolutely, and I think part of that, is that not enough of us that have done work and had therapy talk about it because often people go to me, I you know, you’re so amazing and nothing fazes you, you know, the world can be blowing up around you, and you just kind of like go, oh well, what’s next? You’re like, yeah, that’s what five years of intensive therapy does, and they’re like, What do you mean, five years? I’m like, well yes, I saw someone every week for five years to process all of my crap and work it out.

Belinda Ryan 12:56
And it doesn’t mean that it’s all processed either.

Simone Douglas 12:58

Belinda Ryan 12:58
It’s an ongoing process like life throwing things at you, okay I think I might need to go back.

Simone Douglas 13:05
Yeah, well, and shoot, like you said, but then you get to a point, where have a really good toolkit, and then you can go for semi regular tune up, so maybe once every three months, Okay, you know what, you know, in this month, I’m gonna go and investigate what art therapy has to offer me because I haven’t tried that before, or this this month, I’m gonna go and you know, do something with someone that does acceptance and commitment therapy, because I haven’t looked at that. There’s so many different modalities out there, but I think the first thing that I had to commit to was, my life’s not working for me, like, that’s what happened, you know, like, forever ago, when I started this journey of, you know, five years of work. It’s not working for me, I’m unhappy, I’m angry all the time, you know, or sad or distraught? Or, you know, like, all of those peaks and troughs that people go through? Surely there’s a better way, and having someone to talk to that wasn’t part of my family was really, really good.

Belinda Ryan 13:58
Yeah, and that’s what’s really important about it. And I, I hear lots of people talk about I’ve just got my friends who I can talk about. They still have a bit of a bias and want to protect you where there’s nothing like sitting in a neutral space where you can actually work it out and type the mask off fully. You know, you would be amazed at the people who come into my rooms who seemingly have it all together, you look at their life and you think that’s the dream, you know down to the white picket fence, but their lost and not happy because they haven’t processed all of the stuff that they need to process or a big life event has happened. Things change, but we have so many transitions in life that are really important to process and, and navigate.

Simone Douglas 14:43
Yeah, when you look, that’s a really nice spot to end on I think because if you look at the current business environment with COVID-19, so many shutdowns, so many businesses got sent, you know, close to the wall or sent to the wall, and by proxy, then all of their staff members so that trickle down effect, you know, everyone’s under an immense amount of stress, some people navigating it better than others that’s a great example of you might have had it all together yesterday, and today, someone else pulled the rug out from under your feet, and you don’t know where you’re gonna land.

Belinda Ryan 15:14
Yeah, and completely out of your control like nobody chose this and I don’t know whether anyone would, but one of the great things that has come from it has been a real perspective on what is what do I want? How does this work and that reset, but also it’s been a communal experience. But everyone’s been affected by this, and I remember when we first had the lockdown, you know, that shared experience of walking down the street, we have to make sure we’re apart. There was that sense of community because everyone was in it. It’s better, I know that’s a bit different now. But …

Simone Douglas 15:50
But I think too it’s still that thing of as a business owner to talking to other business owners. You know, it really crystallised for us that we we don’t often communicate what’s happening behind the scenes because our job is like, we have a successful business, this is where we’re going, isn’t this amazing? You know, so you literally, you know, and in South Australia, small businesses is biggest employer, so you think of, you know, all of those poor business owners, yes, the staff went through a horrible period as well, but those business owners had to stand down, you know, 20 staff 10 staff

Belinda Ryan 16:23
And the trauma of that …

Simone Douglas 16:24
Yeah, exactly and those people are like their family.

Belinda Ryan 16:27
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I think it’s that, that thing of looking after us, and the way that we do that, is not only to connect with each other, but to have a space where you can explore what’s happening for you, and it’s actually okay not to be okay. And I know, Are You OK day iand mental health week is coming up, but it is that real sense of, if you’re not feeling like you would like to feel, what do you do with that? I think the answer is to go and see someone, there’s no shame in that. And then in actual fact, unless you do that, it’s gonna keep coming back, and it comes out in other behaviours. So.

Simone Douglas 17:04
So yeah, I think … yeah, take taking you know, that it’s okay to not be okay to that next level going, ‘It’s okay to go and speak to a professional that’s qualified to help you unpack what’s happening for you in the absence of anybody else’s agenda,’ and that’s really what therapy is about isn’t it?

Belinda Ryan 17:23
Yeah, definitely, and I think one of the things that I get a little bit upset and frustrated with these people might go and see one person and they didn’t gel, and that sets off well I’m not cut out for therapy, it’s not gonna work and all that it’s a bit like, putting clothes on some will fit and some won’t. You know, I know, I’m not for everybody, but there’s other people who I am for and it’s really important to feel safe in that environment and connected to whoever’s holding the space with you. And so I think that’s one of my messages is, if you’ve had a bad experience, don’t let that hold you back from seeking the right person.

Simone Douglas 17:57
Yeah, yeah, that would make sense because my first experience was awful.

Belinda Ryan 18:01
yeah, me too.

Simone Douglas 18:03
I had this lovely therapist, who shall remain nameless, who got me to do anger work in the first session when I was pretty much homicidal at that point. But yeah, so it’s about you know, take some recommendations, but then go find, persevere, and like you said, eventually, you’ll find the right person that can help you unpack what you need to unpack.

Belinda Ryan 18:23
Yeah. And there’s so many modalities, as you say, and the art therapies is just one of them that works in lots of different ways.

Simone Douglas 18:29
And then my other piece of advice would be when it gets really uncomfortable, that’s when you need to keep going, so you’ve started ripping off the band aid don’t stop because it’s so uncomfortable. You know, saying to someone, I was really lucky, one of the people that I worked with, I had that kind of, you know, understanding relationship with it if I missed two appointments, they would ring me and offer to come do the chicken dance. And so, you know, it was one of those things, you know, you sometimes we’re talking to the therapist counsellor, I’m like, No, I gave him permission to hold me accountable because I knew I was gonna run away on a regular basis. Yeah, and so that was our code word I wiuld be there like, ‘Yes, I’ll be there next week’.

Belinda Ryan 19:06
And the uncomfortable should be uncomfortable sometimes, you know, some of the things that people are dealing with … it’s, it’s actually a totally normal response to what you’re processing and what you’re going through, as well. But yeah, it. Yeah. It’s interesting to have the right gel and, and to process it and know that sometimes it’s gonna be hard, but it’s worth it.

Simone Douglas 19:29
Absolutely. Yeah. I wouldn’t have ended up where I am if I hadn’t done it.

Belinda Ryan 19:32
Yeah, I remember the one therapist that I had used to congratulate me every time I would come with something. It was really like, ‘Oh, I think I’m in the dark depths of my soul’ and what that looks like is congratulations. And now that I look at it, I think, yeah, that takes guts and courage to do that, but yeah, it’s let’s celebrate working through stuff rather than avoiding it and making it something that’s shameful.

Simone Douglas 19:57
On that note, Bell, thanks very much for joining me on the red chairs. If you want to learn more about though you can find her by googling Ignite Art Therapists or Marie or someone will put all the links where they need to go.

Chris Irving 20:10
Thank you for listening to the Seriously Social podcast. See our website for more details at Check the show notes for credits, music used in the program and more details about our guests.



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