Main Concepts from Little Windows into Art Therapy – Part II

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Here are main concepts and notes from Little Windows into Art Therapy – Part II – Chapters 5-10.

All intellectual thought and copyright belong to the author. This is only a tool for understanding while reading the book.

Here is Part I main concepts.

Moving into deeper work (Ch 5)

  • The exploration of relationships often moves the therapeutic relationship into a cheaper place. Sharing words or images about family members, in particular, requires a level of trust in the therapist and the nature in path of the therapy to work. Sharon significant memories from one’s family of origin or current family relationships often requires the client break and important family rule about “not telling our family’s business” or “what goes on in this house stays in this house.”
  • When I ask people to create small images representing people in their lives, I’m interested in noticing which images are created first, my clients affect while creating the images, and how the little squares are placed together in one larger quilt image.
  • When people are able to begin sharing their fears, verbally or visually, I know that we may be moving until more difficult work for the client. There are risks inherent in bringing fears out into the open, out into the light and air. One way to gently invite any present a motion to services do invite the client to create a current emotional landscape. Using any media I ask clients to create a landscape that will show what life feels like right now. With some of my clients I need to talk a little about Landscapes, but most of known that it’s just a picture of an outdoor place. What would you be if you were an outdoor place today?
  • As our therapist we have the gift of our own art-making to Enlighten our struggles, our experiences of countertransference, and the messy areas were private life and professional life spill over onto each other. As our work with a client deepens, we need to take even work here to work out our own issues, with intention, in the studio. I think that our own art-making can also be a meaningful reminder of the joy that can be experienced when doing this work. When we have a place (the art) to contain the struggle and pain, I think that we are more open to going into the next session with a sense of joy in our vocation.

Exploring and Containing Sadness

  • I deeply believe that comfort with our own very real emotions is an important part of our ability to be in-the-moment-present with our clients and their emotions.
  • I think that most therapists would describe themselves as empathetic and compassionate, but many new therapists also talk about their awareness, when faced with a sad or depressed client, of their desires to “make them feel better” or “help them move on”. Yet many of our clients are surrounded by friends and family who push them diligently to “move on” instead of supporting their expressions of sadness.
  • Sometimes our clients are isolated by other people’s responses to their sadness. They have friends who seem to have run out of patience for post-divorce grief, or family members who mysteriously seem to disappear during times when illness or death are present. I’ve offered and ask clients to create the mass that they find themselves using in order to get through the day.
  • Part of the important work that we ask clients to do is to realize when masks are being used. We need to be aware of our own masks too. Hopefully, our own Journeys are allowing and encouraging us to grow progressively true and authentic, as people and therapists.
  • I have become increasingly aware, over the years, of the cumulative effect of lost on our lives. So many people have lived through such painful losses. They often come to therapy trying to solve problems in the here and now, while holding onto unmourned losses of people, jobs, health, homes, neighborhoods, and ways of life. The loss may be primarily internal, a loss of a sense of identity or purpose, and loss of sense of personal safety or efficacy.
  • Spaces and images hold the memories, cradle the emptiness. Together we create a place safe enough to support the sadness, woven from the trust of the therapeutic relationship.

Visualizing and Expressing Anger

  • Even though, for the sake of clarity, I separated out the strong emotions of sadness and anger within this book, the truth is that art has a wonderful way of showing us the connectedness, and there’s a relationship between emotions. My experience with people who are either struggling to explore anger appropriately or who seem only to feel anger is that anger is often mixed up with other complicated feelings. Sometimes it is helpful to sort them out a little with art making. I’m not interested in compartmentalizing emotions, but I am interested in images about specific emotions. I’m curious when images about different emotions look very similar.
  • Have you ever created an image about what you think about at night? Before you ask a client to do this, you’ll want to experience it yourself. When I ask people to do this I provide black paper in materials that show up well on dark paper, like oil and soft pastels, tempera paint, gel pens and glitter glue. The directive is simple: “Create an image of what you think about at night.”
  • Dreams and Nightmares often tell stories of deep fears and repressed anger. Sometimes just drawing or painting an important scene from a dream or nightmare can open up our work two important underlying issues.
  • After a client has allowed the nighttime anxieties and fears to surface visually, it can often be helpful to talk about creating a new image to take the old scary images place. What kind of art would be helpful to look at by your bed? The art that clients have created in response to that question is as varied as the content of the worries and nightmares.

