Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Foster Children

I work with many children who are removed from their homes and placed in foster care. For most of them this is a traumatic experience. I know how difficult it is for most of us to make transitions, move to new homes or countries. Building new connections takes time, love and energy.  From attachment theory studies we know that if a child can connect to one person, then that child can grow and have connections with other important people in his or her life.

But how do we help with transitions and creating new healthy attachments? I have a new helper in my Art Therapy Studio. I had fallen in love with Denise’s work and I wanted one of her creations to live with me and help me with my therapy work. But how could I help Tiny Blessed make to transition from Australia to Canada?
Tiny Blessed arriving in the mail.

First, it was good that her maker and I already had a connection. We are blogging friends.  To know that Denise already liked and trusted me helped Tiny Blessed trust me. She had to travel a long distance, so, when she arrived I made sure she was comfortable and settled her into a soft warm place with the objects that Denise had packed with her. I knew that Tiny Blessed would need those objects to help her make the transition to her new surroundings. Tiny Blessed would need time to become accustomed to the new odours, sights, noises and voices in my Art Therapy Studio. I was hoping that she would want to help with children that I work with like some of my other stuffed creatures and dolls do, but first she needed time to settle in.
Tiny Blessed and her transitional objects.

All children in transition need to have freedom to look around and find their place. Tiny Blessed tried the dollhouse, several chairs, and the doll shelf. Of course I showed her all the rooms. I slowly and gently talked about the other toys, where they came from and watched her body language to see when and if she was getting overwhelmed or excited. 

Routine helps my children feel safe and grounded in my Art Therapy Studio and it also helped Tiny Blessed. She slowly started making appearances in the Art Therapy Studio. The separation and reunion process is usually highly individual. Tiny Blessed likes to sleep in the hug chair and she likes to be in the art studio when the children start arriving. She has already been held by a few of the children, and I think she likes them. Because she doesn’t use words to talk, I have to read her energy and body language to notice when she feels relaxed, comfortable or needs something. She has already connected with a few of my nonverbal clients and I think she is excited that she has a job here.
Tiny Blessed experiencing snow.
She was fascinated with Canadian snow and has had a few visits outside. I think she is transitioning well. I feel she likes the idea of being a co-therapist, she already has made some close friends and she likes her new home. Thanks Denise. I will probably be writing you about one of her sisters coming here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fun With Crayons

First hot glue crayons on a canvas.

Then use a hair dryer and have fun!!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Teenage Archetype Deck

The Teenage Archetype Deck by Jennifer Hereth

The Teenage Archetype deck created by Jennifer Hereth is an invaluable therapy tool. The eighty-eight cards for working with teenagers were created by over fifty different artists, but I have been using them in my therapy practice for teens and adults. The images are powerful and moving. I have used them as a check-in and checkout tool. Clients pick a card that resonates for them to fit how they are feeling when they walk in and then another when the session is over. On the weekend I taught a Level One Focusing and Art Therapy group and the group picked a card at the beginning of the day and then later after they had their Focusing practice session to represent the part of them that they were focusing with. They are great cards to do self-inquiry and self-discovery work. They can be used to do Family Systems work, relationship work, and in many more ways. They are a good starting point for clients to understand and explore archetypal work. Jennifer has created a wonderful therapy tool. I have taught archetype groups for years and I know how powerful archetypal work can be.

The Teenage Archetype Deck by Jennifer Hereth
The Teenage Archetype Deck by Jennifer Hereth
Jennifer is not a therapist; she is an art teacher, and a painter. To quote Jennifer, “The unique visuals are not illustrations of a term but meant to evoke dialogue. Also the deck is gender, sexually, and racially sensitive to help as many teens as possible identify with the images. All artists donated their artwork and funds from the deck will be donated to charities for teens in this ultimate gift of love.”

I encourage you to buy this amazing deck. My clients love it. Jennifer and her art students have created something unique and very special. They can be purchased at cost $20.00 as a professional courtesy, tax deductible from JennyHereth@gmail.com or online through http://iartistsinfluence.org/#home for $50.00 tax deductible thru Paypal. 100% of the profits go to teem projects. Shipping is free.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why go to Conferences?

I just attended the Canadian Art Therapy Conference in Naigara Falls. It was a wonderful and well organized weekend filled with rich insights and offerings. It reminded me of why it is so important to attend conferences. First of all we work alone. We need to talk to other Art Therapists about what we do and why. Secondly we need new ideas and inspiration. I read many, many books and articles but being in the same room with someone and listening and asking questions about their research and passion is a much better way for me to learn. Thirdly, we need to make art with other Art Therapists, network, make new connections and have fun.

Cathy Malchiodi was the keynote speaker and she was brilliant. Being an Art Therapist, I am visual and I loved her visuals, especially because she included some of the artwork (prayer flags) that clients of mine had made in her workshop presentation on Gratitude. We made our own Gratitude scrolls in the workshop which was very satisfying. 
My Gratitude Scroll

Studies show that keeping gratitude journals or doing gratitude meditations or prayers helps reduce stress, increase happiness and motivation. Check here and here .

If you are an Art Therapist I hope to see you at a conference some day! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Using Art Therapy to Release Anger

Expressing feelings of anger.

            Anger is a painful, powerful and complex emotion.  When it overwhelms us, we often want to push it away, stuff it down, ignore it or forget it.  Not dealing effectively with our anger only increases its potential to be destructive.
1.  Our emotions are interconnected, so you suppress anger you also suppress your passion, and joy.
2. Traits in others that anger us are often those that we reject in ourselves. 
3.  When you hold on to resentment you freeze yourself in a victim’s role. 
4.  Anger is a signal that your rights have been violated, your needs are not being met, or that you are compromising yourself in some way.  Let anger be a catalyst for you to learn more about yourself. 
5.  Turn the pain of your anger into energy for change with five steps: acknowledge your anger, identify its cause, determine what you can do, express your feelings, and let it go.
6.  Accept your anger as an emotional fact and a tool you can use for personal transformation.
7.  In the process of identifying what’s causing your anger, you determine what is and is not acceptable to you.  This is vital self knowledge.  Use it to guide your choices and shape your life.
8.  You cannot change others.  People are not responsible for your anger.  No one else can “make” you angry and no one else can take your anger away.
9.  Pleasing others at your own expense can lead to feeling angry.
10.  Anger can open a door to the past, a door through which you can enter and bring healing to old, unresolved issues.


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