Tag Archives: creative therapy

Grief and the Art Therapist: A Journey

Posted by: Guest on May 12, 2011 9:12 am

The focus of therapists is almost always to help clients process their feelings as they bring their vulnerability into the therapy space.  This is most true when clients are dealing with grief, whether it stems from death, divorce or other loss.  But what happens when it is the therapist who is experiencing grief?  How do therapists deal with their own feelings within the therapeutic relationship?

As an art therapist, I have struggled with that question as I’ve dealt with the impending death of a family member. My experiences of grief come into the therapeutic space through countertransference and because I bring my most authentic self into each session. But of course I seek support from friends, family, my supervisor and my own therapist.  Since I am aware of my feelings of grief, I am able to use them to connect with my clients on a deeper level and to use them in a positive way.  Art therapy provides an ideal way to do so.

By creating art with clients during a session, art therapists can support clients’ emotional growth but also communicate in a non-verbal language that they understand the clients’ feelings and that they share in their experience.  The shared art-making becomes a means to create a stronger therapeutic relationship and it can serve as a representation of the joint work of therapy. Shared art-making can include creating a scene with clay in which both therapist and client contribute or creating a collage together which explores the feelings within the therapeutic relationship.

Art therapists also have the option of creating art in response to what the client makes as they experience grief.  Some time ago I was moved deeply by the sadness that a client expressed and as I touched into my own sadness I felt my heart open as we shared the experience together.  I made my client a small sculpture using clay, which I gave to her as a symbol of how I was moved by her gift of vulnerability, which she shared with me. Several months later that client told me that the art I gave her was significant in that she knew I understood how she felt.

Therapists’ grief does not have to be a hindrance within the therapeutic setting. Using art can not only help bridge the gap between therapist and client’s emotional selves, it can be essential when processing complex issues such as grief. By using creative methods, I have not only managed by grief expressions within the therapeutic setting but have used them to become a better art therapist.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Holding Feelings In Art: A Container For Emotions

Posted by: Hailing Huang on May 6, 2011 10:11 am

When my client, a 10-year-old boy came into my office the other day, he shuffled around the room, pushing and poking at random objects. He made it clear that he was not interested in talking and he seemed frustrated in my questions to him. Knowing that he had been getting into trouble at school for angry outbursts at his teacher and other students, it was my impression that he was storing strong emotions in regards to his parents’ impending divorce and custody situation. When he sat at the art table and began to cut paper with scissors, I asked him whether he would like to sit on the floor with me and rip large pieces of paper. He sat beside me and timidly began to rip, each time looking at me for assurance. With a nod, I indicated to him that it was all right and with earnest he began to rip the paper.

What started as a small invitation for the boy to express his anger became a huge breakthrough for him and for our therapeutic relationship. He ripped with enthusiasm and sometimes aggression and I ripped the paper along side of him. We then created a piece of art, sticking the pieces of paper together to form collages and images.

Creating art not only gave the boy a vehicle to express his strong emotions, but it also provided a metaphorical container to hold them. At school, his feelings erupted and affected those around him since his teacher and peers were targets of his unfocused anger. However, the art created boundaries in which he could safely release his emotions and he did not have to worry about harming anyone including him or me.

The art as a container, in which he poured his strongest feelings, also provided a means in which I could relate to him. Had he showed me his rage by wildly punching or putting us in danger, then my role would be more to limit him than to relate to him. But by ripping the paper with him, I could share in the experience of his anger and give him an opportunity to release the feelings he had pent up inside. Using art as a container to create boundaries does not constrain expression of emotions but rather provides freedom to release them since a sense of safety has been established. And once the feelings have been released and processed, clients can create some distance from them so that they can continue to move forward with their healing.

Nalini Iype, MC:AT, CCC is an art therapist and counsellor in private practice in Toronto. For more information visit www.ArtTherapySolutions.com or email her at [email protected]

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Diagnosing with Drawstrings

Posted by: Guest on April 12, 2011 9:04 am

Most times when clients and I meet for the first time, I may conduct a few informal assessments in order to get a better sense of what we are dealing with.  In the past I’ve not focused on categorizing clients into one category or another, partly because I’ve questioned the need but also because I’ve not had the proper assessment tools to do so.  As time passes, I’ve realized that formal diagnoses are sometimes necessary not only to guide my treatment plans, but also to communicate with other health professionals to coordinate services.

I recently took part in a training session of the Diagnostic Drawing Series (DDS), developed in 1982.  Barry Cohen, the primary creator of the DDS was the lead trainer, and described how it is one, if not the only empirically validated and reliable assessment tool that uses drawings to diagnose some of the conditions categorized in the DSM-IV.  The DDS is supported by over 30 years of research, which has not only been replicated numerous times in North America, but also in many countries across the world.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Creativity: Is it in all of us?

Posted by: Guest on March 28, 2011 10:32 am

I am very excited to be writing my first blog entry for Counselling Connect.  Every two weeks I’ll be bringing you information and opinions about Creative Arts Therapies including best practices, tips, techniques and news from the art therapy community in Canada and around the world.  Many people in the counselling field have heard of art therapy but are still not quite sure what it entails.  I look forward to sharing this wonderful and creative therapeutic modality with all of you.

Art therapists help individuals explore their feelings and emotions using a variety of materials.  In my practice, clients have the option of choosing paints, pastels, markers, clay, fabric, collage materials and repurposed every day objects amongst other things. They often begin with art materials they are comfortable with but with gentle encouragement, others begin to explore new ways of expressing themselves.  It is often an enlightening, exciting and safe experience for clients.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA