Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happiness Group & The Art of Forgiveness

Beginning a forgiveness box with a quote


To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.

~ Lewis B. Smedes


The holidays tend to bring up complex feelings for many people. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, and other holidays seem to blend together during this time of year and there is a palpable energy in the chilly air.


This is also a time of year when my art therapy groups tend to get smaller for a few weeks. The holidays are especially triggering for many of the individuals that I work with - bringing up complex feelings and memories. I think part of what makes it challenging is a feeling that this time of year 'should' be joyful even if it's not for everyone. Drug and alcohol relapses as well as hospitalizations tend to increase with my clients and many other tend to isolate in their apartments if they have no friends or relatives to be with. This is part of why I find it important to continue the groups, even if attendance is lower. There are usually at least a few people that make their way to the group and find some benefit and comfort in participating.

In my continuing work with veterans living in supportive housing, my co-therapist and I started a new group called the 'Happiness Group.' One of the interesting challenges inherent in working with individuals in permanent housing is finding ways to keep groups interesting. My past work has focused on working with people in crisis and living in emergency transitional shelters. Although the art therapy groups were challenging, I could expect a constantly changing group of clients. In contrast, the groups offered in permanent housing facilities are less transient but the risk of group repetition and lack of interest increase. With this in mind, my co-therapist and I began to brainstorm a new group that might be of interest. Drawing from positive psychology and our own interests, we designed a new curriculum and group called the 'Happiness Group.'

So far the residents have been drawn to our new Happiness Group and are very engaged. I always highlight the fact that 'being happy' is not a pre-requisite for coming to the group. In fact, the group flyers that I created include this description:



We all want more happiness in life. But how do we create happiness when there are so many challenges and hard situations we face? This group will give you ideas and tools for creating more happiness in your daily life, no matter what you are facing. 
Forgiveness box in progress
Our group last week focused on the theme of forgiveness. Forgiveness and happiness might seem like strange companions, yet they are directly linked. Much of our emotional and physical energy can become tied up in feelings of anger and past resentment. Although it's a long and challenging process, working with forgiveness can free up energy that can be channeled into cultivating more happiness.

In group we spent time talking about what forgiveness might entail and why forgiveness does not mean forgetting or saying that something hurtful was ok and acceptable. Alice Miller said, "Genuine forgiveness does not deny anger but faces it head-on," and I think this is a good way of understanding forgiveness.

Forgiveness Boxes


Group members shared the people and experiences that they were struggling to forgive. We also explored self-forgiveness, since sometimes we are the ones in most need of forgiveness. My co-leader encouraged the clients to write a letter to someone they wanted to forgive. The letter would not be mailed to the person, but could be used as a cathartic method for addressing and processing feelings of anger, hurt, and disappointment. 


For the art therapy piece of the group I set up paint trays, acrylic, brushes, collage materials, markers, and mod podge. I then handed each person a small paper mache box. I asked the group to decorate the boxes on the inside and outside while thinking about a person or a few people that they would like to work on forgiving. The gold and copper paint were a popular paint color and the metallic paint helped imbue the boxes with a certain beauty. While working on the boxes, group members began to open up about past experiences with the people they were working to forgive. 

I reminded the group that forgiveness was a process like most everything in life. Feelings about the person might ebb and flow like ocean waves and re-surface even after there seemed to be some emotional resolution. For this reason I encouraged the clients to look at the box as an object that can be opened and closed and therefore visited and put aside depending on their needs. 

The last step was writing the name of one or more people (could include self) on a small piece of paper and placing it inside the box. The name could stay in there for a long time, or be taken out and replaced with another name. In this way the names and the box could become part of a small ritual. The safe containing space of the box could hold the desire to forgive and be opened when it felt appropriate. One of the clients shared that she would place her forgiveness box on a small altar in her apartment where she kept a beautiful candle. Her idea was to create a ritual with her daughter of putting in names and taking them out while lighting a candle each day, as a way of processing past family experiences and moving in the direction of forgiveness and healing.

closed forgiveness box

Further Thoughts
When working with individuals who have experienced trauma I find the idea of objects that can close and be opened very useful. Working in this way can help an individual explore past experiences slowly and avoid the chance of emotional flooding. Altered books (future post) are another idea along these lines. Any material and object that creates a containing space and can hold a smaller object are wonderful to work with. If I could get my hands on some nesting dolls to alter that would be very interesting too!

