Notes + Quotes: Intro to Art Therapy

Introduction to Art Therapy:

Faith in the Product

By Bruce Moon


In summary, this book was incredible.  I loved every w
ord and even when it was a bit repetitive, it served to remind or rephrase some of the most important points.  This is the first work I have read related to Art Therapy and I am honestly a bit hesitant to read anything else; I feel nobody will have such a beautiful way of writing about art, love, humanity, and therapy.  Perhaps it was because I was expecting a more standard textbook format (with bolded words, asides, and footnotes), but the combination of anecdotes and summarization, of definitions and humility, and of personal works of art was more than I would have ever hoped for of a book generically entitled Introduction to Art Therapy.  Thank you Bruce Moon, for your compassion towards humanity, your love of the arts, and your belief in the life-changing potential of art therapy. What follows were the ‘notes’ that I took while reading (though honestly mostly excerpts and quotes).  If it sounds like an interesting book to you I recommending reading the entirety of it, as I didn’t include any of the anecdotal stories, which I found to be some of the most enlightening. 

(I apologize for any errors or typos.  I typed the majority of this on my phone and, well, we all know how that goes.)

Chapter I:
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Why do you do art?
Love is the will to attend, to the self and others.
The doing of art is an act of love.

The relationship between art, art therapy, and love is utterly tied to the presence of discipline, focus (concentration), patience, skillfulness (mastery), and faith. (Faith in the goodness of life, the arts, of others, and of ourselves. Fromm said “… only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.” I would emphasize that only the art therapist who has faith in her, or his, own images is able to have faith in those of others, i.e. clients.)

Anything that we attempt to do, if we only do it when we are in the mood, or when we feel like it, may be amusing it may pass the time, but it will never be art.

Without self-discipline life is random and chaotic—what Viktor Frank describes as the, “existential vaccuum.”

Offering a safe, predictable, and comfortable environment

Speed is not of the essence when it comes to art and love. In fact, doing these things quickly may be the antithesis of doing them skillfully

Nothing that is valuable comes conveniently or easily.

Chapter II:
THERAPIST OR ARTIST?

Answer: YES

“I have always found it facinating​ that this system (stratified pyramid/caste system) works in such a way as to discourage contact with the patient.”

One must first be an artist, in order to become an art therapist. art is the anchor, the soul, the taproot of the profession. “ARTIST: the one who professes and practices and imaginative art.” (Webster’s New college dictionary) This does not imply hay one must exhibit his or her work, or enter competitive situations. Rather it leads to a definition of art therapist as one who practices an imaginative art and attends to others though the process and the products of artistic work. (28)

Chapter III:
WHAT IS METAVERBAL THERAPY?

“beyond words​”
The heart of the profession is experienced in moments that defy verbal description.
Every paint streak, each xhalk line, every slab of color harmonious and dissonant, declares to the artist themselves, to beholders of their work and to all humankind that I am, I am here and I have something to express.

It is a dangerous thing, TO BE. It is beyond words.

Chapter IV:
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE WORK?

The story of Jan.

The resistance phase
The working through phase
The termination phase

Patterns/metaphoric themes of termination:
1. I will get mad at you, you will be angry with me and I will feel no pain when I leave you.
2. I will withdraw from you early, so that when I leave I will not miss you.
3. Wasn’t this wonderful, I’m so glad I met you, you’ve really changed my life.
4. I will use this time to honor the work that we have done together.

Chapter V:
DRAMATIC ENACTMENT

Dramatic enactment is a preplanned , even scripted interaction; the fulfillment of a role; the identification of the comic and tragic in real life…. Each of us plays roles, directs others and is directed, word and recites dialogue. Each of us rehearses and each of us spends time to find our motivations and to get into character. (50)

Dramatic enactment, as an everyday, semi-invisible art form, serves a vital purpose to humanity. It provides a structure for understanding. Truth (reality) is stranger than fiction because it is less comprehensible. Humans need to interpret raw reality to make sense of it. Art forms of all kinds have this critical mission. Patterns and structures from the arts codify and simplify the stream of data called life. An artistic view is a “take” or perspective that suggests a meaning.

Any human art: make life more understandable and express values

Theraputic empathy means that you, the art therapist, understand the drama that is being enacted in your patient’s life and see his or her role in it. You then use your own dramatic skills to project yourself into that role. You understand the motivations for the actions your patient performs and the lines he or she speaks.
Empathy is usually spoken of as an important element in gaining the patient’s trust and acceptance, engendering hope. These things are all true. And the trust is rewarded, and hope justified, when the therapist takes the next step in empathy. The therapist remains in the patient’s character and then examines options and choices for changing the drama. Theraputic options obtained this way have such greater per because they represent the couches the patient might conceivably make.

Legitimate fear, for the therapist, of identity loss…
Remedy: Act. The empathic connection established by the therapist based on the mastery of dramatic (and artistic) techniques is not “just an act.” It is a sincere artistic gesture. Art joins humans together on the most fundamental level, the level of archetype and the collective unconscious.

As art therapists​ it is your job to pay close attention to the drama your patient’s engage you in. You must be willing to regard all aspects of your work as art-form-in-process. You must attempt to understand the role the patient has cast you in, and you must improvise as you strive to help the patient understand that they can write a new script. It is not only the painting, the sculpture, the poem or dance that is the art form in the theraputic context. Every word you utter, every move you make and every facial expression you display ate pieces of character in the dramatic enactment of art therapy. (61)

Chapter VI:
TRUTH AND FICTIONS

metaphor, defined

I have often thought that what my patients have most wanted from me…is an assurance that the  truth about their  lives are acceptable.

For our purposes here let us define truth as: sincerity in character and action; the sum of real things and events.

…they have create fictional identities in order to ease the pain. These fictions are of course creative acts in and of themselves, and so are metaphoric portraits of the self, i.e., truths in their own right.

(The metaphors of art therapy) are figurative actions and objects in which one thing (the patient) is described in the terms of another (the image).
…the potential for multiple interpretations; their purpose being to illuminate or expose truth.

I listen to the whole of the communication and at every turn resist the seductive pull to analyze, dissect, and label.

Story of Estelle. (Gargoyle drawings)

Chapter VII:
FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF ART THERAPY

1. Meta-verbal therapy
The work of art therapy takes place in the interaction between the patient/artist, the media, the image and the prices. In this sense the primary tall of the art therapist is to see the stage for the work to unfold.
This is not a devaluation of verbalization, it is rather an honoring of action and image.

2. Talk as validation
Offers a measure of security for both patient and therapist
For the patient: Shift from primary sensual and emotional position, toward an acceptable cognitive construct (opportunity to distance from the powerful feelings evoked by the work) – may be helpful or problematic
The essential role of verbalization in art therapy must be regarded as one of confirmation.

3. Art Therapy has no discriminatory borders

4. The dynamic energy generated through creative action is of consequential merit as a source of satisfaction and valuation of personal worth

5. Artistic expression as a healthy act
It feels good to do.

6. Treatment, whether psychological or rehabilitative, is simulated and enhanced through the use of imagination
– The story of Penny (bear and the cave)

7. The theraputic use of art provides an opportunity for the patient-artist to render emotional portraits of significant others in their lives
– The story of Helen and her dead husband

8. The creative arts provide opportunities to make concrete objects representing feelings and thoughts that are elusive, hidden, and mysterious
Discussing the characters in their images is often experienced as less threatening than discussing their psychological difficulties directly.
– The story of Rob and the burning coal

9. The primary feelings related to events in the patient’s life remain powerfully attached to artistic portrayals
cathexis: the investment of libidinal energy in a person, object, or idea

10. As at therapists we have two wanting tools, ART and OURSELVES
It is critical as an art therapist to know yourself well before attempting to deal with to the lives of others.
Physician, heal thyself.

