I'd like to give you one example of how art therapy is used to allow people to transcend their current experience of life. I have seen unique versions of this occur over and over again in my practice, and it's a wonderful thing.
It goes like this. Imagine...that every single person out there walks around with total awareness, all the time, of all their pain and suffering. How would we be able to function? How could we drive to work without getting in an accident, make it through a meeting without an emotional break down, or provide for the complex needs of our children throughout the day? Our brain has a phenomenal natural response to painful experiences, which is to separate it from our conscious thought. Depending on the severity of the pain, it gets packaged up and put in the far recesses of our brain. A very good coping mechanism if we are to be able to continue functioning.
However, there are those confusing, unexplainable times, when we think and behave very uncharacteristically of ourselves. It can be downright confusing, humiliating, discouraging, self-sabotaging, hurtful to those we love, or even unsafe. What is happening???
Something in our environment is poking at that painful experience that is all packaged up. Only now, it is not so far from our consciousness, it is very close to our awareness because of some trigger in our environment. So, we are reacting to that trigger. The trigger is causing us pain. It is causing us to react in ways that are out of proportion to the actual event in the here and now. We are reacting to it from our wounded place.
It is at this point in time that I hope you will come in to see me. Because now, your unconscious is telling you, "I'm ready to look at this stuff. I'm moving it from the furthest recesses of your brain a little closer to consciousness." Your mind has faith in your ability to handle this information right now in a safe and contained way. So, it's saying "it is important that you process this stuff now so that you can heal from it and grow...live a healthier life."
As your therapist, I provide compassion, containment and skill in order to help you through the issues which are bothering you. I honor your mind's lead regarding the pace and content to be addressed. Art Therapists are trained to work with abstract, metaphor and symbolic imagery that people often use to express what it's experiencing in the mind, body, heart, soul and in one's personal environment (past, present, future). Your right brain uses symbols and imagery to sort of by-pass the editing left brain.
When the right brain is engaged in creative expression, the left brain doesn't know how to edit the information, since it's not the usual language or thinking. Once the creative expression is externalized and tangible, it can be looked at for the first time, contemplated and discussed. It can finally be addressed as another aspect of the client's reality.
Therefore, by utilizing verbal and non-verbal forms of expression, all the fragments of the client's reality can be expressed. With a full story produced from the left and right brain, there is a sense of total awareness and understanding. The experience can then be processed, healed and transcended.
Free from the grip that an experience can have on daily functioning, the client can now explore alternate ways of functioning in order to improve the quality of his or her life.