Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Art Therapy Philosophy & Experiences

My Art Therapy Philosophy
1.     How did I discover and pursue the field of art therapy?
My first exposure was in 1981, when curiosity drew me to a weekend seminar on Jungian Art Therapy at Sonoma State University.  I experienced firsthand the strength of art as therapy in revealing the hidden and powerful parts of myself.  Something clicked inside of me during my experience, pointing to my future.
It was to be ten years before I acted on this dream, however.  I patiently observed art therapy's slow move towards being viewed as a respected and recognized career.  Then, when family responsibilities eased up and the time was right, I applied for and was accepted into the College of Notre Dame's Masters in Art Therapy Program.  I took a pre-master's art therapist intern position under Al Friedman at the Center for Youth here at the hospital in '93 and '94.
Art therapy provides a holding environment for emotionally disturbed adolescents to express themselves in a safe environment.  For ten months I observed  adolescents at the hospital scribble out frustrations connected to hormonal changes and their mental illness. I witnessed them paint raw feelings of the pain of losing family and being institutionalized.  I helped them collage and map inner body parts from life-sized body tracings; the art clearly identified the body areas where abuse and violations took place. I watched young clients shape clay into the forms of their own haunting inner demons, put color to feelings of rage and helplessness connected to their abuse, use pastel chalks to sketch out the delicate butterflies of their fragile hope. The experience was sometimes frightening--and sometimes wonderful.  I learned that I could not cure them, but I could supply tools of communication, and be a force of caring that might support a change in their perception of a cruel to caring world.
After graduating in 1994, I took a post masters position as art therapy intern under Louise Salant at the Veterans Home in Yountville, to accrue hours for my
ATR--Art Therapy Registration.  Working with disabled seniors, some of who suffered from mental illness, was challenging and rewarding work.  My Yountville experience led me to be hired by three junior colleges to teach art classes to disabled seniors.  I did this for two years, while waiting patiently for full-time art therapist positions to open up. I then applied and was hired at Napa in September 1997.

2. Population at Napa State Hospital
A.  I worked in Program One, Unit T7, at Napa State Hospital with developmentally disabled, adult male sex offenders with forensic backgrounds. Many of the clients’ placements there were an alternative to jail, to become competent to stand trial for their crimes; some would never achieve this due to their developmental disability. Certain clients had speech impediments and difficulty verbalizing and being understood.  With this population the problems included aggressive behavior, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, impulse control.  Their crimes included rape, incest, child sexual abuse, voyeurism, public exposure, foot fetishism, assault and battery, grand theft, and sexual perpetration or victimization.  I primarily used art therapy in the context of treatment for the clients’sex offenses and substance abuse addictions; as a support to verbal processing.
3. Goals of Art Therapy for clients in forensic settings include opportunities to:
--break through client denial and offer a non-threatening means of getting information from the client
--provide immediate gratification and control over environment as well as opportunity to safely explore and alter feelings and fantasies.
--explore and select socially acceptable behaviors as alternatives to substance abuse, violence or sex offender behavior.
--use art therapy in the context of the clients’sex offenses and substance abuse addictions, as a support to verbal processing.
--experience a holding environment which can make pain bearable, and allow progress and growth to proceed.
--genuinely express feelings and attitudes
--self-express in a socially acceptable manner--leading to increased self-awareness.
--solve inner conflicts through inner work.
--reveal/understand client's own personal past history; putting behavior in a larger
context, so as to increase understanding of need to change.
--experience a less threatening avenue of expression than verbal therapy.
for perpetrators, art therapy can be a  work through the internalized abuse and
compensatory mechanism of identifying with the perpetrator.
--embark upon a meaningful relationship with self and art therapist, thus enriching the quality of life of each.
4. Example of an Art Therapy Interventions
Focus interventions on enlarging a part of an art therapy painting, to get inside the symbol, to touch the deeper core of the problem.  Ask, "Can you take this symbol here, open it up, make it bigger, and show me what's inside?  Do another painting of just that thing.  Now, open that one up, make it larger, and show me what's inside that one."  What can be revealed are deep, hidden feelings, which, once shared, have less of a charge or control over the client's behavior.