Chapter VIII:
TO TALK OR NOT TO TALK

anecdotal stories

Chapter IX:
CONFLICT

It is a tenet of existentialism that the worth of an individual’s existence of determined by how he or she responds to conflict and anguish.  The individual’s ability to creatively contend with the skirmishes of his life marks the difference between a productive, authentic existence and a life marked with defeat and emptiness. This capacity may be described as a coping skill, defense mechanism, adaptability, or optimism. For our purposes here I will call it creative resolution. (94)

Doing art is a natural method of evoking and sharing feelings and ideas which are essentially conflictual. As art therapists we foster in our patients a belief that they are capable of creative resolution of the problems of art production. (97)

Chapter X:
ART THERAPISTS AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

One attribute of our culture is that we do not value pain… We like things to be easy.

The history of art is a saga of struggle, for the process of making at is like that of giving birth. An act of love, labor, and pain. From this tradition we art​ therapists must have an impact on life and society by taking every opportunity to remind people that it is ok to hurt. It is good to struggle, and that life is hard.

Chapter XI:
PROCESS AND PRODUCT

“…art therapists reclaim their tradition of artist and about the complications of becoming overly clinified.”

It was as if art therapists longed to be regarded as equivalent to the physician, psychologist, and family therapist. While it is easy to understand the motivations of those in the forefront of such efforts as the field of art therapy developed, it is also easy to see, in retrospect, that much of our unique identity as artist-therapist was abandoned along the way. The motives for being like psychiatry or psychology are apparent: increased earning potential, potential administrative influence, employability, and professional prestige. … What has emerged is a generation of art therapists fluent in statistical study, psychological jargon, and political savvy, but insecure regarding the integral place if the arts in the treatment of human suffering. (104)

The power and depth of artistic expression demands that we art therapists be sensitive to nuances of color and shade, the push and pull of emotional currents that course through line character, and the aesthetic sensibilities inherent in the balancing of weight and mass.

Chapter XII:
CURATIVE ASPECTS OF ART IN THERAPY

1. Art as Existentialism

“…the ultimate concerns of existence.  Prominent among them are; freedom, aloneness, guilt, each person’s responsibility for her own life the inevitability of suffering and death, and a deep longing for meaning.”

Existential art therapists focus their work in addressing the patient’s anxieties and defense mechanisms which form in response to an awareness of the unlimited concerns of life.

(1) doing with them [the patient], (2) being open to them, and (3) honoring their pain

A key notion in existential therapy is that people relate to these issues either by attempting to ignore them, or by living in … a state of mindfulness.

the arts -> expression -> mindfulness -> the ability to change

2. Art as Communication
3. Art as Soul

Shaun Mcniff – Depth Psychology of Art
“…a view if the arts as an unconscious religion.” He also brought to the for the interrelationship of psyche and soul and posited that images are the expressions of the soul.

Cathy Moon – Art as Prayer (unpublished)

When the theraputic arts…are regarded from a perspective of soul, the work is made sacred.  From this perspective patients’ images cannot be seen as pathological, but rather as heartfelt expressions of selfhood. … making art is making soul. (120)

4. Art as Mastery

“The sense of adequacy that comes from mastery of artistic techniques and media is linked to self-discipline and inevitability leads to positive self regard. From this comes a sacred passion for life.”

“The process of making art is a process of organizing chaotic emotional material into coherent, restructured product.”

mastery = care

5. Art as Personal Metaphor

– Metaphor as image and action
– Hold conscious and unconscious symbolic meanings
– to articulate, express, free and define their creator
– the proper response to a painting is not analyzing… but rather by painting another painting… We must not attempt to enslave it through our vocabulary. …images can, and should just be.

6. Art as Empowerment

“Our primary task is to inspire in the patient the desire to use his discomfort rather than be abused by it.”
“The empowering nature of art therapy does not seek cures, it accepts and ennobles.”

7. Art as Work
8. Art as Play
9. Art as Relationship

The act of making is an invitation to relate. By making, the artist take images from within, and spreads them in the world. It is an act of acknowledgement of the other beyond the boundaries of self. (128)

Personal meaning can be found only in the context of relationship. The self must be transcended for purpose to be present.

