I'm scared of you. I'm scared of me.

Uptight Art Projects

Do you think it is important that someone who is using the arts as a form of healing actually be an expert in that mode?  Should art therapists be artists?  What happens if they aren't, and really don't understand how to make art?

Sometimes when I am out and about on the web, I come across prompts for art therapy that are just simply lame. I will not link to any examples. Nor do I want to discuss the boundary of what is art and what is not. And again, I am not an art therapist, so I'm sure there is a valid explanation for what they are doing that is beyond me.

The creative process can be dangerous

The sucky art therapy prompts I see on the web do not actually use any creativity or artistic exploration.  You have to do more than give someone a set of markers and a worksheet with a visual diagram for it to be art.  These lame prompts are totally missing the benefits of the artistic/creative process, the part that does the healing.

I think the reason these prompts exist is because they are safer and contained. Creativity is dangerous. It is sensual, revealing, makes us vulnerable, makes us feel and cannot always be controlled.  When someone opens up to us, it can be scary. Can we hold all that without judging?  Can we reveal a true part of ourselves to others and still be accepted, embraced even?

These tight and contained art therapy prompts also keep us from going out into the wilderness of our own inner world and getting lost.  

I did my expressive arts training with Jane Goldberg, and we discussed the ethics of being an expressive arts practitioner and the danger of the process. She uses the metaphor of "diving deep and resurfacing." If someone is unstable, the resurfacing may not happen, and they stay stuck in chaos. This is where the difference between an art therapist and an art educator is crucial. I will not work with those who not in control of themselves. 

Based on an a pattern seen in my bathroom tile using Dali's  paranoic critical method.

Based on an a pattern seen in my bathroom tile using Dali's paranoic critical method.

What does art making need to be in order to be healing? 

You have to dive!  You have to take the risk.  That is always the goal, to let go and be delighted and surprised by what results from the encounter with the divine, the unknown, the subconscious, the happy accident.  I trust myself to be able to dive in and really let go creatively, and still be able to put dinner on the table a few hours later. 

I also think that if you decide ahead of time what you are going to make art about, you are being controlling, instead of letting a deeper part of yourself SHOW you what you need now. If you try to make art about a preconceived problem, my experience is that you will rely too much on cliche. You won't have an authentic experience

Is analysis healing? 

The art therapy prompts I am ragging on probably do help people identify issues in their life, and that is obviously valuable.  But asking a question in a visual way does not mean it is really engaging the creative process. The meandering, destination unknown, spiritually based process I like to use also reveals issues, but it gets us out of our heads and into our hearts and souls. Moving our bodies, making big colorful strokes, getting messy and un-contained ---this is the sweet spot. Not some dry diagram to file away in a folder. 

If you, or anyone you know, yearn to experience a healing and spiritually based approach to creativity, I have a free guide called 7 Steps to Healing through the Expressive Arts. You can do it on your own, or try it out with a friend. If you are a coach or work with others, it is a great method to use with your clients!  

I always love to hear your thoughts. Leave them below, or even just give a "like" to let me know you were here.