Creating art objects that can be used repeatedly in a personal ritual adds another opportunity for healing by engaging in the creative process. Individuals can make visual reminders that inhabit their living space.

Check back in the coming weeks for more posts and ideas from my art therapy groups, and as always please feel free to share your own thoughts and experiences here.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Breathing Space Collaboration ~ With Veterans





What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit.                    ~ John Updike


Collaboration
I have been collaborating with another therapist for the past number of weeks and providing art therapy groups for veterans living in supportive housing. One of these groups is a smoking cessation group (or smoking 'sensation' as one of our clients calls it!) The other therapist leads the first half of the group based on a psycho-educational curriculum that includes ice breakers, basic information, and coping strategies for trying to quit smoking and manage stress. During the second part of the group I lead the clients in an art therapy experiential that is designed to compliment and build on the theme that week. 


This is the first opportunity I have had to directly collaborate with another therapist in group therapy and it is a wonderful experience. As an art therapist contractor I am used to working very independently - going to different locations and running the art therapy groups on my own. This is a unique learning experience and allows us to shape the groups in a way that speaks to clients on many different levels.


One of the core foundations of smoking cessation (or trying to modify any unhealthy habit) is finding alternative coping strategies and ways to manage stress and difficult emotions. Many of us instinctively reach for something when we are trying to escape difficult emotions. It might be a cigarette, cookie, glass of wine, or the tv remote. These habits become so ingrained that they are largely unconscious actions, designed to keep the difficult feelings at bay for a while longer. Much of our group focuses on alternative ways to channel these emotions productively - through things like art, movement, and mindfulness-building skills. With this in mind, my co-therapist asked a yoga teacher who specializes in teaching simple breathing techniques to come in and co-lead two groups. 

The Experience

The yoga teacher explained that there are simple ways to relax through mindful breathing and that she would share some of her favorite methods. She encouraged us to sit comfortably in our chairs and to close our eyes. 

Before closing my eyes, I glanced around the circle of individuals. There was the yoga teacher, the other therapist, a peer specialist, and the clients - all veterans.  I was looking forward to being a participant in this part of the group. At the same time I was very curious to see if the clients would be able to tolerate sitting still, focusing on breathing, and if any of them would comment on the incense, candles or soft New Age music playing in the background. I had my doubts but was cautiously optimistic. Sitting with the feelings and sensations that can arise during meditation, yoga, and breathing practices can be intense for any of us, and almost all of these veterans struggle with symptoms related to PTSD along with other mental health and substance abuse issues. 


A few minutes into the guided breathing the room was completely quiet except for the soft music and the yoga teacher's rhythmic voice. I felt my shoulders relax as my mind grew quieter. There was a palpable feeling in the room that felt very different from the usual energy there. Glancing around the circle again I noticed that many of the client's faces looked younger and then realized that it was because everyone's face was relaxed instead of tense and furrowed. 


An entire hour passed as she led us through breathing techniques and gentle yoga stretches, but it seemed like no time had passed at all. A few of the veterans commented on how they could have kept sitting for another hour and just breathing. I was struck by how much we craved this breathing space. It can be especially hard to find this quiet space in such a big city and many of these veterans approach daily life from a survival mentality, which makes complete sense based on their long history of traumas. We spent a few minutes talking about ways to take a breathing space - no matter how short or long it was. The yoga teacher reminded us that a breathing space could be as simple as taking three conscious breaths before responding to a person or situation. Or it could be a more formal and slightly longer practice during the day. 


Art Therapy ~ Mandala Breathing Space

For my part of this group, I asked everyone to transition to the art table as quietly as possible in order to maintain the quiet energy. I encouraged each person to try and stay aware of their breathing and pay particular attention to their in and out breaths as they painted. I then handed out thick watercolor paper to each person. On each piece of paper I had pre-drawn a circle in white crayon that was barely visible. I asked everyone to use the watercolor and fill in the entire page with washes of color and any other forms or imagery. As the group painted away, each person began to see an emerging circle, that stood out under the color washes, no matter how many layers of paint were added. 
'Moon Window'
acrylic on paper ~ Sara Roizen

After a few minutes all of the group members were asking about the circle and seemed to be enjoying the process of painting while the circle (mandala) remained. I explained that since crayons were made of wax, they resisted the watercolor and therefore anything drawn with a crayon would repel the watercolor away from it.

