Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Art Therapy Exercises: Using the Face

Collaged faces showing emotions.

The face shows joy, sorrow, shame, pain, anxiety and many more human emotions. Our facial expressions can be flexible, controlled, masked or revealing. We sometimes have an open face and sometimes not. Our face can show flashes of our fresh thinking, openness, and sometimes we need to shut down, rein in our facial expressions for safety, or because we are not ready to show all and sometimes because we aren't sure.

In Art Therapy work I do a lot of exercises using the face. Sometimes clients paint their face, collage faces, make masks, etc. Sometimes it is to play with how they think others see them or to explore their inner and outer self-expression. Sometimes clients paint or collage their many faces such as, their face of contentment, joy, shame, sorrow, fear, grief, etc. There is a unique psychological shift that takes place when you look into your own eyes and face and paint your own portrait. Your own face suddenly becomes a mirror to your soul, the real you.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about being Authentic

Client painting. 

I am not being authentic when I pretend to be indifferent when I am not, when I present myself as more or less than I am, when I laugh when I need to cry, when I fake beliefs to be accepted, when I fake modesty, and when I allow my silence to imply agreement with convictions I do not share. 

Here are some basic questions to consider:  
1) Am I honest with others about my feelings in contexts where talking about feelings is appropriate? 
2) Do I consciously strive to be truthful in communications? 
3) Do I talk openly, and straightforwardly about that which I love and enjoy?
4) If I am hurt, angry, or upset, do I talk about this with honesty and dignity?
5) Do I stick up for myself and honour my needs and interests?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Choosing Your Battles

Sometimes it just isn't worth it to confront. Sometimes it is.
clients image of having an argument
Here are five questions you may ask yourself when determining which principles to defend and when to go along with others.
1) Is this going to cause irrevocable physical or psychological damage?
2) Is this primarily a power struggle with no good reason?
3) If I agree to this request, how will I feel about it tomorrow?
4) Do I have a good reason to deny this request?
5) Am I or my (child, friend, partner, etc.) too tired at this moment to engage with this?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about Self-Care

Children making puppets in Art Therapy of themselves as grownups.

What is missing in your life? What could you use more or less of?

balance      self-esteem  tenderness   composure   love          recognition
generosity   centering    activity      confidence    caring       awareness
health       motivation     sharing      solitude     strength    knowledge
skill          music         devotion     energy       laughter        opportunities
laughter    fitness      challenges    support     serenity        contemplation
relaxation   variety      trust        comfort     insight       self-expression
structure   joy           harmony    nutrition    control        companionship
romance     touching     sex          intimacy     sleep        accomplishments
money       patience     integration beauty      surrender   commitment
flexibility   education   training     sensitivity   communion  coordination
exercise     experience receptivity faith         forgiveness   responsibility
freedom     purpose     self-control compassion acceptance  self-awareness
peace        love          passion      hope         creativity   contribution 
play         respect      loyalty      trust           belonging   validation
guidance    fun          safety       security     progress    being listened to
connection touch        attention    calmness    warmth     non-judgment

Monday, November 15, 2010

Living By Your Own Design or Playing Dress-up

This is an Art Therapy experience for those who want to experiment with their personal style. When we view the body as our own personal canvas, we are opened up to new ways of dressing and expressing our essence in our style statement. 
- making choices that inspire your spirit
- finding your creative edge
- defining your style statement

Through Focusing, art making, journaling, and play we will find new ways of defining our style and seeing our bodies.

When: Dec. 11th & 12 th from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Where: 2500 McDonald St. Regina, SK.
Cost: $275.00 for the weekend (includes all art materials)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about Sleep

I think we all agree that sleep is necessary and pleasurable. Some of the reasons that we need sleep are:
⇒ It is a way of recharging the brain and processing newly learned information and storing memories.
⇒ Sleep helps lowers your metabolic rate and energy consumption.
⇒ The cardiovascular system also gets a break during sleep. People with normal or high blood pressure experience a 20 to 30% reduction in blood pressure and 10 to 20% reduction in heart rate.
⇒ The body replaces chemicals and repair muscles, other tissues and aging or dead cells.
Regardless of the benefits, sometimes we struggle with sleep. Here are some tips to help try and get a good night’s sleep:

• Do not nap during the day. Napping throws off your body clock and makes it more difficult to sleep at night.

