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I transform lives using art and play, mental health expert says

Achieving Woman
 I transform lives using art and play (Photo: Mercy Masiga)

Mercy Amuguni Masiga, a trained mental health expert, has gained fame and a dedicated clientele due to her unique approach to addressing individuals with mental health challenges.

Unlike traditional mental health professionals, her sessions involve engaging clients in various art and play activities, resulting in improved health outcomes for her clients.

Her motivation to promote mental health and overall well-being is rooted in her love for people, nature, crafts, and all things beautiful.

"In the pursuit of a world where mental wholeness and wellness are celebrated, the path of empathy and kindness holds immense power and insight," she says.

According to her, it is her distinctive method of involving clients in addressing mental health challenges that have consistently proven successful over the years. This is why, unlike other mental health professionals, she is consistently busy, working with a diverse range of clients.

Masiga's counselling sessions involve both therapeutic moments and patients engaging in activities such as drawing, painting, playing music, or participating in sports or play.

"Many of the patients find these activities a fulfilling experience that effectively relieves their tension and stress," she said.

Masiga added that over the years, art and play have proven to be extremely powerful in promoting wellness among those experiencing mental challenges.

Masiga's core business primarily focuses on children, although she also works with adults to some extent. Unlike other counselling psychologists who charge clients on an hourly basis, her fee is set at Sh3,000 per day.

On an average day, she handles over three clients, translating to Sh9,000 in revenue. 

The children she works with are brought to her by parents or guardians who have noticed bad behaviour. Some of these behaviours include being bullish, extreme naughtiness, stealing, and addiction, among others.

As for the adults, they may be facing underlying health conditions, emotional difficulties, grief, depression, addiction, or issues related to family instabilities.

She views art and play as a form of therapy that complements conventional health treatments. According to her, engaging in art and play activities is an effective way for patients to alleviate their anxiety and fears.

I inquire with my clients about their interests and preferences. If a client is interested in, for example, drawing, she finds a way to involve them in this activity.

The same approach applies to those with an interest in painting, music, or sports. Additionally, there is a session where participants engage in a common play game.

The primary challenge she currently faces in her line of work is the stigmatisation of her clients and her profession.

"For many Kenyans, someone facing mental health issues is considered abnormal," she says.

Masiga adds that the government should create more awareness among Kenyans about the importance of recognising the challenges faced by those with mental health issues and, more importantly, valuing and addressing their needs

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