10. Art as Structure and Chaos
11. Art as Hope

Hope requires faith. The patient needs to have faith in the art therapist, the therapists must have faith in the art process, in himself, and in the essential goodness and value of all people.

12. Art as Benevolence

The making of art is an activity of self-transcendence. … The doing of art invariably absorbs the patient in a thing outside the self. In the studio this transcendent absorption is a public act. Patients respond to the artwork of other patients. There is a contagious benevolence that infects the air of the therapeutic arts studio.

Chapter XIII:
CURATIVE ASPECTS ILLUSTRATED

Artistic expression leads to mindfulness, mindfulness leads to creative anxiety which leads to change / action, which Foster’s expression which deepens mindfulness. The formula is circular.

If images are regarded as living metaphors, this promotes a reverent approach by those seeking to be in dialogue with them. The notion of dialogue,  precludes the injurious and unethical phenomenon of imagicide. (144)

The labors of artists and psychotherapy patients are marked by sore muscles, blistered hands and hearts. Art is work.
“…To be sure, all of this is done in order to create something for which reason we can call it work and not rage.” (Menninger, K. / Love Against Hate)

The sculptor feels the impact of chisel against stone. The dancer feels the weight of his body through his feet. The ceramicist feels the slippery ooze of wet clay spinning between her hands on the potter’s wheel. The painter smells the linseed oil and senses the roughness of the canvas as brush pushes pigment across the surface. The processes of making art demand that artists touch the world. (152)

Although many artists are professedly private, most artists aim their creative work toward other people. Making art is thus a process concerned with community, with deepening relationships.

Chapter XIV:
PATHOS OR PATHOLOGY
(Sane or Sick)

Viewing artistic imagery by psychiatric patients as pathological (altered or brought about by disease) or as an expression of pathos (an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking compassion)

Four basic styles of relating to imagery:

1. Imaginal material as overt expressions of unconscious conflictual material; particular meanings can be advised to symbolic images; roots in Freudian analysis; representations of sexual and aggressive drives; images as concrete representations of the pathological

2. Focus on a pathological understanding of art products; suggests that patients with certain types of psychiatric disorders create art that is similar enough as to allow classification

3. Image as messenger

4. Image as intermediary

– Living images and the living artists who made them
– Not formulaic
– “Images should not be seen as cadavers to be measured and pathologized. The world of the imagination is mist and shadows.”

Chapter XV:
WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, HOW?

Dialogue with the image, don’t interrogate it.
Cross examination and interrogation are tactics of intrusion and manipulation.
Honor and respect the image and the patient

Chapter XVI:
THE THERAPUTIC SELF

Pastor – care for, support, console, + guide
Priest – leader of sacred rituals that, trough symbolic action language, tell the essential story of the community
Prophet – reminds the community of the way their lives are; only through facing fears can meaning be found; confronting denial

-See beyond conventional thought and trends of the present
-Understand the unspoken language of dream and myth: the metaphoric images that contain and express deep truths about the individual’s life, and the inner life of a surrounding culture

Images, whether dreamed or mythic, do not come to harm, they come to enlighten

Chapter XVII:
A PSYCHIATRIST’S VIEW OF THE ARTS IN THERAPY

The need for team players, viewing all the disciplines as equally important.
The need for enough security in identity to bring, share, and educate the other team members when the actual artistic productions of the patient and speak up when necessary.

Three phases of treatment:
1. Resistance – main question is the quality of the relationship
2. Working through – intensely interested in the image content of the patient’s productions (do the themes seen confirm and reinforce the other info?)
3. Termination – look to the arts to provide the patient with a mechanism to express the sense of loss (often too difficult to verbalize) as the relationship ends; also, artistic production serves as ideal transitional objects

Patient art hung in the inpatient living areas

Motivations for giving pieces of art to the unit:
1. Affirmation (positive regard for staff/treatment process)
2. The Closet Effect (symbolic connection maintained to the safe, nurturing, and predictable enviro)
3. Giving Back
4. Concretization of introject exchange

