We are so thrilled to have Val Newman, ATR, LCPC joining our clinical staff. Val is a masters level therapist and artist who utilizes art therapy to help people in healing. With experience in a number of treatment settings, Val will be working with people individually and in groups. The following is an article about the benefits of art therapy. And for more information on Val, please see our staff bio. page.
"Expressive Arts Therapy bridges the gap between the conscious and the unconscious. It can bring light to areas of therapy that are blocked, inhibited, and stuck, as well as bringing greater focus to those areas of concern. The primary focus is on the process, which allows the client to discover new insight and meaning that might not be achieved with traditional talk therapy. Appropriate for all ages, it can enhance each person’s emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and physical well-being. While no talent in the use of expressive arts is required, several modalities available to the client within Expressive Arts Therapy magnify and deepen the process. The purpose of this article will explore five common benefits associated with the use of Expressive Arts Therapy with clients.
Encourages the Unfolding Unconscious
When working with expressive media, clients benefit from the unconscious bubbling to the surface of their awareness. Various media like painting, psychodrama, dance, and sculpting draw forth unearthed material that may not have been seen, felt, observed, or accessed in some way via talk therapy. Through letting go, a portal is created to the process, enabling listening, watching, and observing what might not be explained through words. An example of this would be a client viewing an image and recalling a buried memory shaping their current experience. Another example would be a therapist suggesting to a client that mask-making might deepen the process of a new sub-personality. Whether the choice is a specific media (i.e., paint or sculpture) or the client’s own media (i.e., voice and movement), the process of unfolding to the unconscious material is supported as the client allows the new material to emerge.
Informs Communication Between Therapist and Client
Another benefit that makes Expressive Arts Therapy inviting is the increased depth of spoken and unspoken communication which results from the expression process and the product itself. The process makes way for additional communication to be made known, which may inform the client and the therapist of new insights. An example of this might be when the process of creating an authentic movement piece stirs additional emotion within a client’s experience, resulting in a dialogue about the new feelings that have emerged. The product can also increase or enhance the meaning, infuse additional unseen material, and provide an externalized venue for further discussion. An example of this would be a therapist supporting a 70-year-old woman in expressing her grief by tapping into her talent as a watercolor artist and creating an abstract of her grief. The therapist could inquire about the use of color, line, and symbols present in the art.
Externalizes and Gives Form to Unfolding Material
Giving process form allows the clients to feel in control of their process. It can bring depth and life to feelings and images. It shines light on ambivalent feelings by externalizing them and giving them shape, color, and form. One example is having a client draw an image of how they are currently feeling. Doing this might elicit additional information that wasn’t available to the client cognitively.
Additionally, one of the benefits is externalizing the process so that the client can witness and be an observer of their own process. This is especially helpful for painful and difficult images and memories by allowing the client to observe things from a distance. An example of this would be to have the client talk and explain their experience as if they are watching a movie. This allows the client to psychically remove him or herself from the painful somatic response that might be risky in the moment.
Awakens and Sparks Process
Probably the most obvious benefit is the spark created in the imagination. This awakening process allows the client to experience something new. It’s like an “a-ha” moment, a new discovery. It can lead to new things, bring light to something stuck, open a new doorway to unarticulated feelings, and shed light on the past. It can provide a new language and foster existing language when current circumstances and words cannot describe the unfolding process.
Supports Integrative Learning
Expressive Arts Therapy encourages the undiscovered places of knowledge within each client. The opportunity for the client to experience a different way of knowing is enhanced by different sensory experiences. Each experience is enhanced by the other and forms new experiences, thoughts, sensations, and images not normally experienced in the client’s normal one-dimensional experience. As a result, a rich tapestry takes form. An example of this might be asking a client to explore sounds representative of their current experience, which then deepens into the depth of pain that had gone unnoticed.
As you can see, there are many deepening and enriching experiences that Expressive Arts Therapy can support to create a richer, more vibrant experience in therapy. Each modality is unique, as is each therapist’s use of the modality and the client’s comfort with the material. The beauty is in the process and not the product, which is at the heart of art therapy."
