Tag Archives: Healing

Is Art Therapy for You?

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Ever wonder what art therapy is about?

Art therapists are trained as psychotherapists with at least a master’s degrees in expressive therapy. Utilizing art as a form of therapy has proven to be one of the most effective ways to overcome psychological blocks – damaging mental blocks that often prevent individuals from reaching their highest potential.

Art therapists analyze the drawings of their clients in several different ways.

Drawings are used to uncover the underlying issues causing difficulty in someone’s life. I use a series of ten to fifteen drawings when I first meet a client. These drawings are used as a baseline to assess where the person exists emotionally. They also reveal unconscious material that lay at the root of a client’s struggles. These initial drawings act as a roadmap to treatment.

Art therapists are trained to understand which materials will be the most productive tools of expression. Often, when an individual begins therapy, they are ready to defend their emotions. They have a well-rehearsed story, but the drawings cut through the defenses and quickly reveal the deeper content. Art therapists provide materials such as paint, clay or pastels to foster the expression of what was previously being kept hidden.

I continue to be surprised by what comes up for my clients – content that has up until this time been suppressed. Often what’s revealed in the drawings isn’t what my clients think they need to address, but turns out to be the root cause of their struggles.

There is no artistic skill required!  As art therapists, we are trained to walk you through the process and ascertain which materials would work best for your course of expression.

It’s the pure expression of feeling, not artistic talent that we are looking for to begin the healing process. Art therapists treat the same emotional disorders and mental health issues that verbal therapists address. In fact, art therapists often work with verbal therapists if a client is blocked and unable to express their feelings verbally.

At the termination of therapy, we review the drawings my client created at the beginning of our sessions. There is such a difference in the drawings from the start of therapy to termination, and they show tremendous emotional growth, insight and healing.

It’s always rewarding to be able to see progress and to keep a visual record of a person’s improved emotional well-being.

If you are interested in more information about art therapy, you can visit my website: thedrawinganalyst.com or the American Art Therapy Association’s website: arttherapy.org.

Thank you for your time and happy healing!

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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SoulCollage

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 SoulCollage.com or contact me for an individual or group introduction to the process.

Thanks for reading!

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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Being the Light Amidst Darkness

I am thoroughly enjoying Jan Richardson books lately. Richardson is an artist, poet and ordained minister.  In her latest book, “Circle of Grace” I was struck by a poem entitled,  A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark. Here is an excerpt:

“But this is what I can ask for you: FullSizeRender (3)

That in the darkness

there be a blessing.

That in the shadows

there be a welcome.

That in the night

you be encompassed,

by the love that knows your name.”

This poem really moved me, but the last stanza was particularly comforting. As a therapist, I meet people in their darkest moments, and it can be gut-wrenching to hear stories of pain and witness the struggles of another human being. I often explain to my clients that I cannot offer all the answers, but I will shine a light to guide them as they take each step. Everyone’s path is unique, and my role is to provide the light when all they can see is misery and pain.

What makes a good therapist is the ability to be in the darkness with your client, and to continue to be a light for each patient as they navigate the healing process.

Find your light or be the light someone is in need of during their darkest times.

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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How Shattered Pots Help With Grief & Loss

The following recipe was originally used at Olivia’s House – a grief and loss center for children in York, PA. I have expanded on the idea and use it to assist my younger clients as they process painful emotions related to grief and loss.

What You Need:

  • 1 medium size clay pot
  • large towel
  • small hammer
  • sharpie pen
  • large sheet of paper
  • glue gun/white glue
  • acrylic paint
  • a variety of objects: Pictures, words, silk flowers etc. to decorate exterior

shattered-pot

 

Step 1: Break the pot.

Wrap the clay pot in towel to avoid flying shards of clay. Hold firmly in place on its side to break the pot with a hammer. You may have to tap it a few times. Ideally you want 8-10 broken pieces. Light pressure will suffice.

Gather broken pieces and place them (in any order) on a large sheet of paper.

Step 2: Label the broken fragments of the pot.

Ask the child to list 8-10 of the emotions they are currently feeling the most. Try to match the size of each shard in relation to the intensity of each feeling. For example, if the child says that his or her strongest emotion is fear, then label the largest fragment “fear.” Continue until all fragments are labeled with each of the feelings expressed by the child. Take your time with this step, because it is important. Talk about the difficulty of the loss and the various emotions that the child is currently feeling.

Ensure the labeled feelings are on the inner curved sections of the pot, because when you glue the pot back together, you want to see the words inside. (See attached picture.)

Step 3: Glue pieces back together

Hot glue the pot back together. This is not any easy process and is a metaphor for the rebuilding process after loss. This is a messy and sometimes complicated step, and the difficulty of reassembling can be discussed in relation to the child’s emotional rebuilding process. Also at this point, it is a good time to talk about the symbol of the glue. You may want to ask, “Who has helped glue your life back together?”

Allow glue to cool and dry.

Step 4: Decorate the exterior of the pot

Paint the exterior of the pot with acrylic paint and any variety of plastic flowers, healing words, inspirational phrases or pictures. The scrapbook isle of your local craft store is a good place to start for items. Use a glue gun or school glue for this step.

