ART THERAPY WORKSHOP WITH FAMILIES
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The healthy family series - Part One
With Silvia Casabianca - LMHC, RM
Strengthen family bonds and improve communications skills
For artists, art educators and counselors
With Silvia Casabianca (Art Therapist and MHC)
For information call 239.948.9444
4 CEUs for MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS AND SOCIAL WORKERS
Art as a road to the unconscious mind
By Silvia Casabianca, MA, MHC
What if your therapist or counselor, instead of asking you about your concerns, your emotions or your dreams, brought out art materials and asked you to put your feelings on the paper? If you haven't tried it before, you'd probably feel skeptical, right? And if you are unsure about your painting skills, you'd probably also be reluctant to accept the challenge. But the creative process implicit in the art making has been proven to promote self awareness and change. Your creations can give an art therapist clues about the dynamics of your psyche, and the art-making will provide relief when you're going through stressful situations.
In 1986, I started a project with adolescents in Colombia, in the hope that I could provide some kids with the experience of a supportive environment. Like everybody else, I had gone through the doldrums when I was a teenager, and thought that I could prevent others from going through the same. In many cases, when it came to emotions, these kids found it easier to express themselves through art than with words.
The project with youth got increasingly interesting, and in 1988, led me to look for a change of career to serve them better. One day, while I was looking through the shelves of one of my favorite bookstores in Bogotá, a book fell to the floor. It was Edith Kramer's book The Use of Art as Therapy. I bought the book and sank into it during the weekend. By Monday, I had decided that I wanted to become an Art Therapist, and I did.
I got a master's degree at Concordia University in Montreal. Back in my country, I created a not-for-profit organization to continue working with youth, and found art therapy very useful to help them in their process of self-discovery. I also opened a studio and started a private practice. Clients would come to my studio for art therapy sessions and work with a variety of media, mostly acrylic paint, pastels, oils and crayons. I had learned that different art materials elicited different responses and offered these materials according to the needs of the client. It didn't matter if they were skilled at painting or not.Usually, people started painting at the level where they stopped doing it, so it was not surprising that most drawings and paintings looked childish.
As a therapist, I was interested not only in the product, but very much in the process. Everything that the person did was important: what they discovered through the process, their responses and comments, the way they dealt with frustration while painting. In many occasions, art was a way to discharge repressed emotions and was cathartic. On other occasions it was like a road to the unconscious, full of metaphors that tapped into untold stories.
When the painting was done, the person would step back and look at it from a distance, and I would ask, 'what do you see, what is there that was not supposed to be'. It was similar to when you were a kid and looked at the clouds in search of figures, and suddenly you'd see an elephant or a face. The meanings would not be found in a dictionary of symbols, but in the person's life. I worked from an analytical approach, and there was a conjoint search for symbolic meaning that resembled the interpretation of dreams. As the mind's censorship had been "tricked," the unconscious would be revealed and the person would have access to answers that verbal therapy sometimes cannot offer.
I remember a 16-year-old girl that was referred to me for art therapy sessions. She painted a ship in the middle of the ocean and it was impossible to guess which end was bow or stern. There was no pilot, sail or wheel. This was pretty much what she was going through. She didn't have a sense of direction in her life. She was about to graduate from high school and hadn't decided what she wanted to do after graduation. The drawing offered a nice starting point for counseling.
Although Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung introduced the process of drawing or art making in their treatments, it is Margaret Naumburg who is considered the pioneer in the field. She was a psychoanalyst who systematically introduced drawing in therapy. She used art mostly as a road to the unconscious, while another pioneer in the field, Edith Kramer, who was an art educator and had extensive experience with kids, focused on the use of art as therapy.
Maybe many of you have felt the urge to do something creative when going through difficult moments. When I experience too much pressure in my life, I feel the need to draw and paint, and I believe, with Kramer, that there is an intrinsic therapeutic quality in art.
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The Therapeutic Use of Art
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