What is Art Psychotherapy?

A nice little exploration of what art psychotherapy is and why it can be so helpful. Art therapy is something I have really valued in the past and really hope to be fortunate enough to experience more of in the future – different parts of myself have been revealed, I’ve been able to explore so much that I would have been to scared to simply voice or even think, and I have even had some fun whilst doing it. I highly recommend art psychotherapy, even if you haven’t had much success with other types of therapies in the past.

Some excerpts (read full piece here):

[…]

“Psychotherapy allows us to reflect on our current behaviours and patterns of functioning and where they might have come from. It often takes us back to our early developmental roots in order to gain insight into why we are as we are now. How and where did our story first start? How did the opening chapters influence everything that came afterwards, up until who and where we are now? The process can help us to uncover and explore difficult experiences that wounded us. We can then understand how we may have developed to automatically behave in certain ways to protect ourselves from repeated pain that threatened our psychic or actual survival. Once conscious, we can ask whether these coping strategies we have created for ourselves are still useful? We can start to experiment with revising them if not.

It’s important to go gently, with compassion. We can easily beat ourselves up if we realise we have been stuck in repetitive cycles of self-destructive or unhelpful behaviour. We must hold in mind at these times, that such behaviours arise as the best available creative solutions we had at the time to combat painful problems. Certain coping strategies or ‘defenses’ may have been vital and useful at a time when we felt threatened or hurt. But because they were unconsciously devised, nobody told us when it was safe to stop using them.

For example, a child who was neglected in early life may learn to be self-sufficient and self-neglecting later on. Having received a strong unconscious message early on that “my needs are not important and nobody can or will meet them” or “I don’t deserve to have my needs met”, the child may grow up being out of touch with and ignoring their own need for affection, love, self-care, connection. They may go out on a limb to help others but cannot allow themselves to be helped or cared for. They may have a strong critical internal voice that punishes them every time they feel in need of support or connection. They have unknowingly recruited a self-critic to edit and snip off the part of their humanity that is interdependent to protect them from the pain of what they missed out on in early life.”

[…]

[…]

“I believe that fixed and stuck coping strategies we may seek help for when we come to therapy were originally creative adjustments. When the neglected person first started ignoring their own needs, they were creatively adjusting to the lack of care they were receiving. In order to avoid the pain of unmet essential core needs like love, recognition and affection, they revised their own ‘life script’ into something that would help them get by more easily in day to day life. Rather than feeling powerless, they took control and scribbled in a new stage instruction: ‘exit stage right if you feel needy. Nobody wants to see it. Don’t have needs.’ These creative adjustments become fixed beliefs that dictate our world view. They can stagnate if unhealthy and limit our natural growth and flow towards satisfying engagement with others and ourselves. Sometimes it is essential to check and reality-test them.

Using art and metaphor to combat fixed creative adjustments makes huge sense to me. Play is how we learn to understand and order the world around us in early life. It’s how we meet others and process experiences in order to adjust to and engage with our environment. Creative experiments in and outside therapy can help us to travel further to our edges, surprise ourselves again, and work our way instinctively towards the resolution of old wounds or fixed behaviours. Creativity is the source of flow. It keeps us moving.”

[…]

Source: What is Art Psychotherapy?

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