Parenting is the best and toughest thing I've ever done. As a therapist I have at times wished for the mythical user guide that would tell me exactly what to do when I wasn't sure. I have felt that way even more often as a parent, and I think I have a bit of an insiders perspective being a therapist! Often enough we are just making our best guess at the moment. Through the summer we will be having regular installments on our blog about issues related to parenting. Last November I was interviewed by Make it Better magazine regarding handling kids tantrums. Those of us who have weathered the storm of a tantrum can tell you that there can be an equally powerful storm simultaneously in our heads. We might feel frazzled, embarassed, angry and wanting to stamp or feet too! The article gives a few pointers of what to do, but know that there is no one way to handle a problem, and be kind to yourself when assessing your own responses. This is tough stuff! We are more than happy to discuss this issue with you further. Don't hesitate to contact us!
All the best,
Here is an inspiring video about the power of the human spirit and the benefits of yoga!
Holiday Survival 2012
By: Ann Tharayil, LCSW
Surviving the Holidays
Although all the Christmas decorations and songs would have us believe it is “the most wonderful time of the year”, Holidays can be a very difficult time of year for many people. Not everyone has an intact functional family to celebrate with. And for those who have family, there is no guarantee that they look forward to being around them. In fact, rates of depression, anxiety and family tension often increase during the American Holiday season.
But there are no songs about that. Holidays can be extremely lonely if you are in a relationship that isn’t working, or belong to a family that is not healthy for you to be around. For those with trauma in their history, seeing family members that may trigger painful memories. For some, the healthiest decision may be to create new
traditions with friends or other people’s families rather than seeing family for the Holidays. For those who do feel connected or obligated to family but find it hard to be around them here are some ideas that may help you get through family visits.
Keep it short. The longer you are around family, the more likely members will slide into old roles and patterns of behavior. Why stay for days if you can keep it to an overnight? Or why stay all evening if you can visit and then exit after a few hours. Leave before the alcohol gets flowing !
Hold onto your Adult self. One of the dynamics that happens to people around family is regression, feeling like a child again. Some people become passive and overwhelmed, while others find themselves bubbling up with anger and picking old fights. As adults we get to choose how we behave. We can decide at the out set that we are not going to get into certain topics, or spend time with people who upset us. We can go into the situation fully aware that we cannot control others, but that we can control our own choices .
Tune into what you Need. Spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of the visit. If you like cooking , playing games, or playing an instrument, come to an event prepared to initiate something that will make the event enjoyable for you. Another way to keep the time enjoyable might be to invite a friend who you are comfortable with. Sometimes just stepping out from the festivities to make a call or text someone who supports you can help you stay grounded.
Taking the time to take care of your emotional needs will be the key surviving and thriving through this time of year.
By: Margo M. Jacquot, Psy.D, CSADC, BCETS, Director
For some of us this time of year is a time of joy and family celebration. For others it's a time of stress and disappointment. We may see the cracks in our relationships with people that we love. For still others it's a time where we find ourselves missing someone whom we have lost through a divorce, breakup, geographic distance or death. For some it's a bit of each.
I hear many people say that they are not looking forward to the holidays. The hype and expectation usually leaves them feeling let down and a bit lonely. They rush around to get things done, perhaps attend a few parties. They might even have some nice plans for the holidays, but each year it feels like something is missing.
Many of us want to feel warm, close connections at the holidays. We want to feel something special. It seems like these days should feel different than all of the others. For some reason, this doesn't seem to happen for many people. And each year they are puzzled by this. The reasons vary. However, what seems to be universal is that we expect and/or just wish for a feeling. One gentleman asked me last year, “is it too much to have just a little bit of Christmas joy? The question broke my heart because I could tell how simple and common and elusive this seemed to him. We talked about how he came to expect this. He didn't know. I sure don't. What I do know is that, just like most things, if we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in how things should be, or how we think things will be, we will likely be disappointed.
From my observation, many people who enjoy the holidays actually de-emphasize the importance of the actual day or days and with great thought and intention find things to enjoy throughout the season and well into January.
One particular client and I designed an experiment last year. She created a holiday calendar that began two weeks prior to Thanksgiving. She marked off days when she was committed with plans and used some of the open days to create something meaningful. She is a divorced mother with two children, and last year was her ex-husband's year to have the children for Thanksgiving. Her solution was to schedule two mini-thanksgiving dinners (complete with a pre-cooked chicken and dressing from a local grocery store) with friends and their kids, one right before Thanksgiving and one the week after. The actual day was spent with her mother's new husband's family. She hardly knew anyone but brought with her to the dinner a group picture from her first Thanksgiving with her kids. She also kept reminding herself that she had another dinner with her children and some friends in just a few days.
