Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Photo Therapy

Judy Weiser in her book: Photo Therapy Techniques provides lots of interesting ways to work with photos for therapeutic purposes. Photos can be catalysts for communication, self reflection, understanding personal symbolism, and stimulating memories. She lists lots of practical exercises to help you look at and work with photos.
You can find her at:
When photographs are used as nonverbal communicators they can tell us a lot about ourselves. This is an exercise that I did yesterday. I walked around the house and randomly took 5 photos. Then I asked myself how these photos could serve as metaphorical self-portraits of myself. What do these photos say about me; my likes, dreams, and or feelings? Why was my eye drawn to these images and not others? If I was able to put myself in these images, where would I place myself? What would I title these photos? If these images could be used as a self description, what would they say about me?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Embracing Your Inner Critic

When I work with art therapy or creativity groups, I often notice that people experience a part of them that is critical of their art making. Often this is due to a past negative comment made by a friend, art teacher or parent. Sometimes it is due to comparing your work to others and feeling that yours is not good enough. When this part of you comes up, it is important to sit with it, listen to its concerns and learn not to stop exploring because of it. If this voice or part is ignored, often you will loose creative energy and feel blocked. Giving it space to be heard allows you to move ahead with the acceptance of your whole self. One way I work with this is I have a doll sitting in the corner and when people experience a part of them saying, “your art is not good enough” or “this is meaningless” or “I have no talent” I ask them to write it down and pin it to the doll so it is acknowledged. This simple action often helps create the space and distance needed so that they can come back and continue to create art. This might be something that they want to come back to later and do a focusing session on.

The Top Twelve Traits of the Inner Critic
1. It constricts your ability to be creative.
2. It stops you from taking risks because it makes you fear failure.
3. It views your life as a series of mistakes waiting to happen.
4. It undermines your courage to change.
5. It compares you unfavorably with others and makes you feel “less than”.
6. It is terrified of being shamed and so monitors all your behavior to avoid this.
7. It causes you to suffer from low self-esteem, and possibly depression, because it tells you that you are not good enough.
8. It can make looking at yourself in a mirror or shopping for clothes miserable because of its ability to create such a negative view of the body.
9. It can take all the fun out of life with its criticisms.
10. It makes self-improvement a compulsive chore because it bases the work on the premise that something is wrong with you.
11. It doesn’t allow you to take in the good feelings that other people have towards you.
12. It makes you susceptible , and often victim, to the judgments of other people.

Hal and Sidra Stone Embracing Your Inner Critic

Thursday, July 24, 2008


From a Buddhist point of view, the Pali word which we translate in English as gratitude is katannuta. The word katannuta consists of two parts: kata which means that which has been done, especially that which has been done to one, to oneself, and annuta which means knowing or recognizing. So katannuta means knowing or recognizing what has been done to one, that is to say knowing and recognising what has been done to one for one's benefit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reflecting on the last 48 hours through a therapeutic lens:

- bike riding with a friend around the lake, to galleries, to lunch . . . [divine movement therapy ]
- watching a thunderstorm sweep across the prairies . . . [ beautiful, brilliant nature therapy]
- having a very insightful focusing session . . . [curious, fascinating felt sense therapy]
- working on an art therapy presentation . . . [surprising, rigorous creative writing therapy]
- playing with my daughters dog . . . [marvelous pet therapy]
- eating ice cream from the Milky Way . . . [instant gratification therapy]

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Five good things on a Sunday morning

1. The feel of the sun on my face as I drink my morning coffee.
2. Knowing that a wonderful friend, who I have not seen for awhile, is coming later today to visit.
3. Enjoying breakfast with my partner.
4. Knowing that at least right now, my kids are safe, happy and close to us.
5. Being present.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reflecting on Creativity

The creative person is one who can look at the same thing as everybody else but see something different. A creative act takes unremarkable parts to create an unforgettable whole.
- Denise Shekerjian