Chapter XVIII:
THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT

– It Costs Too Much To Care
– Perils of Promotion
– It’s Just a Picture
– Security, Sanctity, and Severance
Institutionalizing of art therapy; rise of rigorous standards for education, strict and arduous credentialing, the creation of associations, etc.
A disturbing aspect of the formalizing of the discipline is a growing trend toward forced uniformity of theory, philosophy and approach. (191)

Chapter XIX:
NOWHERE TO HIDE

If Nietzsche was correct, that only artists dare to show us the human being as he is, then it is a primary task of art therapists to engage with people without the aid of disguises or makeup. We must allow ourselves to be who we are without guile or manipulative intent.

 

Notes + Quotes: Intro to Art Therapy

He said; He said.

The water of brain
in the pool of her skull
and the endless reverberations of ripples
Ad infinitum
Of a voice she never actually heard
And ever since she put pills as plugs in the drains of her eyes
There’s still two ways in and one way out
But trapped by the tongue
So no way out,
really

“I see no architecture here”

They said that to him too
A variant
(Why the constant connections)

“I see nothing here”

She thought he was dead
And he may be
For the emotions surely are
She killed them
Gagged them
Anything to forget them
Because they were
A constant confusion
Though it was simple,
really

“I see something here”

He seemed to say,
And she had been waiting,
waiting for so long
To be seen.
Not the facade fabricated,
the person of performance,
The Seen Self

No

a gentle thread to a
fragile whisper
of a being
so long protected
it was mistaken for myth

However

Seeming is dangerous,
For to seem is not to be,
And she’s always been
too trusting,
And she’s always been
too hopeful,
Blinded by her belief
in her own doubt and cynicism
and their perfidious proffer of protection
against the hurt of hope
unfulfilled.

Now left with simultaneous aches
from the words said and silent:
An ache to return and remember
and an ache to flee and forget,
She sits
wondering if she would have done anything different
had she known.

 

He said; He said.

Side Effects

The Cure for Curiosity
of the whys of the world is the
disease of distraction
bound by the blindfold of busyness;
and
The Cure for Curiosity
of the whys of the world is
healed by a hope in holiness,
the affliction of arrogance,
bound by the books of beliefs,
and crippled by caring;
and
The Cure for Curiosity
of the whys of the world is the
dispassionate data disorder (DDD),
the sickness of scientific certainty,
and the obsession of the observable;
and
please
don’t perceive these as Placebo,
or the illness as imaginary;
don’t desire the death of difference.
Just be aware
of the odor of obstinance,
the constipation of conversation,
and the
Elixir of Empathy.

Side Effects

/cr\ack/s

(undated journal entry from some time between August and October 2016)

The water of the shower drenches her in sudden insight. The realization of the reason for the sudden and intense need to leave the room trickles through her hair and down her back. The idea percolates through to a place of understanding somewhere deep inside of her – a place the influence of past and unconscious is unearthed beneath the surface of conscious present. This place where the paper is filled with imprints and smudges, the floor covered it eraser shavings and splatters of white out – the remnants of constant battling.

The clay she forms remembers the places it has been touched, mended, and punctured.  Though it does so silently, only revealing these memories later, when tried by fire. Only then do the cracks appear, shedding light on the previously unseen mistakes/damage/mishandling.

She realizes in this moment that she is this clay, cracking in the kiln of marriage. And just now in the kitchen he was not her husband, but her father. And the fear that left her child self hiding in her bedroom some evenings, brought about by his anger, was suddenly cracking her surface.

/cr\ack/s

The Stranger

*knock knock knock*

I wonder who that could be… I’m not expecting anybody… Gosh, I hope it isn’t my landlord to show the place, everything is a mess right now…

I leave my dinner prep and walk to the door. I glace through the peephole and see a man I don’t recognize. Uh oh, I wonder if something is wrong downstairs or if I’m walking around too loud. I open the door about a foot and peer out.

“Hello?” I say in a friendly, yet questioning tone.

He looks slightly confused and says, “Oh, hi, I’m here to see Eric.” (I already forgot the actual name he said.)

