When I created the Bossy List I wanted it to be a directory for folks looking to support feminist/queer women-identified, gender queer, and trans folks. But I also wanted to get to know more about this boss babes and hear their stories. Each month I’ll be sharing a Q&A that I had with one of the bossy babes on the list. This month I got to hear from Or Har-Gil. I met Or through fellow Bossy List Barbara Erochina and instantly developed a pretty big friend crush. Or is an incredibly compassionate person and an amazing communicator — thank goodness she decided to become an art therapist! As someone who has been in therapy on and off for over 10 years, and who denies having any artist abilities, I was so excited to hear all about how Or has brought art and therapy together. Hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did!
Floral Manifesto: Tell me a bit about what led you to becoming an art therapist.
Or Har-Gil: I had always been drawn to working with people in a helping capacity, sometimes using art. As a teenager, I was the “art lady” at a summer camp for kids with developmental delays. Being an introvert, art has been an important outlet for me to express myself and make sense of what was going on in my world. When I heard about Art Therapy as a field of study, it all clicked.
FM: For folks who aren’t familiar, can you tell us a bit about what art therapy looks like?
OHG: Art Therapy uses the creative process to help people express their thoughts and feelings, gain a deeper understanding of themselves, and work towards growth and healing. The goal of the art isn’t to make something beautiful, it’s to explore and communicate how you’re feeling. A typical session usually includes a check-in, art making (either with a prompt or open-ended), and some kind of discussion about how the image and the process of making it relates to what’s going on in a person’s life. Some sessions look more like talk therapy, depending on what the client needs.
FM: In what ways do you feel like art helps facilitate therapy? What sorts of intersections exist between these two worlds?
OHG: There are so many parallels between the creative process and life. It can be messy, unpredictable, beautiful, terrifying, raw. How you navigate the creative process can be so informative: How did you approach the creative task? Did you dive right in or carefully plan? What kind of inner monologue were you having while you worked? Did you ask for help when you needed it or try to figure it out alone? How did you deal with an accident or spill? All of this is data. It’s about learning to use self-reflection and non-judgmental observation to learn more about yourself, how you approach the world, your skills, your values.
The art also serves as a tangible record of change over time. If I’ve worked with someone for a few months or a year and we look back on everything they’ve made, it can be a powerful reminder of where they’ve been and where they are today.
“The goal of the art isn’t to make something beautiful, it’s to explore and communicate how you’re feeling.”
FM: On your website you describe your approach as “collaborative, creative, and curious.” Can you say more about why those three words are so important to you?
OHG: I’ll elaborate on each word, but as a whole, this reflects my desire to engage people’s skills, experiences, and values when we work together – rather than just see them as someone who needs help (because we all do!) – and to stay transparent about the process, which includes frequent check-ins and feedback on what’s working and not working.
Collaborative – The most important part of therapy is the relationship. I see my role in the relationship as bringing experience in the process, and their role as bringing their experience inhabiting their unique body, mind, and life, with all the skills, resources, and tools they’ve learned along the way. While there is a power imbalance built into this kind of relationship, I try to minimize it as much as possible by staying transparent, getting feedback on the process, and asking them to share what’s worked or hasn’t worked for them in the past when it comes to the challenge we’re looking at.
Creative – Creativity is part of the process, and it’s also a mindset. It’s a way of looking at a problem or challenge from a new perspective. It involves following my intuition in a session and suggesting something that feels right in the moment. I’ll be open and maybe say “this may seem out of left field, but this got me thinking that…” and invite them to take it or leave it.
Curious – This is both an attitude I take towards my clients – not making assumptions about who they are or what they believe, even if that means asking a silly or ‘obvious’ question – and an attitude I ask clients to hold towards their current challenge. Rather than assuming we know what the outcome will be or why something is happening, inviting curiosity into the room can often lead to a fuller understanding or going down an unexpected and potentially fruitful direction.
FM: What are some of the benefits to going to an art therapist versus going to traditional therapy?
OHG: While the goals of art therapy are the same as traditional therapy, it’s a novel way of getting there. I tend to work with people who are very verbal, often high-achievers, where language can be a tool for talking about a problem in familiar ways, and kind of going in circles. Because art therapy introduces something different – the art / creative exercises – people can’t tell their story in the same way they have before. This challenges them to connect more to the emotion behind what’s going on and how they’re feeling about something in this moment, rather than lean on the stories they’ve told before.
“embracing our ‘perfectly imperfect’ side is a radical act of self-compassion and self-love in a society that teaches us to hide our flaws and hate ourselves for having them.”
FM: You describe yourself as a “recovering perfectionist.” How did your own experience being a perfectionist led you to creating your “Perfectly Imperfect” workshop?
