Category Archives: Transitions


In a previous blog I mentioned that I was excited about an art therapy technique called SoulCollage. SoulCollage was created about 30 years ago by a psychotherapist named, Seena Frost. She was interested in combining creativity, insight and healing for her clients who felt they were not creative.

SoulCollage Photo

Art therapists have used the collage process in their practice for years. The SoulCollage process is different because no words are  involved, only images. In addition, the collage is limited to a 5” x 8” card consisting of only 3 to 4 carefully selected pictures. Each person makes his or her own personal deck of cards with no set number of cards. The photograph above is from my personal deck. I made this card when my mother was dying.

In SoulCollage we interpret our own cards. Even as a therapist, I would not interpret a client’s card. The images are selected on an intuitive personal basis and have meaning only for the individual. There is a phrase that is used when you look at the card and are attempting to glean information from the imagery. The phrase is, “I am the one who…” When we consult our SoulCollage cards we use the phrase, “I am the one who…” to begin speaking from the image on our own card and to answer our own questions.

For example, for this card when I begin with the phrase “I am the one who…”, I finish the sentence with, “…. is really scared about the unknown journey of my mother’s impending death.” This helped me realize that fear played a role for me in my interactions with her. At different times when consulting the card, the meaning and interpretation will change.

SoulCollage reminds us that all the answers are deep within us if we work to uncover them. Using SoulCollage can help us recognize these answers and bring clarity to confusing situations in our lives.

Sharing SoulCollage cards in a group or community is an important part of the process. SoulCollage brings people together in creativity, acceptance, and self-reflection.

This is just a basic introduction to the process. There are many more aspects and levels to SoulCollage. To learn more you can visit or contact me for an individual or group introduction to the process.

Thanks for reading!

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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Back To Life, Back To Reality!

DSCF2441 I was having a difficult time deciding what I should post following my summer vacation. I contemplated writing about the challenges faced while moving beyond my comfort zone to talk to strangers on the beach. I also considered writing about how to let go of life’s daily worries while you’re  hundreds of miles away from home.

Several concerns were brought to my attention as I tried to sum up the experience.

We were in Negril, Jamaica and it was wonderful. I was struck by the quiet and calm beauty of the island of Jamaica, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but notice the heartbreaking poverty of its people vs. the abundance at the resorts. Unable to pick a topic, I decided to hold onto my vacation memories until I was ready to share them.

What I am struggling with now, is how to return to reality.

I guess we all have difficulty with this, we joke that we need a vacation after our vacation!My problem is that I don’t feel as though I have reengaged with my surroundings. I haven’t felt fully present since our return, and it’s been over 2 weeks now! The crushing weight of all I have to do is overwhelming. Rewriting my syllabus for the college, introducing and writing curriculum for a brand new course, preparing to expand my art therapy practice, my daughter moving to NYC to begin graduate school, and the list goes on and on. DSCF2502So how do we re-engage after a break? I’m not just referring to vacations, because many people struggle with re-entry into the real world following maternity leave or following a medical leave. How can we re-enter following a layoff, or even a long weekend? I don’t have all the answers, but I can share some of the things that have helped me get back into the swing of things.

  1. Lists! I love making lists and I have notebooks full of them. I carry around a thin notebook and write notes and lists daily. I keep a list in my car as well.
  2. Set Small Attainable Goals. I wrote a list a few years ago and on it I had written “Write a Book!” That’s a great idea and something I hope to accomplish one day, but I realized that it was an unrealistic goal for my life right now? Put your ideas in order of importance/priority. It may seem silly, but it really helps. Scratch out any lofty goals if you know you don’t have time for them right now.
  3.  Unpack Bags. Clutter can be exhausting, even if you’re just looking at it! Don’t leave a suitcase full of dirty clothes laying around. I know it sounds daunting, but take care of it now, or you’ll wake up and discover you’re out of clean underwear!
  4. Sleep Well. I know, it’s easier said than done! But this is HUGE and we forget how important it is for the body and mind to POWER DOWN. More on the importance of sleep in a later blog post.
  5. Be Aware Of What’s Depleting Your Energy. Re-entry can be an extremely anxiety-prone time. Worrying depletes energy and you need all the energy you can muster to get back to work and life. If you loaded up on carbs and unhealthy foods during your time away, stock your fridge with fruits and veggies. Throw some fruit and yogurt in a blender and make yourself a calcium rich fruit smoothie!
  6. Gratitude! Give thanks for all that you have in your life. Realize what a gift it was to have the opportunity to take a vacation!
  7. Talk To A Friend Or Therapist. Therapy isn’t just for serious problems. Sometimes a few sessions can help to reorganize and reenergize your thoughts, and bring clarity when needed.


It is often the little things that help us the most. I think I am finally close to achieving re-entry following my vacation. It is a difficult process, but to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed, start small and simple. Unpack, throw a couple of loads in the washer, make a list of small attainable chores – even something as small as returning a phone call – these small steps have made a big difference for me and I hope they do for you, too.

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My Hero, Tara.

This is Tara with her son, Cam.

tara and cam resized

Tara is the woman who took care of my mother in the final six years of her life. She watched her slowly move from one stage to the next in her struggle with Alzheimer’s .

Although I was around, it was Tara who fed her, bathed her and cared for her on a daily basis. She was able to understand that I wasn’t strong enough to spend hours with my mother, and she never judged me for it. I would breeze in and out of the house in those last few years, unable to watch what was happening.

It was a slow, agonizing process to watch my once vibrant, funny, snarky mother, end up bedridden and completely helpless for the last two years of her life. It was simply too much for me to bare.

Even though, as a therapist, I hear my clients’ stories all day long and can be strong for them, I found my mother’s illness to be heartbreaking and unbearable to watch. To be honest, I found the entire ordeal quite frightening.

This is why I thank God for Tara.

The image of Tara with her son is quite significant, because she spent a lot of time with my mother when she could have been spending that time with her son. She was loyal and faithful, and showed up every day until my mother’s death, assuring me she would be with her till the end.

The transition for my mother was lengthy, cruel, heartbreaking and harsh, and I am grateful that I had Tara as a solid, loving presence.

Transitions of any kind can be head spinning, even when the progression is slow moving.

As a therapist, when my clients are experiencing times of stress and chaos, I advise them to look for the helpers in their life, because sometimes, we have to remember to lean on others. Friends, therapists and spiritual leaders can be lifesavers at a time like this, and Tara was my life savor and my helper. She was the person I leaned on heavily, and I am eternally grateful for her presence.

I have never formally thanked her, and would likely to publicly acknowledge her service to my family.

Dear Tara,

Thank you for caring for my Mother in a way that I would never have been able to. Thank you for being patient, loving and compassionate. Thank you for being gentle and kind, and for taking care of all the details when I felt too overwhelmed. Thank you for tolerating the chaos that my family created, at times. Thank you for holding my mother’s hand when she was scared and lonely – something I was unable to do. I need you to know how grateful I am to you for being there during my mother’s moment of passing. You have been a blessing beyond words. You are one of the final gifts that my mother gave me, and for that I am truly grateful.

Thank you.

Love Always,



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