Embracing all images

  • When we care about people we often feel terribly distressed when they reveal painful beliefs about themselves.
  • When I encourage clients to create self-portraits I try to be sensitive to the complicated histories of self and self-image that are often brought to the picture.
  • I believe that art therapists have a particularly pressing need to understand the potential impact of vicarious traumatization. Not only are we hearing about trauma, but we also see representations of the trauma within our clients’ artwork. These visualizations of our clients’ experiences, I believe, stay with us in a way that verbal stories do not, especially since art therapists tend to be “visual people”. We are sensitive to form, line, color, shapes, and we remember what we see.
  • I am convinced that are therapist engage with this traumatic material in an especially profound depth. From my experience, we probably need to be equally proactive and taking care of ourselves. Certainly, finding a good pair of support, professional supervision, and building a meaningful life outside work or all helpful themes in the effort to actively practice self-care.

Thoughts on Trauma

  • Before encouraging any part of the story, I am especially concerned with how we get to know each other – even more so than with clients coming in with other kinds of issues. I believe that I communicate to any client a feeling of being accepted, I believe that he or she has value and worth as a human being. When someone is entering therapy because of a traumatic event or prolong personal trauma, I find it even more imperative to reflect authentic respect and my warm positive regard for him or her as a person. I find it important to communicate my interest in the whole person, and I assume that each person in her multifaceted life still has strings and important gifts offer on her journey.
  • When Studies have looked at the variables of what encourages effective therapeutic relationships, it is clear that those variables are enhanced when the client perceives a strong alliance with therapist. In art therapy we are able to help the client experientially understand the alliance by making art with our clients.
  • I have learned that my most sensitive witnessing often takes place in that side-by-side artmaking with my client. When I do this, my own trust and they aren’t making and my own willingness to expose my images seem to provide a gentle welcome to my client. Welcome to the paint, welcome to the paper, welcome to deep self-expression, welcome to the safe place for your story.
  • Part is too powerful to be predictable. Painting clouds seemed like a safe enough idea. I think that it is possible to say hello to the disturbing line, shape or form, and understand that moment of potential risk that I will agree to return to the content or meeting later on. In verbal therapy, we can be aware of all kinds of memories or thoughts that float through our heads while listening to our clients. We trust that we can stay present to our client’s issues and not get distracted by our own, and that we will use wisdom and what we choose to disclose.
  • Certainly there are times when simple witnessing is the best accompaniment for someone’s art process. There are clients who deeply appreciate the sense of being held within the therapist its own this. It sometimes feels as though the therapeutic holding space exists primarily because of my watchful attention. Perhaps the best way to know what creates safety is to simply ask: “I can make art alongside you or just be here with you while you make art. Do you know what you might be more comfortable with?” The choices offered from a caring intention held by the therapist, to provide the therapeutic container best suited for the work of that moment.

Moving toward Healing

  • Creating a black and white image can be a powerful experience. It allows us to play a little bit with what feels “black and white”. Often as our exploration progresses, we grow in our appreciation of the shades of gray that do seem to be present within many issues that confront us. Sometimes a client will struggle to keep the colors separate, trying to avoid the mess of the gray. Other times, a client may layer and blend the two until the gray is solid, fog-like, and seems all encompassing. Important therapeutic discoveries can be made when someone willingly enters into the gray. The point when the fog finally lifts can be a moment of grace. Or it may feel more like a process of gray, a slow-moving journey through, until the glimmers of bright sky eventually overtake the fog. The painting of the experience seems to provide a guide post or trail mark for where one is at.
  • Without prompting, people often feel and see clearly what they need to do to visually deal with the pain. I’ve witness healing ceremonies evolved from simple rituals of painting over or cutting out. I’ve watched as hearts are literally sewn Back Together, vocal cords freed from dark blockages and tears transformed with glitter. I’ve also watched people triumphantly create healthy, glowing images. Clients often use the full body image as a visual place to note changes that has occurred during the therapeutic Journey. A young woman probably do breasts and pubic hair on her body tracing, and could say that she was turning into a woman, despite her fears around developing into a visibly sexual person.
  • It often seems important, As clients are at a point of new understanding about themselves, to connect with the old understandings as a way of acknowledging the work of the journey. If we do this enough in advance of termination we have some space to map out the “what next” in a way that avoids premature anxiety over the completion of our work. The art that has been created during our time together can be a beautiful record of healing.

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