After the crayon and watercolor mandalas were finished we spent time talking about the art process and relating it back to the yoga and breathing experience. The theme of carving a breathing space out came up again and was symbolized by the crayon drawing that emerged no matter how many layers of watercolor were added over it. Clients talked about ways to create healthy boundaries in life to protect some time each day for slowing down and going inwards rather than always reaching for outer distractions. The watercolor layers were paralleled to life's layers and all of the daily experiences that can feel like a burden at times. We discussed that the key was to remember the breathing space circle even when life seemed too complicated, because the breathing space was always there to return to. I encouraged each veteran to display their art piece in a place that could serve as a daily reminder to create that time and space.


Further Thoughts

By pre-drawing the circle in white crayon I was providing the clients with a containing space to create within and around. At times I will have the client draw the circle themselves, but in this case I wanted to create the pre-existing breathing space for the group, much like the yoga teacher had set up the chairs in a circle before the group began and set the stage with candles, incense, and music. The idea is to help clients to gradually internalize the safe breathing space for themselves and this could be explored in a future session by having the group create their own contained shapes to paint within or create circles for one another.

Any time we work within circles the structure creates a kind of 'breathing space' and a wonderful visual metaphor for slowing down, going inwards, and centering for a while. I can envision working outside in the garden with the veterans and creating a mandala using natural elements such as rocks, leaves, and sticks. Another idea could be to create a semi-permanent mandala breathing space if the location/facility allowed for it where clients could go any time they needed to take a few quiet minutes. This could be outside or in the corner of a quieter room with less foot traffic. 


To create a portable breathing space reminder, small surfaces such as artist trading cards (wallet-sized paper) could be created during group with circles and visual reminders to pause and breathe. The group could also create bracelets (which are of course wearable circles) as a daily reminder as well.

There will be more blog posts to follow that explore my collaboration and work with veterans. Stay tuned!



'City Sun'
acrylic on canvas ~ Sara Roizen






Sunday, October 6, 2013

Feeding Your Demons (some art)



"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."

(Carl Jung)



'Kali Dance' acrylic & mixed media on canvas
Sara Roizen


For those of you familiar with the movie 'Labyrinth' (1986) by Jim Henson it's a wonderful story and rich with relevant metaphors. It was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up and I still love it.

Here's the basic plot: The heroine Sarah races through a dangerous labyrinth to reach the goblin castle and rescue her baby brother from the goblin king before the time runs out. She runs around in circles, gets lost, takes the wrong paths, gets into trouble, and almost gives up several times. The final scene in the labyrinth is when Sarah reaches the goblin king. He tries to distract her from her purpose by offering anything she desires - including his kingdom. Sarah refuses to be distracted and thrown off course again by his offers and promises. She finally remembers the words that she had forgotten and as she faces him directly she says 'you have no power over me.' The instant she speaks these words, the goblin king loses his power and his world of illusion crumbles around her. (And spoiler alert: she gets her baby brother back). 

That particular scene immediately came to mind as I sat down to write this post. You see, lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to face our feelings head on rather than running in the opposite direction. (To be honest, I've been running in the opposite direction from writing this post for a couple of weeks now). Finally I'm sitting still and writing it.

I am becoming increasingly aware of how much energy it takes for me to run through my own inner labyrinths. What does that look like in everyday life? For me it might be avoiding the one phone call that could bring me some answers. Looking at my sketchbook longingly but deciding that I have 'more important' things to do while the baby naps. Nodding my head in agreement to something someone says when my heart is saying the opposite.

These outer forms of avoidance are not actually the core issues I'm exploring. The underlying forms are the raw feelings that might be exposed once that last protective layer of avoidance is peeled back. They are the feelings at the heart center of the labyrinth. They might be feelings such as fear, anger, or even joy. 
What are the possibilities for healing and personal growth when we do the incredibly counterintuitive thing and sit still with our feelings, when everything in our being is yelling at us to get up and get distracted? Certainly society provides us with an endless buffet of distraction entrees...it is almost too easy to feast on all of them, while the part of us that needs to be fed is actually starving.


