Art Therapy and Its Symbols

We have a tendency to think that Art Therapy uses “symbols” rather than “words”, as in “Talk Therapy.” I want to remind us that words are symbols too—really language is a staggeringly complex system of spoken and written metaphors that we can no longer recognize as metaphors.

What an excellent point that Jim Nolan makes about the shortcut description many art therapists use to describe what we do. It makes me want to rethink my elevator speech to be more accurate. Wittgenstein would be overjoyed about this discussion!

The Importance of Being Productive

In a recent article, the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson makes an important point about the need to increase productivity in the fields of Education and Healthcare. And, as always, Walter Russell Mead offers a concise yet insightful analysis,

Services – especially healthcare, education and a variety of government services – need to become more efficient and cost-effective if we want to avoid bankrupting ourselves. The best way to do this is to harness the power of new technologies to make these services both better and cheaper…Technological advances have already made products like refrigerators, cars and decent clothing accessible to even the poorest Americans, it is time for the to do the same for the basic services we rely on to keep our country running.

Interesting food for thought…how can we, as art therapists, use technology to become more efficient, thereby securing our futures?

Steve Jobs: Advice On Living Life

I’m so sad to hear about his resignation from Apple, which almost certainly has to do with his failing health. This presentation given by Jobs several years ago to a Stanford graduating class clearly shows how introspective Jobs is, and his advice is something we all would benefit from knowing.

Hat tip Coach Poppy for posting this on Facebook.

Art Seeking: Using Works of Art by Other Artists as Therapy

Jeremy Siegel, MD explains Art Seeking on his blog and it’s relationship to art therapy. Here’s a snipet of his recent post More Art Seeking Q & A:

Q. How is this different from the branch of psychotherapy known as art therapy?

A. Art seeking is distinctly different from art therapy. In art therapy you might be asked by a therapist to don a smock and soften clay or paint something. Art seeking requires none of this. In art seeking you don’t get your physical hands dirty. There is so much art all around us that already exists-made by artists over the centuries including that made in recent years-that we simply can begin to avail ourselves of what may be the greatest untapped resource for psychological healing.

Seems like Art Seeking is akin to collage, either magazine or online photos…don’t you think?

Overcoming a Phobia

Fear of Driving

Actually, this post should be titled “How I’m trying to overcome a phobia and how freaking difficult it is!”

Growing up in the east coast of Canada, in a city with great public transit, I never felt the need to learn how to drive…or so I told myself. I could get around just fine, and it was something I just didn’t have an interest in learning how to do. Fast forward to present day. I live in the Bay Area and still take public transit everywhere, but I’m feeling the pressure when it comes to not having a driver’s license. So, with much prompting and encouragement from others, I reluctantly went out to get my permit and began learning to drive. This is when I realized I had a phobia- the moment when the possibility of driving actually became a realistic thing…something I was going to do. My anxiety became overwhelming, so much so that just thinking about driving turned me into a sobbing hysterical mess. Even writing about this topic still brings tears to my eyes, despite the fact that I’ve come so far. Currently, I am taking driving lessons, practicing and I even drove on the highway for the first time a few days ago. I’m just waiting for desensitization to (finally) take hold, as this has been going on for months…but I have to admit, it is getting better.

Here are some examples of art therapy directives I thought up that would help someone with a similar phobia (and can easily be adapted to other forms of phobic behaviors):

– Using art making to visualize yourself driving. For example, you can begin by drawing, or perhaps collaging a picture of yourself in a car. The next step would be to create a visual story or comic strip about the drive itself, where in the end everything works out okay and you return safely home.

– Using art making to reduce anxiety before and after a visualization or in vivo session. This can mean simply making a mandala, or perhaps knitting or sewing…anything that you find to be meditative and relaxing.

– One may also decide to create a piece of artwork that includes encouraging phrases or images. This artwork could be also be made before or after a visualization or in vivo session, or perhaps it could just be hanging around the house or car so you get a dose of encouragement through out the day.