Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest Post: Marin Teens go to Haiti to Perform Art Therapy Outreach Program

Marin Teens go to Haiti to Perform Art Therapy Outreach Program

While many of their peers were enjoying beach days and taking advantage of the opportunity to sleep in, 10 teenage volunteers from Marin, California, headed to Haiti for four weeks in June and July. Girls United, a collaboration from the Meridian Health Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, and Full-Circle Learning, dispatched the volunteers to start an art therapy program for Haitian girls and young women displaced by the earthquake last year. The seemingly simple act of kindness had a powerful impact on the females who survived the devastating natural disaster.

The Marin Independent Journal stated that the volunteers taught teens girls and young women four different forms of artistic expression: photography, printmaking, drama and creative writing. In addition to providing the girls a creative outlet to express their feelings, the volunteers also trained some of the girls and young women in peer-to-peer counseling (and it doesn’t take a psychology degree to see how necessary counseling is as the Haitian people piece their lives together again). Girls United hopes that the women will pass on their new found knowledge to other Haitian women.
The Marin teens worked with nearly 80 women between the ages of 12 and 24. The volunteers received support from writers, artists, and actors, including Rainn Wilson, better known as Dwight from the television show "The Office,” as well as by a United Nations grant of $10,000.
A spokeswoman for the United Nations who was raised in Haiti, Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, is quoted by The Marin Independent Journal as saying, "Haiti historically is known through its art — through our music, our dance, our paintings. Reviving if you will the artistic sense within the Haitian something that gives us hope because this is a survival tool."
Haiti continues to need volunteers willing to sacrifice their time to aid in the healing process. There are a variety of resources for other groups interested in helping. For example, yoga, an ancient form of linking breath with movement to bring inner-peace and awareness, has long been a way to help disaster victims cope with the start of their new lives. Groups can join an organization such as Yoga Adventures, a group that not only practices the art and immerses themselves in local cultures, but will be heading to Haiti this autumn to build a Children’s Center and Home in Jacmel.
Another great organization for volunteer groups to consider is the BuildaBridge organization, a non-profit intervention and arts education organization. Groups are encouraged to apply for volunteer positions that suit their interests. The non-profit's GoodWill Tours are available for traveling performing arts group. Other groups can apply for their desired project, and the organization will accommodate the group depending on its current needs.
A simple Internet search will turn up a wealth of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups. However, be sure to refer to GuideStar to ensure that you will be working with a valid non-profit. Like the Marin volunteers, you can share your knowledge with Haitian disaster victims and give back to the world community.

Allison Gamble 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What is EMDR and why would you use it with Art Therapy?

Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987, after observing that the mind can heal itself during rapid eye movement or REM sleep. I have used it in my Art Therapy practice to work successfully with trauma, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety and a host of other health problems.
When we are traumized the memory and emotions of the event can become “frozen” in our brain, in a "raw" and emotional form, rather than in a verbal more fluid and flowing “story” mode. This becomes an isolated memory network with its own emotions and physical sensations disconnected from the brain’s cortex. Whenever we experience similar events that remind us of the ogrinal traumatic event, we re-experience the thoughts and emotions frozen in our limbic system from the trauma. It is hard to live in the present moment. Often you feel cloudy, confused and afraid without always knowing why. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way.
I use a small machine, which has hand pulsars. First you determine how fast and strong you want the pulsars and then we work with reframing the feelings and messages that you have frozen in your body from your trauma. There is a prodigal that I use for this work.
With repeated sets of using the pulsars, the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also heal at the same time. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvement in many aspects of your life.
I also use the pulsars to help core feelings of relaxation, healthy self-images, and safety images. The bilatel stimulation felt in the body through the hands helps positive thoughts and feelings to fully and strongly anchor in the felt sense of the body. The client is in complete control of the session and usually they feel empowered, alert and very present after a session. Reprocessing is experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt to arise quite naturally from within. As a result, most people experience EMDR as being a natural and very empowering therapy.
There is a lot of research that validates the reliability of EMDR.  (Details on and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for PTSD.
EMDR can easily and safety combined with Art Therapy. You can paint or draw your felt sense, new feelings of safety or relaxation. When I am working with trauma, I use EMDR during Stage Two of my Trauma Resolution work to help process the trauma memories and install new images that fit the clients present life.
If you are interested in EMDR, ask your therapist if they are trained in this method, and if not find one who is. For most people, this is a valuable healing tool. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Using Art Therapy to Help Create a Patient Attitude

My Art Therapy Studio being repaired.

Do you have a hard time waiting? Our house is undergoing renovations due to a crack in the foundation. It was supposed to be a quick three-week job starting June 20th, but surprise, surprise it will not be done until the first week of September. I have lost my therapy space and have had to work in a make shift studio space in our garage. It’s okay, on most days. On other days it has been frustrating, maddening, interesting, boring and irritating waiting for each job to be completed so I can get my Art Therapy Studio back and return “home”.

