Yesterday I was reminded how passionate I am about what I do. What art therapy is, what it can do, how it can really really help someone lost in the depths of traumatic overload.
I was invited to present some case work at our professional Bodies (BAAT) Regional Group 4 hosted at the ArtTherapy training rooms in the University of Hertfordshire’s Lindup building. It was another glorious, full, warm and welcoming summers day outside, which starkly juxtaposed against the isolation, emptiness and darkness felt in the client’s original worlds.
I regard every person as someone trying to protect their sanity and self, even when it doesnt appear so in their behaviour or manifestation. Generally it is knowing this, that brings someone into therapy. For example, the two people I shared were a man who had spent 20 years in prison, and a woman became ‘inexplicably’ catatonic. What are destructive and extreme actions, were working from the best they could do at the time to seek their own preservation and/or happiness. Even the most horrific actions are seeking this in the most unwise and misguided way.
I see art therapy’s job fundamentally as supporting someone to work from this place toward a more beneficial and connected one, accepting what’s been, seeing what is and opening to what may be, from within whatever that may truly mean for them (that’s legal and causes no harm to others).
I shared the two cases mentioned here with a small group of trainee and qualified art therapists. These personal and powerful stories shared through video and images, were received with grace and sensitivity. People thoughtfully enquired further into how we worked together to initiate change, resilience and movement, into them embracing and trusting themselves with warmth and a hopeful future? We did so through deep empathic attunement, a low pressure creative setting, and always working within the pace, rhythm and language of the individual - so connection can grow. Paying attention to the slightest nuance, twitch of the eye, turn of the lip, change in the atmosphere, I try to say without words ‘I am here’, ‘you are here’, ‘I am listening’, ‘you can trust’.
The developing connection occurs on many levels simultaneously; with the therapist, the varied voice of the creative process and most importantly, themselves: their histories, their damage, their pains, confusions, terrors as well as their joys, strengths, hopes and hearts.
I love what I do. I love that I have years of experience in it that might help others to love what they do, to the best of their abilities. I love sharing with other Art Therapists through presentations like today, through trainings, workshops, and of course, creative clinical supervision.
A great affirming and nourishing day all round: not least because at last, the client who’d never felt heard in his life, who really wanted his video shared to help others understand art Therapy, got his wish.