OHG: I’ve been a perfectionist since I was a kid, and it’s something that I’ve seen as one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses. The desire to be seen as perfect meant that I didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable (aka human) with people unless I knew them really, really well. It extended to wanting everything I did to be flawless, which is an impossibly high standard that causes a lot of anxiety and kept me playing small and safe – only doing things I was already good at so I wouldn’t look silly, which means not trying new things, not taking risks, not putting myself out there.
As I worked on my perfectionism, in therapy and through my own creative outlets, I realized that there were a lot of parallels between accepting the messy, glorious fullness of my humanity (rather than the polished, perfect version) and the creative process, which includes spills, accidents, and lots of ambiguity. I think my own artmaking had been teaching me these lessons along the years, and it finally clicked one day when talking to a friend. I decided that there must be other people struggling with this and wanted to share some of the tools I had learned through this workshop.
FM: Tell me more about the urban retreat that you’ve been planning with Barbara Erochina. What led you two to create this retreat?
OHG: We created Permission Slip because it was the urban retreat we both wanted to go to. Barbara and I have been supporting each other in our businesses for almost a year and, over that time, have nudged each other to give ourselves permission to show up fully in our work and in our lives. We kept bumping up against these unspoken rules of how we ‘should’ be operating – we should always be hustling, we should take any client who wants to work with us even if our gut tells us it’s not a good fit, we should make time for self-care, but not too much time because that’s indulgent. These aren’t things we consciously agree with (quite the opposite), but these shoulds are programmed in and it takes conscious effort to live and work in a way that honours our intuition, our needs, and our desires.
The retreat is about helping women-identified folks dive into what they need to give themselves permission for – whether that’s to ask for what they need and want, to take up space, to treat themselves with compassion instead of criticism. We’ll be exploring this topic using Art Therapy, yoga, and coaching so we can really dig deep and start to feel what would be possible if we allowed ourselves to show up for ourselves fully, bravely, and honestly.
“Barbara and I have been supporting each other in our businesses for almost a year and, over that time, have nudged each other to give ourselves permission to show up fully in our work and in our lives”
FM: What role does feminism play in your work with clients? Have you encountered any conflicts between the work that you do and your feminist politics? Have you been able to overcome those challenges and if so, how?
OHG: I work mainly with driven women-identified people who want to play bigger at work and life, but get stuck in overthinking, self-criticism, and perfectionism. I encourage clients to think about the messages they internalized growing up and how those have contributed to their current challenge. For example, in Western societies, girls are often raised to be nice, to put others’ needs above their own, to be modest and not brag. As an adult, if you’re struggling with asking your boss for a raise, or to promote your work as an entrepreneur, those messages and ongoing discrimination make it harder to “lean in” and “put yourself out there.” So, helping clients understand that some of what they’re facing is way broader than their own individual abilities and limitations is an important part in moving forward. It also means that embracing our “perfectly imperfect” side is a radical act of self-compassion and self-love in a society that teaches us to hide our flaws and hate ourselves for having them.
One conflict I’ve encountered is how to appropriately value my work while making my services accessible to people who are marginalized and may not be able to afford it. I’m still figuring this out, but I’ve done things like offer a scholarship spot in my workshops for people who want to attend but can’t afford it, and offer a sliding scale for my one-on-one work.
An ongoing challenge is examining how my own privilege and assumptions influence the way I practice and staying open to learning and doing better. I do this by reading and listening to books / blogs / articles / podcasts by women of colour, queer folks, people with disabilities, and others with different experiences and perspectives, and by self-reflection and conversations.
FM: What does being a boss/bossy mean to you? How do you define being a boss?
OHG: To me, being a boss means creating things that are meaningful and sharing them with others. This sounds so simple, but it involves pushing my comfort zone constantly (and knowing when to honour my comfort zone and be gentle with myself). It involves feeling the discomfort and awkwardness of learning new things (like setting up a website, writing sales pages, accounting) and asking for help when I need it. It involves building a community of people who are doing bold, amazing things and supporting each other ruthlessly rather than competing.
FM: And because this is also a fashion blog, are there any outfits that make you feel in your bossy power? (Would love if you had a picture of yourself in one of these outfits that I could share on the blog).
OHG: There are a few elements that I pull together to feel powerful in an outfit. My red lipstick. My bronze necklace that feels like a shield (by local designer Emily Valentine). A flowy top. Leather boots. I think it’s the combination of edgy and soft that makes me feel powerful.
“[Being bossy] involves building a community of people who are doing bold, amazing things and supporting each other ruthlessly rather than competing.”art, art therapy, boss, bossy, business, community, therapy
This post was written by Margeaux