Art Psychotherapy

The Relationship

Art therapy involves a therapeutic relationship. This is the most important element of any type of therapy and what makes it unique from other kinds of activities. There are specific boundaries and elements to a therapeutic relationship. Only those who have received the appropriate graduate training can offer art therapy. Although art therapy usually involves art-making, it is first and foremost a form of therapy, similar to talking to a social worker, psychologist, medical doctor, or psychiatrist who offers psychotherapy.

The Space

Art therapy takes place in a confidential contained space. Confidentiality is essential to creating a safe space where clients can express whatever is on their mind. Clients are free to share with anyone they like about their art therapy sessions and what happens during those sessions, but it is important that they have the option of anonymity and confidentiality if they so choose.

The Main Goal

The main goal of art therapy is self-expression. The goal is to express or communicate something, and art-making is often one way of doing so. Since the goal is expression, this impacts how art supplies and artwork itself are viewed. Read more about how I work below.

How do I work

When we feel emotional distress, caused by an event or situation or a person, or by life in general, we sometimes need help to find a way to deal with this stress, to unload ourselves from the burden we carry around in our body and/or mind. No one has to be able to do this on their own. Sometimes we just need another person to shine a torch where we can’t see clearly anymore ourselves. A therapist can help to hold the bigger picture for you, to create a safe space where you can explore what is going on for you.

My aim is to help you to hold on to your own torch (to grow your own light), so you can look around you and see what is going on and in which direction you are going.
There are many different ways to help you regain perspective in life and create a balance that works for you. I use the creative arts to unlock your potential.

For example, a drawing can be a literal visual representation of the relationship to the stressor in your life. And we can then talk about that. But you don’t need to be able to draw. The expression can also be a combination of lines and colour. The way you apply the medium (oil pastels, or paint, or collage or other) on paper can tell you a lot about yourself. It is the process of the creative act, or the art-making, that allows you to shift emotions or thought patterns. The image created can then also be looked at and discussed.

In art therapy I ask the client what he/she sees on the paper in that moment, not what the original story or intention of the drawing was. In doing so, we allow the work to shine a new light on the situation. Once the emotion is expressed on the paper we can look at it from a different angle. We can look at it from a distance or even turn the paper upside down and literally change our perspective on the situation.

One client brought in some drawings she had made a couple of days before. After years of working on herself, she feared she was going backwards instead of moving forward. In a moment of emotional upheaval, she drew a couple of pencil drawings of something. Instead of letting her talk about what she intended to draw and the story she found herself in that led to the drawing and the emotion she felt at the time of her drawing, I invited her to really look at the image she drew. I asked her to stop thinking about what the image was supposed to mean (which keeps her in the past and the old story), but to look at it with fresh eyes. What do you see! This helps to look at yourself in a different way. After exploring the image in a new way, she realised her un-ravelling and she saw the growth she had experienced so far. She also saw and understood through the images that she was actually stepping into the next phase of her spiritual and personal development. This new perspective lifted her mood and gave her faith on her healing journey, which in turn strengthened her feelings of self-worth, self-acceptance and contentment.

In art therapy I use the creative expressions as a means to bring an inner feeling out in the open, exposed on paper, to be looked at with different eyes. This creates a shift in energy and awareness. The client can now choose what to do with this energy in motion (the e-motion). The work can be kept for future reference, put in a frame or even cut up, ripped up or burned. The work can also be further explored through movement and sound.

The making of the symbolic artwork (the process) is transformational, meaning that the energy that comes out of the body in the making, takes on another form and can thus ‘move on’ or ‘let go of’.
The insights that are generated are also transformational. In-sight means to look with-in. Using the concept of the inner spiral, going deeper and deeper inside yourself to unravel the threads to inner knowing, allows you not only to create freedom of choice, but also to realize that you are an incredible, beautiful, loving person. You are no longer bound by your past experiences that take up all your energy and focus. You create a space of choice which gives hope. And hope gives new vitality and zest for life. Hope gives you fuel for a change of direction and purpose in your life. And this fuel helps you to create the life you want for yourself.

In every moment of your life, you create the direction and content of every moment of your life.

If you honour Self, you honour Life, if you honour Life, Life will Honour you.

Michael J. Roads

Simple enough, but profound. To honour self is to respect yourself. To respect yourself is to appreciate yourself. To appreciate yourself is to care for yourself. To care for yourself is to attend to your wellbeing. To attend to your wellbeing is to eat and drink with awareness. To be aware of yourself is to honour yourself . . . and so the cycle will continue. In no way are we empowered or regenerated by thoughts of self-criticism or self-judgement, or ‘should do better’ etc. These reduce us, something we do not need, nor do we need people in our lives whose remarks and casual comments reduce us.