Step 5: Discussion

Talk about how life has changed since the loss, talk about how what steps the child has taken to put his or her life back together. Discuss the people who have helped and how and if they found hope, support and love. This process is completed over a series of days or weeks.

Each step is a contemplative process.

As therapists, we sometimes feel uncomfortable remaining in the shattered stages phase with our clients, and seek to move forward to the “making it better” or healing stage. This is a disservice to our clients, because we should allow each person to take their time and fully process their emotions.

Be gentle with yourself, with others, allow yourself and others to grieve fully and be patient as they open their heart to the next step.

Thank you Leslie Delp, Executive Director of Olivia’s House for everything you do to support grieving children and their families!

Thank you for being here.

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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Karen’s Latest Blog.

Feeling Safe in A Gun-Loving Society

mamiverse.com
mamiverse.com

In light of the recent shooting in Oregon, I have noticed a general feeling of defeat in the wake of this tragedy. People are beginning to feel overwhelmed by the number of shootings and our inability to stop them. It seems too easy to buy a gun and this fact leaves us all feeling vulnerable.

As a parent, President Obama, immediately pictured himself caught in the heart-wrenching aftermath of a shooting. We all did. How do we cope with the uncertainty and the continued images of pain and suffering that could easily affect our families?

Some people choose to cope by ignoring this crisis, because it’s too difficult to process and it’s something that we have absolutely no control over. We think that we’re ignoring the problem, yet we’re a nation full of anxious, hyper vigilant, over-medicated individuals. This is most evident in our youth.

Our children suffer the most. They bear the burden of a nation that will not protect them  from mass shooters. Our government’s refusal to enact common sense gun laws deprives our children of a carefree childhood. Young adults are busy dealing with the effects of an overspent economy, crushing student loan debt and the uncertainty of landing a job in their field. How can we, as parents, help our children at a time like this?

One thing I know for sure is this, we can easily become consumed by the darkness if we allow ourselves to be. Instead, we must consciously look toward the light and the luminaries — those people who shine a light amid the darkness. People are naturally drawn to the Pope, the Dali Lama, and even Oprah for comfort. Why? Because we lean on those who have the best interests of the people at heart and who provide hope for humanity. We realize that goodness and kindness are the only keys to escaping this crushing weight of hatred, violence and self-serving interests of politicians.

To move forward, we must act on this knowledge and teach our children how to do the same. This requires mindful consciousness. When we realize that companies, politicians, and the media respond to our demands, we can make better decisions. What we watch, click on, purchase and consume directly affects whether these sources supply us with goodness or negativity. Each decision is a vote. Each moment requires us to make a choice to support what we want for our children, family and friends.

We are naturally drawn to stories and products that feed our fears, but we must make choices to constantly look toward the light for the sake of our children – the most vulnerable members of any society. Every choice we make matters.

With Love and Comfort,

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

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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,

Karen

 

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Letting Go: A Message for Life Transitions

Thinking back to my son’s graduation from kindergarten, I am reminded of an image of my little boy wearing a white paper graduation cap – secured to his head with masking tape!

Karens son graduation blog
Jordan, at his graduation ceremony!

His father and I watched in amazement as our first born entered elementary school. It’s an image I will never forget! 

Now living in Brooklyn, New York and working as a consultant, I admire my son’s fearlessness as he has approached each new stage of his life.

As graduation day approaches for many parents, I understand the difficulty that many face while confronting the idea of letting go. Releasing not only our children, but also our fears requires a great amount of strength.

We must be willing to conjure up this strength in order fully embrace joy, and to experience our children’s achievements. For some, it can feel as though there wasn’t enough time to prepare for this next chapter.

Many seniors feel just as apprehensive and anxious about this new phase of their life. Most people don’t feel ready to leave middle school, high school, college, or even an old job or a relationship.

No matter where we are transitioning from, moving forward always brings feelings of uncertainty and discomfort to the surface. These feelings are necessary, but, if they are not addressed properly, we risk making the changes in our lives unbearable.

There isn’t a magic wand to make transitions easier, but there are simple steps we can take to make the process less stressful. All you have to do is close your eyes, breath and use your imagination!

The first step is to identify any fears, regrets or sadness that you may be feeling. Make a list of the possible reasons behind these negative feelings to help you uncover all the things that are bottled up or kept hidden. The next step is to write down all the positive things that you hope to accomplish and want to feel.

For example, you may write the words “regret” or “insecure” on your negative list, and the words ”self-confidence” or “joy” on your positive list.

Next, close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose. As you exhale through your mouth, imagine your list of negativity being released into the air and then dissolving into smoke.

Repeat this step several times until you have vaporized all the negativity into thin air! Now, inhale through your nose again, and take in only the positive feelings and thoughts on your list. Repeat until you are full of positive energy.

Moving forward, forgive yourself and allow yourself to let go of regrets or fears each time they surface. Letting go of past regrets opens a space for joy to enter. Focusing on positivity also gives you more energy to move through life.

It takes courage to walk through the next door that opens for you, especially when you can’t see beyond the doorway. Surround yourself with people who can light your path and walk beside you to ease your journey, and provide the necessary support and strength that you’ll need. As you become more focused and confident, you will become a guide to others.

Don’t let the changes in your life paralyze you with fear, learn to embrace life as it comes, and most importantly, don’t forget to breathe and enjoy your own graduation from the past into the present!

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