• Limit caffeine and alcohol. Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for several hours before bedtime.

• Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body's natural biological clock.

• Exercise early in the day. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise every day can help you sleep, but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon.

• Check your iron level. Iron deficient women tend to have more problems sleeping.

• Make sure your bed is large enough and comfortable.

• Make your bedroom primarily a place for sleeping. It is not a good idea to use your bed for doing work, watching T.V. etc. Help your body recognize that this is a place for rest or intimacy.

• Keep your bedroom peaceful and comfortable. Make sure your room is well ventilated and the temperature is consistent, and try to keep it quiet.

• Hide your clock. An illuminated digital clock may cause you to focus on the time and make you feel stressed and anxious.

• Keep a regular schedule. Keeping a regular schedule will help your body expect sleep at the same time each day.

• Incorporate bedtime rituals. Listening to soft music, sipping a cup of herbal tea, etc., cues your body that it's time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.

A Focused Centered Art Therapy Exercise for Sleep:
Start by getting comfortable, feeling grounded in your chair and noticing your legs. Take a minute to notice if your legs are tired, energized or relaxed. Notice the chair under your legs and adjust yourself to get even more comfortable in your chair. Take a deep breath into your stomach. As you pause here, staying with your stomach, notice if you sense any colour, shape or image. Bring awareness to your back, chest and arms. Notice if there is any tension and gently releasing it. Take time to sense into your hands, stretching the fingers. Bring awareness to your neck, head and gently turn inward, sensing into your inner throat, chest and then resting in the belly area.

Give yourself a gentle invitation to focus on the part of you that struggles with sleep. Take some time to notice where in your body you sense this part, and what it has to tell you. You might write down or draw what it wants. By bringing a quality of gentleness and acceptance to the part of you that struggles with sleep, you can hear from its point of view, what it is needing. Give it space to be heard and expressed. Sense how it feels. You may ask it if it is protecting you from anything.

Now give yourself a gentle invitation to focus on the part of you that wants to sleep. Take some time to notice where in your body you sense this part, and listen it what it has to say. You may want to write or draw this response.

Now take a moment and see if you can be with both parts, just as they are. When you are ready, write or draw this final response.

Now imagine yourself sleeping. Take a few minutes and check in with these two parts and notice any shift or change in your physical body sensations, emotions or thinking.

Resources for information on Sleep:

This is a CD that I recommend clients buy:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Using Metaphors in Therapy

Participants Chair
Using chairs as a metaphor
Participants Chair
Participants Chair
Participants Chair

Participants Chair
Focused Centered Art Therapy and using Metaphors

I took part in an online course offered by Ann Weiser Cornell and Gene Gendlin in which Gene used a beautiful metaphor for Focusing. He said he imagined himself sitting on a bench in the subway station in New York and from this bench; he had the choice of taking many trains. He was using this metaphor to describe sitting in the place deep inside where we wait and see what wants our attention. We could focus on the part of us that is upset over something that happened with a friend who is worried about work or the part of us that feels happy and calm. He described the bench as the place where we stay Present and be with our inner experience.

This weekend I taught a Level Four Focusing to a wonderful group of people. I used Gene’s metaphor and the women all imagined a seat, a chair or a place of comfort and safety where they could take a seat in their deep inner self. These chairs presented a place to pause, and/or be anchored in their inner world. 


Why A Chair? 

The chairs develop their own narrative. You may have found associations with an old familiar reading chair, a chair used for thinking, reflecting, and or throwing clothes on. You may remember chairs that you sat on in the waiting room at the doctor, at bus stops, at friends’ houses or in restaurants. You may have favourite styles of chairs. Chairs in homes can be thought of as holding energy. A chair positioned at the doorway of the home is metaphorically sitting at the threshold of what energy is entering or leaving the home. A chair used in a nursery to snuggle and sing a child to sleep would metaphorically be holding safety, comfort and love for that child. A chair in the study may hold the joy of sinking into a good book, and the promise of insight. A chair in the dinning room may hold the discomfort or comfort of the family meal. Chairs are where we retreat, pause, take stock, reflect, think and meditate. When we settle into a chair, we can turn our attention inward.