In her book Feeding Your Demons, Tsultrim Allione explores our inner demons and proposes that instead of starving them (running from them) that we actually give form to them and then feed them. She writes:

"Normally we empower our demons by believing they are real and strong in themselves and have the power to destroy us. As we fight against them, they get stronger. But when we acknowledge them by discovering what they really need, and nurture them, our demons release their hold, and we find that they actually do not have power over us. By nurturing the shadow elements of our being with infinite generosity, we can access the state of luminous awareness and undermine ego. By feeding the demons, we resolve conflict and duality, finding our way to unity." (from 'Feeding Your Demons' by Lama Tsultrim Allione)

"Hungry Ghost II" acrylic & mixed media on canvas
Sara Roizen

The author devotes a chapter to working with our demons through the art process (which of course immediately peaked my interest). Much of the healing takes place when we give form to the demon rather than allowing it to remain in the shadows. Once an image has been created it is possible to dialogue with the demon, ask what the demon needs, and then 'feed' the demon with our attention and compassion. This is truly about feeding a part of the self that has been neglected. The quote at the beginning of this post by Jung speaks to the transformative power of making the 'darkness conscious.' When the darkness inside is made conscious it cannot have power over us.

The art pieces in this post are paintings that I created while meditating on my own inner demons. They were uncomfortable to begin and messy to create. A part of me wanted to cover up the images that emerged and paint something 'prettier' or easier to digest. The first painting "Kali Dance" was a visual meditation on the fearsome goddess Kali. She gives birth and she destroys. Visually she is horrible to behold and yet in mythology her sword cuts through ignorance and fear. When our inner Kali aspect is embraced we have the power to transform ourselves and move through obstacles rather than dancing around them and wearing ourselves thin. The energy that is invested in avoiding our fears and unwanted feelings is then freed and can be channeled into our creative lives. 


Children often spontaneously draw scary figures such as monsters. They have a natural inclination to take internal experiences and give them visual form. This is a wonderful way to connect with children and find out more about their inner worlds in a playful and non-threatening way. As adults we can benefit from the same explorations through art. If we have the courage and the proper support we can give form to our inner demons, look them in the eye, and have a conversation. They are after all, just misunderstood aspects of the self. As Rumi writes in the poem below, Welcome and entertain them all!


"Hungry Ghost I" acrylic & mixed media on canvas
Sara Roizen

THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Jelaluddin Rumi
    translation by Coleman Barks

"The Dream" acrylic & mixed media on canvas
Sara Roizen



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Transforming Life's Messes


Barn's burnt down - 
now 
I can see the moon.



 ~ Mizuta Masahide, 1657-1723

Debris Mandala


It's been an interesting (read: stressful) week here in our apartment. The entire roof of our building was being replaced, despite the forecast calling for thunderstorms. 


The baby was napping and I was prepping my lunch when water started pouring in through the light fixtures in our apartment. Water began to drip through scattered cracks and down the walls in each room. Overhead (we're on the top floor) I could hear the workers furiously running across the roof and throwing tarps across the exposed roof. The next day I was walking by the bathroom just in time to hear and see debris falling from the removed skylight and landing all over the floor. My first thought was 'it would have been nice if they had given us a heads up before removing the skylight.' My second thought was, 'wow, I've never seen open sky from our bathroom before and it reminds me of James Turrell's Meeting installation piece.' 
James Turrell's 'Meeting' installation at PS1
A rectangular cut-out of the museum's ceiling

A few minutes later I grabbed a broom and began sweeping up the bits of debris in our bathroom, while occasionally glancing up to make sure the sky had temporarily stopped falling into our apartment. It had already been a stressful two days and it felt as if my body and mind were braced for the next unforeseen issue to arise. However as I swept up the fragments I noticed that the motion of the sweeping was beginning to relax me. I gradually pulled the fallen objects into the center of the bathroom and a circle very naturally began to form out of the debris. I found myself caught up in the process of sweeping and creating this circle and my frustration and busy mind began to ebb. Before sweeping the circle up I snapped a quick picture of it with my phone (see top image). 

I walked back into the family room and shared the photo with my bemused husband while referring to the picture as my 'debris mandala.' Both of our moods were lightened a little in that moment. Our apartment was still a mess with water leaks and more debris to fall, but there was something a bit beautiful about it. A beautiful disaster. 

Lately I've been exploring the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi in my work as an art therapist and as a new mother. I am not an expert or scholar on wabi-sabi philosophy by any means. From my understanding so far though, wabi-sabi is a way of relating to the world and finding beauty in imperfection while embracing the inherent impermanence of objects and life itself...finding beauty in the crumbling leaf, a crack in the wall, the chipped cup, or the debris on our bathroom floor.

Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.