She only has her children every other weekend, so she decided to schedule some things to do alone and with her children and friends when possible throughout the holiday season. Money was tight so she had to be careful, but she enjoyed things like looking at the windows downtown. She took herself to an interesting new coffee house in the area, listened to some festive music and addressed her holiday cards there. She invited a few other families over to bake holiday cookies. None of these or any of the other things she planned were spectacular unto themselves. But her attitude of enjoying lots of little days and events, instead of all of her energy going into one, seemed to help her relax and accept the actual days of the holidays for what they were: get-togethers. Christmas was somewhat better because her children were home, but they were missing their Dad and she just needed to let them do so. The holiday itself was spent with her family, but it was still just a nice get-together.
One week into the new-year, with New Year's Eve plans being dashed by the flu, this resourceful person got together with a few friends (on a weekend without her kids) and they scrapbooked the last year in review. She is not much of a scrapbooker, but she enjoyed looking at pictures from the previous year and organizing them into an album.
At the end of it all, she said it was the best holiday season she has had as an adult. The key was in making lots of little events and celebrations enjoyable and making the holidays a season, instead of a couple of much anticipated days.
This month's topic for our newsletter is communication. The following is an excerpt from a presentation on Workplace Communication.
That’s Not What I Said!
By: Margo Jacquot, PsyD
How many of you have had the experience with someone in your life where you feel like there are serial misunderstandings. We all have this happen at times, but what happens that we can’t seem to communicate effectively with certain people. We aren’t sure if it’s them or us. Sound familiar?
This is frustrating and it interferes with productivity, work flow, morale.
At home it interferes with feeling close and it saps us of our energy.
I see this all the time when working with couples. One person will say something and the other hears the words but converts the message to something far afield from what was intended. When this initially happens we may feel confused, or we try and clarify or argue our point. Maybe we feel offended like “how could you think I would say something like that” or, “why are you snapping at me all I said was….”
Couples get trapped in cycles of misunderstanding that go on for years and years. When we try to untangle their communication it becomes clear that they entered into the relationship with assumptions, reactions to tone, critique, being asked/told to do something. Both of them came from families where they had been shamed and criticized often so that their FILTER is set with that as a backdrop. Now we can say so what, that was the past, grow up and be in the present. However, this is actually a brain function that we used to call the mystical “unconscious” . These days we know that the unconscious is actually reactivity in the brain based on previous stress or threat. So sometimes pointing that out can help, but insight is intellectual and this is highly emotional, so the solutions need to take that into account.
As much as we don’t want it to be the case, our role at work often mirrors role in the family. Bosses become parents and even if consciously we believe otherwise, our brains might be acting as if they are one in the same. Past experience effects present behavior.
There are many variables that seem to effect communication. Past experience and our internal filter are some variables. Others include:
Role in the relationship
Interest or stake in the topic
Knowledge of the subject matter
Opinions/beliefs about the subject
Effective communication skills are very similar no matter who you’re talking to.
At home or at work the following habits can greatly improve communication:
To be a good communicator you have to be a good listener.
Zen Proverb: When walking, walk
When eating, eat…
When talking, talk and,
When listening, listen. REALLY listen.
Much of the time we’re listening through our own filter and responding from that filter too. It’s the equivalent of buying gifts. We may think we’re buying something that someone else would like but we’re really buying what we would like or what we want them to have vs. listening and buying what they really want.
Listening is similar. We listen through our own filter based on our :
About the subject…
Or about what is expected of us:
To solve a problem
Come up with an idea
Often the hardest thing to do is to listen to the other. Really listen to them and what they are saying.
According to the International Listening Association:
We tend to be distracted 75% of the time when we need to be listening
We listen to 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1000-3000 words per minute
Immediately after we listen we recall roughly 50% of what the other said
Long term we remember only 20% of what we hear
Listen to understand – NOT RESPOND
Be quiet – you can hear better that way – Listen and Silent have the same letters
Maintain eye contact – listen with your eyes and ears. Body language speaks volumes
Do not launch into a comparison.
When the person is done speaking – and this is critical – paraphrase back what you have heard them say – then ask them is you got it right. Ask if there’s anything else. If you did – THEN respond. If not, ask them to correct you.
It’s more important to get it right than to be right. Do this until the speaker feels you have really understood. Then it’s your turn.
This helps people feel truly valued and understood.
We are so thrilled to welcome a new member to our staff. Dr. Melissa Bates Bailey is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with specialization in working with individuals, couples and family systems. Dr. Bailey has evening availabilty. Please see her bio on the "About Us" page of this website for more information.