Art Experience: Creating your Focusing Chair

In this art experience I am suggesting that we think of this chair as symbolic of a place where you sit down to Focus. The chair is a place where you can be Present and focused on your inner experience. What colours would it need to be, what designs, decorations, fabrics, and/or other symbolic objects would need to be there or around this chair for your safety and containment? What qualities would it metaphorically have to have? I am suggesting that you use your imagination to let this chair become the seat of your journey. From the comfort and safety of this chair you can explore your deep inner levels of being.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about Stress

 We all talk about stress, but what is it really? I remember when my daughter was five years old and so excited about having her own art show, then, when the day arrived her joy turned into a bad stomachache. That was stress. It was an outside show and she relieved her aching stomach by lying on the grass most of the day. Unfortunately, we can’t do that at work. If we could react to what our bodies tell us what they want at times of stress, our stress would not build up.  Stress comes from both the good and the bad things that happen to us. If we did not feel any stress, we would not be alive! Stress becomes a problem when we are not sure how to handle an event or a situation and we don’t have a way to relieve that worry or stress. Like my daughter, it could start with a stomachache or a headache. We will always have stress or worry about major events in our life: getting married, changing jobs, or getting divorced. We will always have daily hassles: traffic jams or rude people. We need to find a way to release stress. When you find an event stressful, your body undergoes a series of changes, called the stress response.
Stress Painting

Stage 1 - Mobilizing Energy
At first, your body releases adrenaline, your heart beats faster, and you start to breathe more quickly.
Stage 2 - Consuming Energy Stores
If, for some reason, you do not escape from the first stage, your body begins to release stored sugars and fats from its resources. At this stage, you will feel driven, pressured and tired. You may drink more coffee, smoke more, and drink more alcohol than is good for you. You may also experience anxiety, memory loss, catch colds or get the flu more often than normal.
Stage 3 - Draining Energy Stores
If you do not resolve your stress problems, the body's need for energy will become greater than its ability to produce it, and you will become chronically stressed. At this stage, you may experience insomnia, errors in judgement, personality changes and maybe a serious illness, such as ulcers.

Stress Painting
Coping with Stress                                                                                                                   

    We store and need to release stress mentally (i.e. worry), physically (i.e. constriction, pain), and emotionally (i.e. feeling sad, depressed). My daughter lay on the grass, which helps stretch out a tight stomach, and gave her a sense of grounding or safety. Physical activity can be a great stress reducer. Go for a walk, take up a sport, dig in the garden, or do simple stretching. Stretching relaxes the parts of the body that hold stress.  You may find it helpful to learn some relaxation exercises, deep breathing and meditation. For emotional release connecting with another to talk and share your story is an effective cure. When my daughter’s friends showed up and started laughing and talking with her, she let go her fear and belief that having an art show was scary. If you make a habit of taking pressure off yourself by getting rid of your tension (emotional, physical, and mental), you will find yourself less stressed and more able to solve the problems that caused your stress in the first place. Creating art after a busy day working at an office, teaching or whatever you do is a great stress releaser. It gets your body physically moving; helps you get in touch with your emotions and helps you empty your mind of the day’s clutter. Here is a distressing art therapy exercise:

Take a large piece of paper. Have lots of paint. Start by doing some deep breathing and centering. Standing and moving the whole body, make large arm movements and paint large circles. Work big until your body feels relaxed and stretched, then start coming in smaller by making smaller shapes while saying out loud or to yourself things you want to release about the day. Keep working smaller until you reach the size you want to continue working at. Then paint one thing that you enjoyed about the day. This painting usually is abstract with lots of colors and feelings. It is a good stress releaser, try it.

Stress Painting

References for Stress:

Books on stress:

Art Therapy and Stress:

Good blogs slowing down, relaxing, reflecting:

Monday, November 1, 2010

My New Art Work: Archetypal Theatres

I have been working on creating Archetypal Theatres. These theatres contain the symbols, objects, words and feelings of each archetype. They are about 2 feet by 3 feet.

Fool Archetype
 What I wanted to capture here was the adventurous, spontaneous and playful nature of the Fool. I created a gypsy caravan for the Fool's home.

Magician Archetype

 In this art piece I wanted to show the magical, passionate, and creative fire nature of the Magician. I used an old carrying case that I imagined a Magician could carry to stage shows.

High Priestess
In this piece I wanted to portray the layers of mystery, poetic intrigue and emotional depth of the High Priestess. What do you think? Share your thoughts.


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