Arts Psychotherapy

What is Arts Psychotherapy?

Kerri Hay, Founder & Director
Arts Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Reiki Master, Artist

Well, put simply, it’s Psychotherapy using Creative Arts as the communication, learning and strategy tool.

People work towards a therapeutic goal with an issue they would like a better understanding of, to change a behaviour, to get a positive outcome, whether in group therapy or one to one sessions. You work with various mediums including paint, pastels, clay, puppetry, collage, sand tray, body movement, poetry and storytelling, sensory items, music, and elements of drama work to express yourself opposed to expressing only through “talking therapies”. Counselling approaches and techniques support the process of engagement with the medium, however the medium itself becomes the tool for exploration and self-discovery.

Often clients will have told a story many times and may have become very well rehearsed in the way it’s been told, even to the point where the story may have evolved slightly differently to the actual experience, giving little opportunity for clarity or insight. Using a specific medium for individual challenges or issues, a new and unfamiliar story can open up pathways allowing unconscious material, or the invisible, to become visible. Therefore, the quality and engagement process with the particular medium is paramount in exploring the new story safely and gaining possible insight.

This offers opportunity for clients to notice a possibly different perspective or understanding to aspects of the story that may be unfamiliar. This can bring a new awareness that can lead to insights that are then built on incorporating each client’s natural strengths and skills. New strategies can be learned and implemented so behaviour can be changed generating positive healthy changes now and into the future.

Clients who have difficulties with verbal communication, can engage in the process of art making by which emotional expression can be explored and achieved. This can support both children and adults with a sense of being heard, understood and relieving frustration by opening up and expanding different channels of creative communication and storytelling.

What to expect in a session

After initial contact with a brief consultation, a block of one-to-one sessions or group therapy sessions would be agreed upon.

We will have a short discussion around why you have chosen to work with us and what you would like to get out of the sessions. In certain situations the issue or problem may not necessarily be discussed, but rather the impact it is having on you and what sort of resolution you would be working towards.

Depending on individual circumstances and abilities, various types of mediums would be offered for exploration of the issue as part of the ‘witnessing’ stage. Following this and when appropriate for the person, they would then move into the ‘insight’ stage experiencing a different and unfamiliar perspective that may not have been thought of or felt before. The final stage is the ‘trajectory’ stage where a deeper understanding into the issue can now be transformed into using proven strategies and coping mechanisms for daily life and well into the future. These 3 stages are known as the ‘WIT’ (Witnessing, Insight and Trajectory). Not all clients will automatically progress through each stage over the length of their sessions, but may actually explore the ‘WIT’ phases during one session depending on their abilities, strengths and skills. The arts psychotherapy model is very structured and can safely tease out the unconscious material that may be hidden from everyday life through exploring and engaging with and through the creative arts.

So what does this all mean?

If a client has severe anxiety and come to us to learn how to manage emotions, we might ask them how the anxiety makes them feel? They might say something like ” I just feel so stuck” So we might offer them something that may resemble feeling stuck, like clay for example and ask them to create “stuck” What might it look like? Because its external from their body, people can get a totally new perspective of that experience through manipulating the clay. Not only do they then look at stuck, but they feel it, explore its shape, smell, texture and in doing this can get insight into the experience of feeling stuck. When you get a better understanding of what and why you’re experiencing anxiety, strategies are developed using a different medium. And these strategies are used to self-soothe and calm when you’re feeling the first signs of anxiety or in environments that could be potentially triggering.

“Often the hands will solve a mystery, the intellect has struggled with in vain”
Carl  G. Jung (1875 -1961) Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst.