Tag Archives: Therapy

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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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)

Please visit and like my Facebook page!

Visit my Etsy Shop for my hand-crafted healing items.

Email me!

Learn more on my Website!

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How To Recognize Depression

Let’s Talk About Depression

How do you know if you are feeling depressed?

Flowers windowsill JPEG

Let’s look at some common signs:

– Are you having difficulty sleeping at night?
– Have you lost interest in things you normally enjoy?
– Has your appetite changed?
– Do you feel less energetic?
– Are you feeling more negative or feeling sad all the time?
– Do you feel hopeless, helpless, or worthless?

How do you know whether those are just normal reactions to life  or something more serious?

The most important question to ask yourself is, “Am I having a bad day, or am I having a bad life?” If you can recognize that you are just in a slump and need to change your perspective or change your routine, then you realize that you have just hit a “bump in the road” like so many people often do.

It is crucial for us to understand that feeling depressed is not uncommon. You have no reason to feel ashamed.

Once you have recognized the signs and symptoms of depression, the next step is to take action. Managing our emotions is crucial.

If it is mild depression, try these simple changes to your routine:

  • Write in a journal.
    • Think of it as documenting your life.
    • Make a gratitude list to stay focused on the positive things in your life.
    • Do this for a month every morning or every evening
  • Try engaging with one person in a small way.
    • Talk to the mail person or a neighbor walking their dog.
    • Start with a simple, “Hello, how are you?”
    • Smile at a stranger or compliment their outfit.

Sometimes brightening someone else’s day can brighten your own day!

  • Think of something small that you can do for someone else.
    • Bring in your neighbor’s newspaper or mail.
    • Pick up trash in your neighborhood.
    • Help someone load or unload groceries from their car.
  • Coloring books.  You may have noticed that coloring books are becoming increasingly popular with adults. There are a variety of books available from complex patterns to whimsical designs.
    • Pack one in your summer tote, along with a few colored markers or pencils.
    • Use it to pass the time while you sit by the pool or spend a weekend on the beach.
    • Color at the end of the day to unwind and de-stress. (Don’t stress about staying within the line.
  • Take a walk every day.
    • Look around your neighborhood.
    • Try to find a new area to explore.
    • Say hello to every person you pass.
    • Give yourself a reward at the end!

If you have tried all of these simple suggestions, and you’re still feeling low, it may be time to call a therapist. A therapist can assess your situation and provide solutions that address your specific needs.

As a therapist, I want  my clients to feel connected, and I want them to walk through life with light in their heart.

The goal I set for my clients is to help them feel “Joyfully Engaged in the World.”

This is my favorite phrase, and I work with them until they can achieve this feeling.

It may sound as if I’m oversimplifying the issue, and you may be thinking, ‘She doesn’t know my situation. It’s impossible for me to feel light in my life, especially with these heavy issues weighing me down.’

Or, you might be like so many other people who try to hide their sorrow.

Many people find it difficult to reach out for help.  A depressed person may think they are “handling it” but everyone around them can see the pain that they are desperately trying to hide. Others notice the flashes of anger, constant sighing, withdrawal, lack of optimism, complaining, vulnerability to illnesses and a general joylessness.

I can assure you that I have heard several stories by people who think they will never overcome their sorrow and pain. Yet, I have witnessed these same people find moments of joy, and have watched them discovered how to reconnect with people in their lives.

If you are feeling depressed, I hope you understand that you matter and that you are important. Invest some time in yourself, because you deserve to feel joyfully engaged in the world!

Click on the blue links below to learn more about my Art Therapy Practice and Etsy Healing Art products:

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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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