How are you at waiting? I have always found it difficult. I was born in a car, on the way to the hospital and the story that my mother told was that I was too impatient to wait until we arrived at the hospital. She used to call me “Little Miss Impatience.” A name I hated. Was I impatient or was this her projection? Are some people better at waiting than others or is this a trait we all need to learn?

Patience is the ability to endure difficulty without feeling negative or adverse emotions.  I believe most people don’t find it easy to be patient. In our world of instant gratification patience is not always valued. But, we do need to develop the ability to be patient because we don’t always get instant results. Patience does need to be cultivated and nurtured.

So how do we use Art Therapy to transform lagging hours where we experience frustration and anger into a time of relaxation and peaceful waiting?

  1. Figure out why the situation is irritating or frustrating. We tend to lose our patience when we have expectations of when we think events should be done or occur and we can’t control the time line; when we have little or no confidence in the people performing the task that has to be done; or when we have overscheduled ourselves and realize that we can’t complete all the tasks that we expected we could. We may be stretching ourselves too thin and then becoming impatient with our inability to accomplish the impossible. Paint or draw the last situation in which you were impatient.
  2. Identify the triggers. I know that I hate waiting for someone who is late. I release the tension by making sure that I have something that I can do that will productively fill the waiting time. I carry a book that I can read. Add the triggers that caused your impatience to your painting.
  3. I notice the first signs of feeling anxious, worried, or unhappy so that I can identify the underlying cause of these feelings which may be impatience. To reduce the frequency of impatience, it helps to be aware of it. Which events, people, phrases or circumstances always seem to influence you to lose your cool? Add the emotions you felt and where in your body you felt them to your painting.
  4. Look for patterns. Ask yourself if this circumstance is simply not healthy and do you need to change it? Add three other times you experienced this pattern (if there was three times) to your painting.
  5. Remember that things take time. If you are really efficient, be thankful, but remember that not everyone is. With our house, it has been helpful to remember that it is typical for people to not show up on time, jobs to take longer than expected, mistakes to be made and that may have started out as a simple repair can turn into a complicated mess.  Expect the unexpected. Add a list of what you could control in this situation and a list of what was out of your control to your painting.
  6. Last but not least, a frustrating situation as this one, waiting for a house to be repaired by several different crews who are not working together, is a great opportunity to learn patience. Create a symbol of patience to add to your painting.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Grounding and Five Finger Shoes

My new happy feet.

As an art therapist, I am always looking for new ways to help my clients ground themselves. By ground, I mean feel connected to themselves, others and the world around them. Trauma disconnects us from our sense of belonging.
Any exercise or movement that uses our lower body helps us feel grounded. Running is a great way to feel grounded physically (feet on the ground), mentally (thinking about your legs and movement), emotionally (feeling alive, free and happy), and spirituality (feeling connected to nature).

My partners feet.
I just bought some five fingers running shoes. They feel like heaven on my feet! It is almost like running barefoot. What a great way to feel grounded as your foot touches the earth. Their revolutionary design makes feet healthier by allowing them to move more naturally and freely. These shoes stimulate all 26 bones, 33 joints, and 20 muscles in our feet. If you get a chance, try these great shoes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What advice would you give?

Me teaching.
I often get emails from Art Therapy students asking for advice. This
week I received an interesting one. All the writer asked for was one
piece of advice about what she should know about doing therapy with
children. How refreshing and different from being asked to name the top
ten pieces of advice, or five most important things that you have
learned during your career. If I could only tell her one thing or piece
or advice, what would it be?

I love the simplicity and brilliance of reducing what I think is
important to one thing. What emerged from my mind right away was
*self-growth*. The best advice I can give her for becoming a good
Art Therapist or to be good in any profession is to work on herself. The
more present, authentic, awake and aware I become, the better Art
Therapist I am. I could take all the workshops in the world, know all
the theories and have a thousand techniques, but if I am not present and
with my client in a self-aware and unconditional way, the session will
not be healing or therapeutic.

What would your one piece of advice be?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hula Hooping

The hula hoop has re-emerged as a dance, a form of exercise, and entertainment. There is even an International Holiday World Hoop Day. Hoopers perform body tricks, hand tricks, use large hoops for slow hooping, fire hooping and glow-in-the dark hoops for night hooping. Hooping is all over the internet, there are clubs, groups, and fitness classes.

In a class that I recently taught, the focus was on circles. We made mandalas, played circle games, talked about the archetypal essence of the circle, did some art therapy exercises using circles and ended the day with hooping. It was a wonderful way to end a day. Hula Hooping exercises 30 core muscles, improves balance, and tones the body. If you have never tried it, it is a tremendous workout. 


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