WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU STEP INTO THE ART THERAPY SPACE
Meeting yourself is not always easy. Often, our bodies will have already told us through pain that the psyche is struggling while we are still trying to run away from our needs, relying on the tried and tested models that seemingly protect us while, in fact, harming us. We need courage in order to be able to feel the value of life and consciously desire change. Change comes at the end of purposeful and consistent work, dedicated effort and embracing certain views and patterns of behaviour that we can improve and transform to adapt to our needs, helping ourselves feel better here and now. In this sense, life is constant change and if we stop changing at any given time, we stop life inside us.
Therapy meetings nurture and enhance awareness of how I am feeling at the moment, what were the things that brought me to this point, what are the things that I need, how can I satisfy those needs, what will change bring me, what can help me dare step out of my comfort zone, what emotions I am feeling and how to deal with them, what burdens have I asked my body and psyche to carry. The greatest value of expressive art therapy is that it enables the individual to seek answers to these questions in creative images, which acts as an additional incentive pushing the client to further self-awareness and development. Sadness can take the image of an exquisite lilac tree garden, making it lighter, easier to accept. And rage can be expressed as clay armour that can be peeled off, layer by layer, because we no longer need it. The sandbox may come in handy as a place where we can finally discard our fears and bad dreams in the shape of tiny figures that no longer terrify us. Problems in the family can be visualised by placing a coloured piece of fabric or paper on the floor or somewhere in space, giving a clear picture of relations within the system. The difficulties we encounter in working in a team can also be analysed by applying a similar creative approach because everything in the art therapy space can engender unexpected insights through the energy clients infuse into the symbols.
I personally believe that I can change every day, after every meeting with a client, because a client’s journey to finding the answers to their questions is also my journey. I change after each talk with my children — and I have four — not that it’s easy even after I left my ego, fears and old attitudes and perceptions, giving in to the oblivion that guides me now that day on the slopes of Mount Rila.
This is why I now understand, with my entire life experience, the difficulties each client who steps into the atelier faces. That very step is the first step along the journey to himself or herself. At moments life these, we need support, presence. When we realise how much pain and how heavy a burden we’ve carried for years, we often need an embrace, and not judgment or direct guidance.
The role of Gestalt therapy, expressive art therapy, sand therapy, family constellations, positive psychotherapy and hypnotic techniques, among others, is to help us connect to ourselves, take care of ourselves, find the answers to the questions that bother us and the source of our inner resources on our own, enabling ourselves to take the first step in the right direction for us. Movement and development are the symbol of life and how we are meant to and should exist — self-aware in life even when resting.
My role in the therapy meeting? I am not a guru, mentor or an authority. I am simply a person in the art space who constantly resonates with the pain, worries and needs of a client — that, which a client’s psyche is trying to express without words or ‘their tiny little soul’ as I call it. ‘She’ often wants me to draw depression with my fingers or depict difficult relations in the family through little figures in the sand, arranging pieces of cloth in different colours on the floor to express conflicts between the generations that have led to difficulties in our present lives or use clay to produce images of our inner blockages. I support this process of expression and in my contacts with clients I stand by their side at the moment of realisation of the roots of their problems or the reasons for the loss of the link between internal resources and the body. The process is led by the client depending on their motivation, needs and speed of progress. Initial plans are often relegated to the back burner because long repressed pieces of unexplored, unacknowledged and previously unshared life events come to the fore. Thus, the puzzle is gradually rearranged until it takes the shape of our current life, the whole looming larger than its constituent parts, helping us to better see and understand that, which is inside us. Only then can the present moment define a better moment in the future. Here and now will become tomorrow’s foundation once they’ve been transformed into our past. As Karl Jung put it the psyche has the strength and natural need to self-regenerate.