(Leonard Koren ~ Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers)


Blue Circle ~ Photo: Sara Roizen


I am particularly drawn to the idea of finding beauty by changing our point of view. Each day that I spend with my baby provides me with a unique change of perspective as I observe the objects that he is naturally drawn to. A skeleton leaf dancing in my hand is as fascinating to him as a $30 baby toy. He does not discriminate. He holds everything in his eager and open awareness.

In thinking about my art therapy work with clients I am realizing that so much of my work focuses on gently showing them alternative perspectives and helping to expand their ability to tolerate so called 'mistakes' and art that they have deemed 'ugly.' Clients that frequently attend my groups smile at my broken record phrases such as 'there are no mistakes in art' and 'take a deep breath, sit back, and see if you can find a creative solution for what you are referring to as a mistake.' A while back one of my clients spilled paint water on her paper by accident. She was furious (anger management was one of the issues we were working on) and began to swear as she jolted out of her seat. I had a moment of anxiety myself as I quickly assessed the likelihood of her storming out of the room. While looking at the spreading paint water puddle, I became increasingly interested at the shape it was taking though. One of the other group members must have observed the same thing, because she remarked on how neat the color puddle was. I watched as the angry group member glanced again at her 'ruined' painting and raised an eyebrow. I could feel the tense energy dissipating as she sat back down. I asked her if she would like to use the accident to create something different and then showed her how to make 'ghost prints' from the puddle by pressing pieces of paper directly on top of her original piece. She returned to the first piece later on and continued to work on it, but not before creating a mini-series of ghost prints - playful pieces that captured her inner resiliency as well as creative flexibility. 

It's not always easy to pause when one of life's messes enters our lives (or the lives of our clients). It can be uncomfortable to sit in the debris or sit with someone else in theirs. But sometimes digging around in the mess for a while is what is required. And it can be beautiful too.

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful." 
        ~ e.e. cummings

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mandala Journaling (When Words Escape Me)

first pages of my mandala journal ~ Sara Roizen























“Come out of the circle of time
. 

    And into the circle of love.”
       
– Rumi


I started a small mandala journal as a way to continue making art in the very early days of being a new mom. Now, 6 months into being a mom I am still turning to my mandalas as a path for centering, self-care, and mindfulness practice. There were many early morning hours holding my baby and the mandala journal in my lap - meditatively drawing as I listened to his soft in and out breaths. 


mandala journal ~ Sara Roizen

I realize that it has been a while since posting and I was reflecting on some of the reasons. Yes, there's the obvious 'new mom/no time' reason that most everyone understands. But in reality there is always a little time for writing if I carve out a few minutes here and there. I'm realizing that the greater reason had to do with how challenging it has been for me to gather my thoughts since giving birth. Perhaps this is part of why I was hesitant to begin a new blog post. I try to convey myself as clearly as possible through my posts, yet here I am looking at words as I type and just noticing how strange they look on the screen. The amazing transition into motherhood and this life-altering journey has left me a bit speechless at times. 

mandala journal ~ Sara Roizen
Cue the 'aha' moment music (if there is such music)...


While struggling through this blog post I realized that my intention with this post was to share and reinforce how important the art-making process continues to be in my life. So, if words are escaping me at the moment - must be time to make even more art! 

Art has accompanied me through every stage of life and this new stage is no different. Art has been a constant companion through the ups and downs, the known and unknown, the articulate and less articulate days as well. Perhaps my energy has been a bit tied up in trying to move through the world in the old pre-baby way, whereas the potential lies in embracing this new terrain and way of being. Perhaps I can look at this time of non-linear thinking as a time to delve even more deeply into the creative, spontaneous, and ever-shifting flow of life as a new mom, artist, and art therapist. 

Each mandala becomes a a visual response to the moment and I am struck by how naturally they arise. Many of these recent mandalas appear womb-like to me and seem to be incubating feelings and ideas, and yet they speak for themselves without words. 

I have found an interesting parallel on the theme of wordlessness with the last few art therapy groups I have led. There have been longer stretches of silence as group members worked on their art recently. During my last group one of the clients commented on how quiet it was and I asked her how she experienced the silence. She shared that it felt good and completely different from how 'loud and crazy' it usually was in the shelter environment. As art therapists we use words quite often at opportune times to help process the art, experience, and help frame certain themes that are emerging. However, at the core it is often the art-making process itself that opens up space for healing and self-knowledge. There are moments when too many verbal interventions may derail the creative process or take focus away from the deeper work that is really going on. 


mandala journal ~ Sara Roizen




The deeper work that is going on for me at this time seems to be about taking this creative and unknown plunge into new motherhood. And there aren't a lot of words that can quite capture this moment in time...good thing I have my art to speak for me. 

