We have lots of new workshops on the horizon for May and June before we close up for the Summer months. I wanted to report on two events at the end of March before moving forward. I have just uploaded the pictures and am delighted to share. Somehow April got in the way: papers and thesis projects to grade as well as the momentous occasion of Edith Kramer's memorial at NYU. At least four generations of art therapists in one room! Lots of photos, film, moving and wonderful testimonial as to Edith's strong personality, eccentric sleeping habits and love of art and children. More on this later...
On March 29 and 30 here at Art Therapy on Hudson we held two workshops. Both were both enormously successful and a great learning experience all around.
March 29, 2014
Six women convened at Art Therapy on Hudson Studio to spend the day weaving, writing and exploring the metaphors inherent in the feminine arts.
We began with a powerpoint and lecture given by Valeria Koutmina, ATR-BC, LCAT, describing the history of weaving, the relationship between text and textiles and the rich myth and folklore tradition associated with these crafts.
Group members engaged in an "unraveling" exercise and then journaled about what it meant to become "unraveled." Supplied with a variety of knitted squares, group members were asked to unravel their square following a breathing meditation. They then wrote about the experience.
Reflections varied from "having a few knots" that had to be worked through, to a piece of mohair, which was so sticky it created a tangled mess, to a piece of chenille which unraveled almost too quickly because of its a silky and slippery fiber.
The group explored the possibility that the tangles, though frustrating presented unseen opportunities to try something new or to work with what you've got. The knots encountered in unravelling brought up issues of dependence and whether one needed help or support to accomplish the task. The slippery chenille though easier to work was almost too easy and provided too little resistance. All of these experiences seemed metaphors for our struggles and coping in real life.
The members then worked together to create a large weaving, with the intention of creating a supportive network within a group of relative strangers. When the weave was completed all had to work together or "dance" really in a choreographed way to hang the weave on the wall so that we could move onto other projects.
The relating of weaving and fabric arts to our own life stories seemed to bring up very deep personal material.
The group first wrote about the idea of the lifeline, timeline, thread or text of one's life and then visually created a timeline using their unravelled thread with a base of foam core and colored pins.
The next project then was to make a weave of any kind that represented a more multi-dimensional model of life. We dubbed these the "Quantum or String Theory" model's of existence.
We will run this one again in the Fall for those who are interested.
"Moving Beyond Stuckness" A Mindfulness Based Creative Arts Workshop - April 30th, 2014
ACT, as it is known, was developed in the late 1980's principally by Dr. Steve Hayes when it was referred to as comprehensive distancing (Wikipedia). It combines aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy or applied behavior analysis and concepts of mindfulness.
Unlike other forms of cognitive behavioral analysis, ACT does not try to get people to change the ways in which they think and behave, but rather encourages them to notice how they are feeling - and sit with and accept difficult feelings - such as "being stuck." In keeping with mindful practice, ACT participants are welcomed to just accept their feelings and not immediately try to change them. They are then asked to identify what they consider to be their core values in life - from spending time with family, to having a better job, etc. Within the functional contextualism or Relational Frame Theory of ACT, participants are then asked to reconsider their feelings of "stuck" or "bored" or "angry" and to re-imagine them in accordance with their values. They are then asked to consider a plan, which might allow them to accomplish their new image of these emotions. Its seems too simple and very theoretical, but it was surprising to see the basic, or in some cases dramatic shifts, that occurred for the participants.
This process was of course enhanced by the wedding of ACT concepts with the use of art therapy and expressive writing techniques. After hearing a didactic, but highly entertaining presentation on ACT concepts, Michelle lead participants through a meditation after which they visualized and created what their feeling "stuck" looked like. They were then asked to write about what their core value system was in a timed journal exercise. They then revisited the image and adjusted it, altered it, cut it up or added to it in a way which accommodated their values and allowed them to feel the "stuck-ness" could move more in that direction.
ACT and art therapy seem a natural fit as both use distancing as a method for reflection. Both use metaphor and call for subtle, less conscious, change, which comes out of an individual's own reflective process. As a structured "technique" ACT can give form to the fluid, amorphous aspects of art therapy and art therapy/expressive writing can enhance the depth of processing, which can occur when employing ACT.
Look for more ACT/Art Therapy Workshops in the Fall.