I combine art with a variety of psychological disciplines to create a synthesis of Psychoanalytic, Family Systems, Cognitive, Gestalt, and Holistic Psychotherapeutic approaches in my practice. What follows is a brief explanation of the orientation and goals of each of these disciplines and how they are integrated with art to create a powerful, effective therapeutic approach.
Psychoanalysis focuses on the unconscious mind and a person’s emotional development. Drawing partly on the clinical work of Josef Breur, psychoanalysis expanded and popularized by Sigmund Freud. Students of Freud like Carl Gustav Jung and Alfred Adler revised and reformed psychoanalysis along lines different and independent of Freud.
Since the unconscious mind influences all our thoughts and behavior, conflicts can be resolved by accessing the unconscious through the expression and interpretations of dreams through art and therapeutic intervention. In this way the unconscious is given a powerful voice that speaks through the imagery of metaphor and symbolism.
Family Systems Therapy
Family Systems Therapy focuses on the relationship between family members and the idea that individuals are understood best by assessing their whole family. Emerging originally from child guidance and marriage counseling movements and strongly influenced by learning and behavior therapy, this movement gathered momentum through the work of anthropologist Gregory Bateson and colleagues Jay Haley, Donald Jackson and John Weakland. The field underwent a remarkable expansion of competing ideas and approaches from a number of widely acknowledged pioneers that now offers therapists both an eclectic body of clinical knowledge to draw upon and a growing framework for multi-modal partnerships with members of other helping and medical professions.
The imagery of art functions as the ”language” we use to express what is going on internally and to provide a person the clarity of awareness and meaning, they need to create tools for change not often accessible by verbal means alone. The therapist can help individual members change their family system by learning healthy, functional ways of interacting.
Cognitive Therapy is based on the idea that feelings, thoughts, and behavior are all connected. Developed by American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck, this therapy is based on the idea individuals can identify and change inaccurate and distorted thinking and develop the skills to test and modify their beliefs, change their behaviors and relate to others in different ways. Patients practice flexibility in both their thinking and means of response, a skill building approach that allows an individual to act as their own therapist.
Art is a natural, powerful way to train the brain to see or think in different ways, comparing the old ineffective patterns to new ways of thinking and acting productively. The therapist guides clients to the recognition and mastery of their creative abilities and strengths. Creating an image of what a client imagines as a positive outcome provides hope and motivates their effort toward positive goals.
Gestalt therapy is a form of existential and experiential psychotherapy that focuses on a person’s experience in the present moment, personal responsibilities and the environmental and social contexts of a person’s life. Developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman, Gestalt Therapy is built on the two ideas that the most useful focus of therapy is the present moment and the web of relationships we are caught in and that it is only possible to know ourselves against the background of our relationships with the other.
More action oriented, this therapy is a process-oriented approach that focuses on a client becoming “mindful” of what there are doing and creating the ability to risk change. Using artistic materials gives understanding so that, instead of just talking about an event, a client may create an image of a person they are in conflict with and talk to that individual directly in a safe environment. Gestalt therapy works through the creative process and the art speaks for the participant.
Holistic therapy addresses the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the individual as a whole through the growing interest in yoga, meditation, guided imagery, hypnotherapy and progressive relaxation. Gaining self-awareness helps both motivate and guide the person in a deepening process of self-discovery. Recognizing a unique sense of self and their purpose for living helps individuals live creatively and in harmony with all living things.
Anyone can benefit from art therapy. One does not have to be mentally ill to need or appreciate an understanding of the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit. The process of art enhances self-awareness, and in developing the sense of self, the participant receives a life-long desire for problem solving through the skills and power of creativity.