A final quote that seems fitting:

"Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." 
    - Einstein
mandala journal ~ Sara Roizen

mandala journal ~ Sara Roizen



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Connecting With Mandalas

Esther's Tattoo
My original mandala drawing



I wanted to share a very cool story and an example of how art can connect us all, even from across the ocean...

Almost a year ago a woman named Esther from the Netherlands emailed me after finding this blog while she was looking for mandala inspiration for a tattoo. She had found a mandala of mine that she really connected with and asked if she could use the imagery for her first tattoo...so of course I said YES! 


A few days ago I received an email from her with her finished tattoo (pictured on left) and this is what she wrote about it:


A time ago I send you a mail with the question about your mandala drawing and my idea to make a tattoo.


So I just seemed nice to me to let you know my tattoo is finally placed on my back!!


It is my first tattoo and it means a lot to me:


It symbolizes the birth of my daughter (now 1.5) in the middle and the tiny circle. The other circles are my partner and me; both worlds come together in the middle circle and the triangle figure pointing towards it.


The details are filled with fire-dynamic elements: my constellation is aries (which is also the triangle element fire).


I feel very honored that Esther resonated with this mandala and reached out to me. I also found it interesting that when I draw these interconnected mandalas I do it as a way to explore my connections to loved ones in my life as well - how we overlap, connect, and impact one another. Esther's interpretation of the mandala was similar in depicting the intersecting deep connections between her daughter, partner, and self.



Just as there are three interlocking circles, in this story there are three artists linking together as well! Esther is an artist and you can visit her site here: http://www.esthermeijer.nl/


And here is the site for Xander, her tattoo artist: http://www.mana-ink.nl/

While thinking about the way mandalas connect us to ourselves and to one another, I found this quote by Carl Jung to be especially relevant:

“In view of the fact that all mandalas shown here were new and uninfluenced products, we are driven to the conclusion that there must be a transconscious disposition in every individual which is able to produce the same or very similar symbols at all times and in all places. Since this disposition is usually not a conscious possession of the individual I have called it the collective unconscious.”

From an art therapy perspective, I have utilized the intersecting circle mandala drawing with my clients quite often. Each circle can represent a person in the client's life (including the self) and I ask them to place the circles in relation to their current feelings and experiences with each individual. 


Another variation I've used that my clients have found illuminating is to draw three overlapping circles and label one past, present, and future. After the circles are drawn or traced I encourage my clients to fill each circle in with colors, shapes, symbols, and imagery that symbolize their past, present, and future. This is a way to create a visual timeline, gain perspective on future hopes and dreams, and explore how they perceive their present reality. 


Creating art within the circles is naturally centering and can help contain triggering memories while still allowing the client to review their life experiences. Art therapy group members often enjoy sharing and processing their mandala timelines at the end of group and after this experience there is often a sense of deeper connection within the group.


I'd encourage anyone interested to experiment with creating interlocking mandalas as a way to center the self and gain insight into the ways we are connected. Please feel free to leave comments and share links to your art here if you feel inspired!



Friday, January 25, 2013

Art Therapy Perspectives Interview

"Dreaming of Hokusai" Sara Roizen



I'm excited to share that I was recently interviewed on the blog Art Therapy Perspectives by Victoria Scarborough. 

Victoria is an art therapist, and her blog is devoted to interviewing other creative arts therapists from around the world to share their experiences and provide readers with new insight into the field.

The interview was broken down into two parts and you can click on the links below to read:

Art Therapy Perspectives Interview ~ Part 1

Art Therapy Perspectives Interview ~ Part 2

We covered many areas during the interview including my path to the field of art therapy and populations I work with, my approaches as an art therapist, favorite self-care techniques, the integration of my artist and art therapist identity, sources of inspiration, and my hopes for our field as we continue to grow.

I really enjoyed the process of thinking about and answering these questions and it provided me with a framework for reviewing and exploring the past number of years I've been in the field. In addition I gained more insight into my evolving hopes and plans for my career as it continues to unfold.

A huge thanks to Victoria for creating her wonderful blog. It is an invaluable source of inspiration and connection for creative arts therapists and everyone that is interested in learning more about our field. There are many fascinating interviews on the blog and it illustrates how varied creative arts therapists are in the places we work, the populations we serve, and our creative paths. Read up and be sure to share with anyone else that might be interested!