5. What is my philosophy of art therapy?
Tolstoy said, "Art and only art can cause violence to be set aside.”
A major factor in the placing of clients at Napa State Hospital is the inability of the client to control behavior, thus becoming a danger both to self and to others. The client is separated from the community through the consequence of his violent or out of control actions, and lacks the cultural controls over self that are necessary to interact safely in society. This issue of safety --of client and community--must be addressed first and foremost, at any psychiatric or forensic institution.
6. What are the benefits and applications of art therapy?
--Art therapy can increase the safety of both client and staff.  Violent and mentally
disturbed patients in forensic settings such as NSH can find artmaking a valuable tool for making peace-first with self, then community. It can be a tool that mirrors antecedent behaviors to oncoming violent behavior, a window on monitoring the emotional states of the client; a recidivism predictor--potential for dangerous behavior.
--Art therapy can support the existing diagnoses and alert staff to changes.
--Pre/post art therapy intervention testing can measure client's general progression of wellness and improvement over time. Outcome measured by behavior changes in client over time.
--Art as a second language that communicates a variety of information about client
through the creative process.
--May be a tool in revealing/supporting developmental disorders/delays in client.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Art as Therapy With Bev

Art as Therapy With Bev: Coping With Loss; Improving Memory and Brain Function
       Well, I feel like I'm back in the (Art Therapist) saddle again. For weeks I have been preparing for, and finally gave, a two and a half-hour session with a lovely 79-year-old woman, Bev, who wanted a painting lesson. I had put an ad in the Napa Register online, advertising painting lessons, and Bev called me up one day, in response to the ad. She was pleased in hearing that I was an Art Therapist as well as a painting instructor. I could tell, talking to her, that she was experiencing memory and verbal expression challenges. In speaking with her on the phone, she would guess or substitute a phrase that was close to what she was trying to communicate, instead of being able to remember the exact phrase. I could guess her meaning much of the time. She told me she suffered from peripheral neuropathy, and that the doctors were still testing her for causes. I put things on hold for a while, due to being busy, and she called me back a month or so later, with one phone call in between. At first she wanted to drive to my house for the lesson and told me that she, accompanied by her daughter, had even practiced driving the route, one day, to my home studio. We later settled on my coming to her house for the art lesson; I felt this was the best option for success. Bev was holding on to her independence and capabilities, and the ability to drive, almost fiercely. She told me that, in the interim, she had taken a fall, so I felt that the lesson at her house would prove to be the safest option. I also knew I would be using my learned Art Therapist skills, as well as artistic guidance skills and intuition. And it helped that she and I had a good feeling, a rapport, you might say, for each other. She was willing to have me over. My background includes providing art materials and working with seniors in various environments: those in Alzheimer's units, retirement homes, nursing facilities, as well as independent, active seniors in local senior centers.

       I found Bev to be talkative, alert, eager, helpful and enthusiastic. She told me she had lost her husband a dozen years ago, and her 10-year-old cocker spaniel just recently, a great loss for her: he died in her arms while on the way to the vet. She also mentioned a thirty-pound weight loss over the last few years, without trying, she said. For her, the act of painting was therapeutic, in an emotional sense. She showed me a small acrylic painting of yellow daisies on a white background and said that it had been a difficult piece for her to do, and she was proud of her accomplishment.
       I sensed that Bev needed to feel successful with the lesson. She recalled that in the past when working on an art project, she might "work 'till midnight". This revealed her motivation. Bev described herself as energetic and athletic, as her whole family was, her three daughters, who live in the area, included.  My desire for the lesson to be successful for Bev had some factors I knew I needed to keep in mind, simplicity and low frustration levels being a couple of them. She mentioned she would like to paint a red barn, using acrylics. I printed out a few photos of red barns in different settings, as well as samples of other landscapes, florals, and a seascape. Bev took her time looking at each one and asked me to help her choose one that might be easy enough for her to do well. I showed her an evening late sunset silhouette, fairly simple, but then I remembered her red barn idea. She settled on one of the red barn images, the most straightforward one, with a few trees in the background, an interesting sky, and grass in the foreground. Bev frowned at the gray skies of my barn choices, so we decided to change some of the elements in the photo: a blue rather than gray sky, green leaves on the bare trees, and greener grass in the foreground.
     Since Bev wanted to feel successful at this painting endeavour, I decided to paint alongside her, so she could watch me, and practice techniques. I noticed that painting flat and curving lines were a challenge for her, as well as knowing when to stop, look at the work with reflection, see the entire picture and comparing the elements together. The barn, I noticed, appeared to have had seen a few decades, as she also had; it shadowed her own life journey and where she is at this moment in time, I thought. Bev was happy with the results and let me photograph her and the work. I will make and print a blank notecard of the painting, and send it to her. I hope to work with her further.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Definition of Art Therapy

ART THERAPY: DEFINITION ART THERAPY IS A Human Services Profession that utilizes art media, images, the creative art process, and patient/client responses to the created products as reflections of an individual’s abilities, development, personality, interests, concerns and conflicts.  Art Therapy practice is based on knowledge of human developmental and psychological theories, which are implemented in the full spectrum of models of assessment and treatment.  This includes educational, psychodynamic, cognitive, transpersonal, and other therapeutic means of achieving the following: reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behavior, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation, and increasing self-esteem. Art Therapy is an effective treatment for the developmentally, medically, educationally, socially, or psychologically impaired.  It is practiced in a wide variety of settings, including mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational and forensic institutions. Populations of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds are served by Art Therapists, in individual, couples, family and group therapy formats. 