“Uhh, sorry,” I say, as we simultaneously realize he is at the wrong door and a look of embarrassment comes over his face. “I’m not sure who Eric is.” I wish I knew who that was so I could direct him to the correct apartment… Should I suggest the one at the bottom of the stairs?

“Jesus Christ,” he mutters as he fumbles for his phone in his pocket, clearly trying find the message with the correct apartment number. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s no problem at all,” I say cheerily as I close the door and return to my cooking.

I hope he finds his friend. Man, I really should have met my neighbors and learned their names.  It’s definitely too late to do that here, but I really want to make an effort at our next apartment building.

As I stir the vegetables in the pan, my mind continues on.

Oh jeez I hope I didn’t offend him or anything by only opening the door up a foot… It was only because he was a stranger… I would have been timid opening the door for any stranger… Maybe less hesitant with a woman, but all unexpected men would make me tentative… But I hope he didn’t think it was because he was black.  I would hate to have just unintentionally played into any racial insecurities he might have.  Hmm…I wonder if me thinking that he might have been offended is considered racist? Or thinking that he might have insecurities?  Was me thinking that his friends might be the black people living in the apartment at the bottom of the stairs racist? I mean, I didn’t want to assume that, but they have a lot of visitors and most of the other people have moved out for the summer… But the fact that I didn’t suggest that he look at that apartment… was that a good thing? Or did that just mean I wasn’t being helpful? No… probably better I didn’t say anything.  He just seemed so flustered, I wish I could have helped. 

Is this a helpful internal dialogue?  To question my reasons for doing this and how they may or may not have impacted others?  Is doing this going to make me more aware and sensitive or just more likely to overthink things and make them awkward?  I genuinely want to be aware of other people’s feelings and reactions, but I am also aware I can’t control those.  I want to be sensitive without tiptoeing.  For a long time I just did my best to ignore color and race… to view everyone as the same.  But in Gardner’s class we learned that that is basically erasure, which isn’t beneficial either.  So I should recognize race and the potential for prejudice, and then… what?  Also, I know there’s a difference between racist and…what’s the other term… racial?  I need to read more about this.  Maybe the blog world could have some helpful input…

 

 

The Stranger

On Using & Being Used

The feeling of being taken advantage of is one of my biggest triggers

Feeling used and naïve

Whether it is by a friend, a company, a professor

It reminds me of how little control I actually have

Everyone has mixed intentions, I know that

And maybe it is the reminder that I, too, have mixed intentions that bothers me so much

But it almost always comes back to that question I asked my parents all those years ago

That question I have continued to ask again and again over the years:

Are we all just God’s puppets?

Am I just a pawn?

If companies can just change how things run

“I am sorry, but those are the new rules.”

The government can just adjust the hoops that have to be jumped through

“That’s just how it is.”

What power do I really have to fight?

What can I really change or control?

Because controlling my reactions to things hasn’t really seemed to help

Controlling and containing the anger and frustration and helplessness isn’t doing much

Besides making me want to tear down ‘the system’

Break down ‘the rules’

Confront the people hiding behind ‘corporate policy’ and “there is nothing I can do”

And it’s not just those situations…

Because when I really stop to think about it those employees may feel just like I do

Helpless and powerless

Unable to respond any differently because of The Man and The Rules

They’re just doing their jobs

But what about when it is the manipulation of just one person

One boy who just wants you to “come over and go swimming”

With all sorts of ulterior desires and motives hiding under his bathing suit

What about when it is one professor who “really wants you to succeed”

With dreams of tenure and awards floating around in his brain

When it is the one girl who “would love to catch up”

But really just needs money for an upcoming mission trip

 

Am I just a cynic? Seeing through all the motives

Am I being selfish? Using this as an excuse to avoid what I don’t want to do

Am I being hypocritical? Because of course I am no different

Surely I, consciously and subconsciously,

Intentionally and unintentionally,

Jumble my motives

Contaminate my acts of love and friendship

With selfishness and greed

 

So what?

What now?

 

 

 

On Using & Being Used