The common themes linking creative people is that they were all remarkly resilient at creating an environment that suited their needs, skilled at honoring their own peculiar talents instead of lusting after an illusion of self, capable of knowing when to follow their instincts, and above all, magnificent risk-takers, unafraid to run ahead of the great popular tide.
- Denise Shekerjian

The trick to creativity is to identify your own peculiar talent and then to settle down to work with it for a good long time. Everyone has a aptitude for something. The trick is to recognize it, to honor it, to work with it.
- Denise Shekerjian

Creative work doesn’t evolve simply from wishing or accident, or wholly from a mystical flash of inspiration. It also requires a sustained purpose and the discipline of trying over an extended period of time.
` Howard Gardener

What intuition provides is an inkling, an itch, a yearning, a mist of possibilities. What judgment provides is structure, assessment, form, purpose. Blend them together and you will begin to recognize the tiny, pert buds of opportunity, that, if pursued, may well lead to a dramatic flowering of the most creative work of your career.
` Robert Coles

Friday, July 18, 2008

Art Therapy: Group Therapeutic Art

In my Art Therapy work, I do a lot of group work. Here are the guidelines I set out for art making of group art when the intent is therapeutic.

* Trust yourself in your art making process- there is no right or wrong way.
* Your art is a reflection of what you may be feeling right now. You are always changing.
* Resist comparing your art to others. Your creative style is unique.
* Give yourself permission to experiment, play, take risks, and be curious about the process.
* Give yourself permission to reflect on and accept your real feelings before you engage the art materials.
* Don’t let preconceptions about what art is or should be interfere with the pleasure of creating.
* Allow yourself to let go of negative judgments from past experiences such as school: they don’t matter any more.
* Give yourself quiet time after to reflect on the experience of art making. This reflection may include journal writing or note taking or simply thinking about your experience.What is needed at this moment? It is important that we always respect our own boundaries of personal comfort and readiness to confront what may be difficult issues.
* Above all, have fun, invite pleasure and curiosity, and allow yourself to experience the simple joy of working with the art materials.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reflecting on Creating Art in a Group Setting

I have been reflecting on why retreats for mediating, art making, etc., are so effective and rich. The simple answer is space. There is space for whatever we are focused on; art making, mediating, writing, etc. Everything else falls away. There is the intention, the desire to paint, and time and space to do it. It is having the luxurious benefit of intention, time, and space. Of course it helps to have like minded people around you doing the same activity. The group benefits from each others creative energy and spirit. Shaun McNiff calls this ‘participation mystique’. He says that painting in a group helps us relax our self-consciousness and become part of a larger group expression. This shows up the same colours being used by artists who work around your table, or maybe different expressions of the same images. A wonderful sparking of creative spirit can be felt in art groups working together.
Emily Carr wrote the following about looking at nature:
“ I begin to see that everything is perfectly balanced so that what one borrows one must pay back, everything has its own place but is interdependent on the rest, that a picture, like life, must also have perfect balance. Every part of it also is dependent on the whole and the whole is dependent on every part. It is a swinging rhythm of thought.”
I think this is what happens when groups create art together, there is a swinging rhythm that flows in the studio space.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Painting Retreat

I have just finished a week long painting retreat held in Bruno Saskatchewan at a monastery called Saint Theresa's. We had large studios with high ceilings, big windows and beautiful old fixtures. Everyday we painted, meditated, laughed, shared stories, cultures, and wine. I ran on the country roads in Bruno accompanied by bright yellow canola fields and a bigger then life baby blue sky. We had lots of workshops; a creativity workshop given by me, an encaustic workshop given by Ann, live models, opportunities to indulge in plein-air painting, singing and piano playing. It was divine. If I wasn’t already in love with the Saskatchewan sky and landscape, this trip sealed it for me. I can’t wait to return next year.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


“To sit patiently with a yearning that has not yet been fulfilled, and to trust that, that fulfillment will come, is quite possibly one of the most powerful "magic skills" that human beings are capable of. It has been noted by almost every ancient wisdom tradition.”

—Elizabeth Gilbert (b. 1969), novelist, biographer, essayist


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