painting, drawing, sculpture, clay work, poetry, drama, dance, music, and sand play (to name just a few).
Conventional therapy usually requires the client to verbalize the issue at hand, which often leads to telling-the-story-as-it-always-has-been-told. This can narrow the possibility of gaining insight and makes it harder to allow for new possibilities or for solutions to be developed. Enter Art Therapy! By creating a tangible representation of any given situation (by drawing, sculpting or acting it out in a sand tray for instance), the client is engaging a completely different area of the brain, which bypasses the cognitive, “already-always-known” of his or her old stories and allows for new insights to be gained.
In the therapeutic context, this stage in the session represents an important turning point: The client has discovered information that he or she was previously unaware of (see “privileging the unconscious” in a separate blog post). The therapist now moves from witnessing the client’s story towards helping the client develop a strategy to process, integrate and possibly (not always) act on the new insights gained in his or her life.
Art Therapy is particularly effective when for whatever reason the client is unable to talk about a situation or issue. The art will do the talking, when the client can’t.
Art Therapists are trained to
- use the art-making processes, symbols, images and rituals to invoke new insights in the client
- privilege the unconscious
- choose the correct medium
- focus on the process not the product
- enable their clients to “tell their story in a new way”
This post describes how a practitioner would work with a client in a therapeutic context. Please note that I am not offering art therapy on this site. I am using the principles and methods of inquiry of my training, along with the imagery of the Tarot to assist my clients in gaining new insights and solutions for the challenges they are facing.