Art Therapy at Hope Resource Center Napa

I facilitated Art Therapy Services once a month at Hope Resource Center, the day facility on Second Street in Napa. This was in 2014-15. Nancy Chesley was the coordinator of this program; she called me up one day, out of the blue, and asked for my assistance in bringing what she considered a viable form of intervention-art as therapy-to the population that used the facility. She had experienced firsthand the power of art as therapy, to heal the soul and promote self-integration. Over a period of a year and a half I held ten groups with the migrant population that streamed through; it included a mixed cultural and age population. Participants gave me written permission to use and share their art, with promise of keeping their identities confidential. The participants were, for the most part, receptive to creating visuals and symbols to relate their personal experiences, and share the art and words with each other in temporary community, a huge step for this population. I was grateful for the opportunity to get to know them, their stories, and understand their dilemma.  This experience gave them a face and a solid identity. Too long the homeless have been invisible.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Art of Art Therapy

Musings on the Art of Art Therapy
The Therapeutic Use of Art in an Institutional Setting

·    Art Therapists incorporate art therapy into the daily teamwork through watching and analyzing art behaviors, art products, and the client’s communications. The Art Therapist, an integral part of the treatment team, formulates diagnostic assessments and treatment plans as part of the client's total rehabilitation program.
·       Art therapists are trained to use their acquired art skills/expertise, combined with extensive training in psychology, psychotherapy, and Art Therapy, to facilitate the art-making process with the client, which, ideally, will promote his well-being.  
·       The Art Therapist creates the format of a structured, non-threatening environment, whose boundaries facilitate client expression and reflection of inner conflicts. The Art Therapist sets aside his/her own issues and vocalizations, creating a sense of stillness in order to glean out symbolic and aesthetic content of the client's artwork.  Later, encouraging the client to reflect on their artwork helps them connect to and process prior unconscious feelings, emotions, and behaviors. During art therapy, rules and boundaries often shift to accommodate each client’s changing physical and emotional abilities.  This is called “Prescriptive Art”. The list includes pencils, pens, colored pencils, markers, crayons, collage materials, oil pastels, chalks, acrylic paints, watercolors, clay. For instance, a client may be given a pencil in the beginning, which allows a sense of comfort and control.  Later, paints may be introduced, and later, clay, as we observe and ascertain the client’s readiness to handle/explore wider boundaries and flowing or "messy" media.  We are trained to sense when the client is ready to move to the next media level.  Certain clients would benefit from letting go of certain defenses (depending on their diagnosis and treatment goals) and may be encouraged to try a less confining media at the beginning.

 Art therapy may serve as a tool in designated groups that focus on issues such as:
violence/anger management
alcohol and chemical dependency
men & women's issues
sexual identity issues
multicultural issues sexual/physical/emotional abuse
sex offender treatment
grief & loss 
learning disabilities
behavioral reinforcement and specific mental illnesses
eating disorders

     What Art Therapy is Not:

·       Many clinicians use art in therapy; anyone can learn interpretation.  However, this is not art therapy.

·       Facilitating Arts & Crafts or even Arts classes, although they can be rehabilitative, is not art therapy,   as the facilitators generally do not have the extensive training in psychology, art, and art therapy to present art as a therapeutic tool.
·       Art Therapists do not apply meaning to a piece of client artwork without connecting extensively with the creator. The significance of colors and symbols cannot be generalized.  An Art Therapist can work with and process the artwork with the client, connecting it to his/her behaviors. 

Art Therapist’s Goals for Clients: 

·       Curriculums should be designed around the needs and abilities of the clientele, and their present issues.
·       Therapeutic goals are to encourage, clarify and extend associations and ideas without imposing personal projections, participating in the process.
·       Art therapy works with unconscious content to facilitate the expression of emotions via metaphor.  ("A picture is worth a thousand  words".)
·       Art Therapist uses images and imagery as a healing process.
·       Verbal association is used in conjunction with non-verbal.

The Benefits of Art Therapy

·       Art Therapy can help a client become an objective viewer of his/her out-of-control behaviors, thus imbuing a sense of power.

·       The client may experience improved avenues of communication, an increase of coping skills, elevated self-esteem, and improved self-understanding.
·       The artwork may reveal mental processes, side effects of medication, and/or emotional states.
·       The art-making process can represent aspects of behavior, such as antecedent triggers to behavioral changes.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Welcome to my Art Therapy Blog!

Welcome to my Art Therapy Blog! 

This is a flyer of the Art Process Experiential: "Art From the Inside Out".  Art Therapist Colleague Sandra and I presented to artist members at General Meeting of the Napa Valley Art Association, in May of 2011.

Invite the Muse Writing Group