The following is an abbreviated version of an Art Therapy experiential that I often give to first time clients to help warm them up to how Art Therapy can provide insight into concerns or issues that may not be in the forefront of the mind and thought. This process allows unconscious feelings and memories to bubble up from depths of their being.
If possible, read and implement one instruction at a time. This will give your mind an experience of not knowing what to expect and help your responses to be more spontaneous thereby reducing attempts to influence the outcome. Try to insure that you won’t be interrupted. Turn off intrusive electrical devices. You may want to silence your cell phone. The entire process should take approximately 15-20 minutes. You will need a pen or pencil and three separate sheets of 8-1/2” x 11” paper (or close to that size) to write on, one sheet for each image. Print out the images, if you can for later.
1) Look at the following 3 photographs on your computer screen. Take a few minutes (2-3 min.) with each of the images. Look at the images one by one. Allow personal associations to come up. They could be positive, negative or neutral. Don’t judge the associations that come up.
2) Write between 5-10 ‘Stream of Consciousness’ words or phrases that come to mind for each of the 3 images. By ‘Stream of Consciousness’, I mean individual words or short phrases triggered by the images that just pop into your mind. Those words/phrases will lead to other words/phrases and so on. Write the words/phrases associated with each image on a separate 8-1/2 x 11” piece of paper. Try not to over think, edit or judge the associations as they come up. Avoid sentences.) Example: using an image that is not part of this experiential, my stream of consciousness words were…drip, cry, tear, pool, cloud, water, nature, heaven, sad, and release. That took less than 1 minute.
3) Next identify and arrange the photographs in a way that makes most sense to you, visually, logically, or randomly. No need to think about which arrangement you are using. Number the images 1, 2, & 3. (If you have printed the photographs out arrange them in front of you. If you are working on the computer click between the photographs in the order you have assigned.)
4) Spend a few minutes with the images. Go over the words/phrases that you wrote for them. Go deeper into the associations that you made. Did they stir up memories or feelings? Did they take you back into the past or forward into the future? If the images did not provoke feelings or memories, see if you can find personal meaning in any part of it…even if it is frustration.
5) Look at the images in the sequence that you assigned to them (1, 2 & 3)…do the images tell a story? What is the story that the images tell? Allow yourself to connect with that story. In therapy, that story could provide an entry into the more mysterious, internal part of yourself. If the images and writings provoked a story, where are you now in the timeline of the story? In therapy, in addition to addressing the issues that you think are causing your problems it is important to allow the inner self to express itself. Some people call this the ‘psyche’. Psyche expresses itself in symbols and metaphor. Welcome to Art Therapy where practical concerns AND the ‘self’ them can be expressed.
© Copyright 2011 by By Barbara 'Basia' Mosinski, LCAT, ATR-BC, MA, MFA, therapist in New York City, New York. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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