One art therapy technique that many art therapists’ use and pioneered by Carl Jung is called active imagination. It is the practice of communicating to your art image after you create it. Art therapist Sean McNiff believes that our art forms have their own creative energy and by letting them communicate or talk we can travel deeper into our intuitive creative worlds. Communicating with the image can be done by dancing, drumming, writing poetry, or even painting a response to your own painting or someone else’s. In a workshop that I attended led by Sean McNiff, he had us paint our responses to our partner’s images. If an art piece has been done in a therapy session, which came from a client’s deep emotional response, talking about, it verbally may not be a respectful or useful way to debrief or understand it. Active imagination encourages us to stay Present and enter into the same or similar state that the artist or client was in when she or he was creating. Talking about it takes us out of our mindful connection with the part of us that is emoting and drops us into a more rational logical realm. Talking also alienates us with judgment, which has no place in this process. The art made in therapy needs to be seen in an open, present, nonjudgmental state which we can access easily when we respond to art artfully.
An Art Therapy Exercise for Talking to Your Images
In this exercise you will be going for a walk through your house. I will be asking you to experiment with responding to the art images that you have on your walls. First, get a sketchbook and some coloured pencils. Stand in front of your first painting and spend some time bringing yourself into a sate of presence. Now draw or paint a response to this painting. Move on to the next one. This time sing. Sing whatever words or sounds come to you as you look at this work of art. If you have a drum or musical instrument try responding to the next one through that medium. For the fourth work, dance or do some creative movement as you feel into the art piece. Now keep travelling through your house using any response that you choose to communicate with your art pieces.