The arts bridge and unite the psychological and the physical dimensions, for they address a person as a psychosomatic unity. Creating art through expressive mediums offers a patient the chance to externalize, witness, consider, and interact with parts of themselves that are internal, unconscious, unclear, disowned, and unknown.
I create a space where people can feel comfortable and interested in what can unfold from deep within. One may choose to draw the feeling or image of a body symptom, or use clay to sculpt the prevailing mood or blockage that one is wrestling with. Every creation holds soul wisdom and, if this information is utilized, can prove highly valuable in the therapeutic process.
Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy
This approach uses movement/dance, music, art, drama or poetry intentionally by a trained clinician to further the emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical integration of an individual or group.
In ancient and indigenous cultures, expressive art and movement were a way of life for individuals and communities, and functioned naturally as important healing agents. In modern usage of these modalities as arts therapies, the focus is on creation and expression in service of healing body and soul rather than manufacturing a production or performance.
One form that working expressively with the arts can take is Touch Drawing. I mention it separately here because it is a lesser-known medium than painting or drawing with pastels, pencils, or crayons, yet can prove to be very powerful and is extremely simple to do. The process of Touch Drawing was developed by Deborah Koff-Chapin. It is supports and expands self-expression without words through the movement of hands and fingers on paper which is laid over an inked board. Underneath the paper, finger and hand pressure creates images and symbols, which are revealed when the paper is lifted from the board. These images have the power to reveal, surprise, express and heal.
Working with a Body Symptom using embodied intuition through Art, Body Awareness, and Movement
In addition to medical diagnosis and treatment, a patient can work with symptoms of all kinds through active imagination and embodied intutition, often yielding profound insights and results. Shift happens to support healing in many ways - taking a pill, or following a prescribed regime can be important, but research shows that almost all physical complaints at physician's office have associated mental and emotional components - underscoring again the body-soul connection. Active imagination and embodied intuition offer a portal to and realization of this connecton.
Below is a series of drawigs made by a woman who worked with debilitating physical pain in her lumbar spine. Through fMRI she was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and was prescribed pain medication, which did little to reduce her physical discomfort. She began to work directly with her spine and the pain through embodied active imagination in art, movement, and journaling. Over a period of two months, she made some significant lifestyle shifts based on what she learned through her process. The symptoms completely disappeared and to date have not returned. With her permission, part of her journey is described and illlustrated below.
Her experience of the pain is revealed here in an image drawn to represent her physical sensations. The image shows pain radiating in every direction from her lumbar spine, completely engulfing her hip area.
On the upper left at the back of her heart sits a four petaled lotus, which to her symbolized the Mulahdra chakra normally situated at the base of the spine. Positioned at her heart, it represented a need to pay more loving attention to her own security, grounding, self care.
On the right, just on top of her adrenal gland, sits an outward moving spiral path, which suggested two things to her: that she was pushing herself too hard - leading to physical and emotional depletion and exhaustion, and that she needed to be present to her emotions in a more effective way.
After the first image had been drawn, another image immediately came to her: an angry, stressed out, stomping little man living in her back! He was mostly head and had only a little stick body, making him seem stuck and impotent. This stuckness and impotence reflected her own body's high level of tension and paradoxical collapse. The dots covering her skin show her tense, nervous, and prickly disposition - which she related to another symptom: her itching excema.
She decided to give expression to these images and sensations through embodied imagination and authentic movement. Afterward, she journaled about all of it.
Based on what she discovered, she made some significant changes in her life to better support her self care, emotional health, and physical well being.
This final image indicated that her spine was beginning to respond to her listening loving attention and action. She began to realize that her spine was more than just a physical complex of nerves, bones, muscles, fluids, and electrical impulses - it was also a "door of light", an entryway into something mystical, and mysterious. Recalleing the yogic tradition of kundalini energy rising up the spine, she felt empowered and hopeful.
She did an active imagination based on this image - and through her embodied intuition "heard" a voice speaking to her from her spine reminding her of her own brilliance and goodness.
In this process, she was able to move from symptom into discovery, then through digestion and assimilation of the information that she received into action - leading to the gift of unexpected healing and transformation of the symptom.