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Art Therapy Group Sessions 1, 2, 3 and 4 – 2015 have been just as interesting and revealing as demonstrated in the first lot of group sessions I participated in during 2014. Being my second round of art therapy, I have been finding the sessions more enjoyable and less confronting. But I have noticed that for some other participants, being their first experience with art therapy, are at times finding the art therapy sessions emotionally challenging.
ART THERAPY SESSION NO. 2
Exercise 1 – “Yellow & Black Cut Up Painting on A4 Paper”
For one of the art therapy exercises, we were asked to think about a problem we currently have in our lives. Once we had formulated this within our minds, we were then instructed to paint/draw it onto a sheet of paper. What came to mind for me, was a difficult relationship that exists between a family member and their young grown-up child and how this relationship has caused grief and despair for both parties over a long period of time. So I painted one black rectangle with a yellow circle in it and another rectangle in yellow with a black circle in it. This for me, was representative of how both parties had the same DNA, yet a huge chasm sadly exists between them.
Once we had completed our drawing/painting, we were then instructed to tear and/or cut up the drawing/painting itself. This was a significant process and very symbolic. By tearing/cutting up our drawing/painting, we were effectively breaking up our problem into smaller, more manageable pieces to deal with. It also appeared to look different, hence giving me the opportunity to look at my own problem in a different way. An interesting process that got all the participants thinking that our problems can be approached in different ways, if we are prepared to take a different approach and perhaps instead of looking at a problem as a whole, that we take some time out to see it in smaller tasks that might be easier to handle – even if only part of the problem is solved with other parts left to resolved perhaps at a latter date.
Exercise 2 – “Happy Boxes Made In Clay”
This next art therapy exercise involved taking a large block of clay, approximately the size of a square-shaped brick. We were then asked to close our eyes and start working the clay with our hands. We were asked to make something with it and I decided I was going to make something positive – I just didn’t want to have any negative emotions and feelings at work in this particular activity. We were given a period of approximately 10 minutes for this part of the process. I personally enjoyed moulding the clay but there were others that found it hard and didn’t enjoy. During the closed eyes part, I started making what I like to called ‘happy boxes’. I made a set of them and decorated the tops with a pencil. It was interesting to see what others had made and the symbolism of their work.
ART THERAPY SESSION NO. 3
Exercise 3 – “Australian Native Garden Drawn with Pastels on A4 Paper”
For this particular art therapy exercise, we were asked to close our eyes and visualise sitting on a magic rug that was to take us on a ride. We were asked to imagine where the magic rug was taking us and to imagine where its final destination would be. Some of the participants’ magic rug journeys were sad, emotional and distressing, others had journeys that were pleasant and comforting. For me, I had a good journey across the grass fields opposite where I live, across homes and gardens within my suburb. My final resting place was within my own home garden. My dear husband over 15 years has grown from bare earth, a beautiful Australian Native Plant garden and it offers both of us in our autumn years, much joy and peace.
Exercise 4 – “People Scene Drawn with Pastels on A4 Paper”
This was a very interesting art therapy exercise. We were handed a set of cards. These cards each had an individual image. We were required to take a card from the pack without sharing the image on the card with another and then partner up with the person next to ourselves. Each partner was required to describe the details of the card to the partner, without the partner seeing the card. The partner was required to draw from this description on a sheet of paper. Once each partner had completed the task, we all showed our cards, shared our experience and drawing with the group. This for me, was a process that really required a great deal of trust in another. It required a degree of understanding that at times, we need to surrender our desire to want to control all circumstances. I didn’t have a problem with the task, as I trusted my partner, to do her best to inform me of details that would enable me to complete my drawing from her description. I also noticed that I wasn’t too concerned about how different my drawing might be from her card. I really just enjoyed the process but I did see and understand that some others struggled with letting go and just taking it as it comes and not getting stressed out because it didn’t look the same as the card image. It was a very good activity about effective listening, communicating, trust, understanding that we cannot always be responsible for another’s actions, we can only be responsible for our own.
ART THERAPY SESSION NO. 4
Exercise 5 – “Two People Talking Drawn with Black Felt Pen on A4 Paper”
The art therapist had us do a series of sketches that involved firstly choosing a card from a pack of cards without the knowledge of what we were about to be asked to do. Once each of us had our chosen card we were asked to do the following:
- 1. Drawing the card image with dominate hand without looking at the card image
- 2. Looking at the card image and drawing the card image with our dominate hand
- 3. Looking at the card image and drawing the card image with non dominate hand
- 4. Drawing the card image with dominate hand without taking the pen off the paper
What was firstly revealing was how little we had listened to the instructions first up. How we really needed to have paid attention to fully comprehend what seemed like simple instructions. Another revealing factor was that most of us preferred the last of our images being No. 4 – drawing with dominate hand without taking the pen off the paper.
Exercise 6 – “Fence and Barbed Wire Section of Group Mural on Length of Butcher Paper”
Our last activity for session 4 was a group activity based on producing a group mural. I had, in 2014 participated in such a task and was familiar with what to expect, which did help me prepare myself to just enjoy the process and not be to ‘precious’ about my artistic endeavours. We were required to paint/draw an image and then think about how it could be connected to the person’s art work, either side of ourselves. I was happy with my image, which I did in paint with bold orange fence posts, out lined in charcoal with two runs of charcoal barbed wire running through them. As I stared at my art work, I realised that it could be the fence posts and the barbed wire that could be the connecting theme running through the whole mural work. For me, I found the task enjoyable. My only concerns during the process was to ensure I had consulted properly with the rest of the group to ensure they were going to be happy with what I proposed as a way of connecting all our individual art works, for my part. Some of the group were apprehensive about having another mark their part of the mural work but after some general conversation, they came to appreciate that it was a group work of art and as per the instructions given by the art therapist we needed to ‘give and take’ during the group mural task at hand. All group participants in my group got the idea and all individually went about adding in their personal contribution to the other participants mural art work sections.
Over the course of participating within these art therapy session for 2014 and 2015, it is very clear to me that it is not about the art, but about what we are thinking and how we apply that thinking to the art work itself. The art therapy process can present as a challenge for some participants. Some, also find it hard to let go of the fact that their art work is not a representation of being a good artist or not; and struggle to make an open acceptance that it’s about self exploration; that the art work is just a vehicle that is used to achieve that outcome.
NB: For the purposes of this weblog series “Art Therapy Group 2015”, I will not be mentioning any names or personal details of participants or even the name of the organisation that runs the sessions. Individuals have the right to privacy, so it will only be about my own experience – and broad statements about each particular session. I hope you will understand.
Whilst you are here – please check out my home page! My Art Therapy Journey – A window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytelling…by Karen Robinson