What a Month of My Art Therapy Looks Like

Art therapy for me is a valuable and unique way of experiencing and expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions – and sometimes a rare chance to just be a bit playful or make something a bit pretty, depending on what is going on for me at the time. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a month’s worth of sessions (once or twice weekly, depending on bank holidays and the therapist’s leave) which come to an end on Monday so I thought now was a good opportunity to reflect upon what I’ve created over the past month.

From the start of this batch of sessions, the Art Psychotherapist, who has worked with me before, decided that a great project for me would be for me to try to test out creating very large, free, uncontrolled pieces where possible as I tend to let perfectionism and anxiety hold me back into creating very small and controlled pieces rather than letting my time in art therapy tap into the more raw emotions. We’ve both been pleased with the results of this project and the difference we have noticed in me whilst I create these pieces. It has been freeing and a completely new experience for me.

So, what have I done? Below is a taster. Most of these are created on A2 or A1 paper, mainly using paint (whether that me using standard brushes, rollers, sponges, fingers, or even squirting straight from the bottle), but sometimes using pens or pastels or a mix of media. Some of it is much more a reflection of my internal state whilst others were more about trying to be a bit playful and have some fun. I hope this gives some insight into what Art Therapy can look like.

12/05/2017

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Self-destruction in clay form

15/05/2017

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Emotional pain exploding from the head, tarnishing the world
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Just flowers!
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My internal world

19/05/2017

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Mess, confusion, confliction – walled in by pain and darkness
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The mess and confusion of my internal world
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Playing with painting with my fingers on a very large scale
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A session’s work

22/5/2017

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The monster in my head
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Hand for scale of the monster in my head

02/06/2017

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My internal world: pain, fear, overwhelming thoughts & emotions, and torment – spreading and tarnishing the world around me

12/06/2017

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Playing to make a pretty mess
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Close up of a pretty mess
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Close up of a pretty mess
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Close up of a pretty mess
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My world: cold darkness externally enshrouding internal explosions
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Pretty, though…

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The suicide monster with a tiny me in its grips

I’d really recommend anyone who has the opportunity gives art therapy a go; it is nothing to do with ‘Art’ or ‘talent’ or ‘ability’ but about connecting to and expressing your thoughts/feelings/emotions or being a bit playful at times when that feels impossible. I hadn’t done any kind of art since the start of secondary school (and even then that was begrudgingly) when I first tried art therapy, and believe me I was beyond sceptical, but look at all that is has sparked in me since…!

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When Getting Support Doesn’t Feel Safe

I had a therapy session today that I don’t know whether to describe as a good or bad: I had an awful time, explored some very painful things, discussed extreme hopelessness, cried non-stop (which I never do when people can see) and shook violently with fear but my psychologist was amazing. From the moment I… Continue reading When Getting Support Doesn’t Feel Safe

Living in Limbo

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A Poignant Piece on the No-Win “Good”-“Bad” Psychiatric Patient Spectrum

This is a really poignant piece.  Just one short quote out of the many I considered sharing with you: “I struggle to be seen as a patient, whereas other mentally ill folks struggle to be seen as human.” Please take the time to read this whether you come into contact with the mental health system at… Continue reading A Poignant Piece on the No-Win “Good”-“Bad” Psychiatric Patient Spectrum

Cautious, Guilt-Ridden Gratitude (and the O word that shall not be named)

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‘The Crisis Team Cure: A Parody of Advice Commonly Given to Vulnerable & Distressed People in Mental Health Crisis’

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Oh how I wish I could say this was a complete fantasy or massive exaggeration, however it is scarily close to the truth. In fact, in the past week alone, every single one of these things (and more) have been suggested or said to me (minus pouring the tea directly over my head whilst in the bath…but I’ve felt like doing so out of sheer desperation and frustration) and I have had constant responses such as this in the past. And it isn’t just me; what prompted me to draw this were several posts in the Mind Our Minds and Doodle Chronicles Peer Support Groups.

Time and again, highly vulnerable and distressed people are dismissed with condescending suggestions of having a bath/cup of tea/walk (even when certain of these things at certain times actually pose an additional risk) and/or are criticised and blamed for being acutely unwell, rather than being offered even a short amount of therapeutic interaction or appropriate assessment/intervention.

I do want to finish by saying that by no means am I suggesting that all crisis team staff act in this way (I have had 2 simply outstanding phone conversations with crisis team nurses over the past week, as well, which I hope to write about when I am able – this past post demonstrates the confusing and opposing approach of crisis team staff) and I want to say a huge thank you to those of you who do this demanding, undervalued and underpaid job with kindness and professionalism – you are true superheroes.