Meet Renee Bhatia a 2021 graduate of our Certificate Training Program.
We are excited to feature her as our monthly Alumni Spotlight!
We think you will be inspired
by the blend of skills and practices Renee brings to her work as a spiritual director and expressive arts facilitator.
Master of Divinity (MDiv)
BA in Psychology
Certificate in Spiritual Direction
Certificate in Intermodal Expressive Arts
Overland Park, KS
Renee Bhatia, MDiv, is a spiritual director and expressive arts facilitator with an interest in spirituality and creative expression. Through spiritual direction, retreats, and expressive arts facilitation, she creates space for participants to listen and discern the work of the divine spirit in their life
experiences, and to align their lives to their deepest values. Her work explores contemplative spaces and practices that support healing, growth, and transformation. She is also involved in the formation of spiritual directors and expressive arts facilitators through teaching, supervision, and mentoring.
Renee, what drew you to the field of Expressive Arts, or motivated you to get Expressive Arts
I was drawn to the field of expressive
arts as a way to understand myself. As a kid I danced. I dabbled in creative writing. In my 40s I took up art journaling, and more recently painting. I began drum lessons. I was curious (or more often judgmental) about this aspect of myself that wanted to do all of these diverse things and couldn’t really pick one. It came as a relief to find expressive arts and discover that the arts are naturally intermodal, and that my consistency was following the creative spirit.
The freedom and acceptance I experienced is something I wanted to share. I was motivated to get expressive arts training to learn how to offer that to others,
especially in the context of spiritual direction.
EAFI final project
As you began to immerse yourself in this work, were there any unexpected gifts or surprises?
When I attended my first EAFI Intensive, I was amazed at the ability to be moved to awe by the work, and the way community could be formed around the arts so quickly. Without knowing the personal details of one another’s lives or anything about our religious convictions, I “knew” my fellow students so deeply! By the end of our time together, the space felt
consecrated and holy. I have continued to experience that in expressive arts work. The studio is sacred space.
Renee and participants
"Exploring Our Interior Castle" retreat
How are you currently implementing expressive arts in your personal and/or professional life?
Personally, my expressive arts practice and my prayer practice are probably one in the same. It is how I listen most deeply in my life.
Professionally, I have incorporated it in my spiritual direction practice. I offer spiritual direction with expressive arts, where the way I do spiritual direction is through expressive arts facilitation. I also offer more traditional spiritual direction through conversation. But even then I am implementing my training since spiritual direction engages the
imagination. People speak in images all the time, especially as they’re trying to articulate that which they don’t fully know yet, and I’ve learned how to trust in and follow the images. Often that is done in conversation, but sometimes I may invite a little more outward expression, maybe a quick drawing or a simple movement, to continue to let the image unfold.
I also offer retreats and workshops that incorporate expressive arts facilitation. The creative process is at work throughout. Oftentimes the initial idea comes from my own personal practice, the questions that I am exploring and the art forms that I am engaging in. Then I
design a process that invites others to explore the questions with me.
"The Art of Self Compassion"
What are your goals in this work, or how do you envision your involvement with EXA unfolding in the
First, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing because I love it!
Since becoming a mentor in the EAFI program I have
discovered that I really enjoy accompanying students in the formation process. In the future I would like to do even more to support spiritual directors and expressive arts facilitators, especially those who are trying to find a way in these fields that don’t have a well-trodden path.
I also hope to engage in more arts-based research and bring my
lifelong love of Jungian and depth psychology into conversation with my expressive arts work. I would like to explore how to “bring the library into the studio,” in the words of Shaun McNiff.
How has Expressive Arts enriched or
expanded your career path?
Expressive arts has helped expand my work into less
traditional religious settings. I am able to tend to the spiritual or the sacred through the arts, rather than a particular religious tradition. It has also helped expand my work beyond my local community. Through EAFI and IEATA, I have colleagues across the United States and in other countries. It is truly an exciting field to work in!
What is your current personal practice and how does it enrich your life?
For my almost-daily practice, I do a simple check-in, usually getting still and then moving my body. Sometimes I do a quick drawing or some journaling as well. I’ve had to learn to make room for what I call the smallest thing possible, so I don’t let the desire for something more elaborate or profound get in the way of doing anything at all. (That happens more than I wish!)
When I do have more time, lately I have been painting still lifes of vessels. I noticed myself drawn to that in other artist’s work, and I had a desire to give it a try. I have no formal training as a visual artist, so I also began learning more about it. I’m not sure what it’s about. Perhaps the simplicity and the intentionality, which seem to be themes emerging in my life. But I
don’t know yet. As I’ve learned from Markus Scott-Alexander, “make art, make sense.” Right now I am just making art.
What do you wish you could tell the world about Expressive Arts?
I wish I could tell the world, especially in my North American cultural context, that engaging in the arts is a human birthright,
and when we do so we’re more fully human. We can use a lot more humanity in our world today. I also wish I could communicate to the world the profound hope I have experienced through the expressive arts. Allowing ourselves to be creative isn’t selfish or frivolous, it is essential.
Communal Flower of Life Mandala
"Releasing and Transforming: A Storytelling and Ritual Retreat"
What are you currently offering, and what are the ways that people can work with you?
I currently offer spiritual direction and expressive arts facilitation to individuals. I offer supervision and mentoring to practitioners. I offer retreats, some in-person and some online, which are available through my website. And I am working with Tamara on developing an offering through EAFI for spiritual directors. I also love collaboration and engaged conversation, so feel free to reach out and let me know what you are doing!
Participant creating a nature mandala
Releasing and Transforming: A Storytelling and Ritual Retreat
Anything else you would like to say?
I am so grateful to
Kathleen and Tamara, and to the EAFI community. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Professional links - Learn more about Renee
Watch for our Alumni Spotlight on the 1st of each month. We feature graduates of our Certificate Training Program - Expressive Arts Facilitators, Therapists, and Educators. We hope this series
will inspire you, help spread the work of our alumni, and demonstrate the scope of practice of the expressive arts field.
For more information about our Certificate Training Program, Professional Development, and Workshops - both online and
in-person, visit us at www.expressiveartsflorida.com
Tamara Teeter Knapp
MA, NCC, MHC Intern, REACE®
MA, LMHC(S), REACE®, REAT®