Art and other creative approaches
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Gail Evans BASRT Accred UKCP Reg. B.Sc M.Sc. CQSW CertCC, Dip PST
15th August, 2007
Many people find it difficult to express and reflect on what they want to communicate, especially their emotions, using the spoken word. Most counsellors can offer you other ways to explore your issues and some specialise in particular creative approaches, such as art, writing, music, movement/body work.
How often I have heard people in therapy say (and my counselling students), "Oh I'm no good at art (or writing, dancing, music....)", having memories of feeling ashamed of their schoolday attempts at these activities - perhaps even being mocked.
Within counselling and psychotherapy the point is not to make something that will be admired by others - it is not a performance. It is to find another form of expression for what is going on inside you. Only you and your therapist need to see what you produce, and the value is in the process of doing, not the end product. You and your therapist together will notice and reflect on how you approach what you are doing, what it brings up for you, what it means to you and how you feel about the process. You may find yourself expressing emotions you didn't realise you were bottling up and/or reaching new insights into youself or your situation.
In a similar way you might want to work with images in your mind or with objects as symbolic representations of relationships or parts of yourself or aspects of you life and experience. Counsellors often use stones and shells, but also soft toys and other objects in this way.
You may also find it helps to write about these things and then reflect on what you have written. There is a good deal of research which highlights the positive benefits of writing as therapy. Once again, it is not about performance - writing skills, spelling and so on - it is about freeing yourself to find out what you really feel and think.
Another benefit of creative approaches is that you take up a different position in relation to your therapist - perhaps working side by side, on the floor or moving around. Some people feel a little disturbed by this change, but most people find it liberating. Take courage and give it a go.
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