In my last blog post, I wrote about what happens in a first therapy session. This post looks at what happens in an art therapy session. An initial art therapy session resembles a first therapy session. As discussed in my previous post, there is still an intake process where we are going over paperwork and I am finding out more about you and your reasons for coming in to see me.
Depending on the client, art can be introduced immediately as some clients may be eager to jump in to the creative process whereas others may need to ease into art making. Many art therapy newbies and clients who do not identify as artists usually need to be eased into the process which is OK.
I assure everyone that artistic skill is not required to partake in art therapy. Art therapy is not about what you create; it is more about what happens while you are creating.
For the clients who want to dive right in, I will offer the appropriate art materials suited to their emotional needs. Some clients will just start creating something and other clients may need guidance also known as directives in the art therapy realm. During a first art therapy session, one directive could be to create an intention (aka a goal) you have for therapy. Another directive could be to fill up an entire page using your favourite colour(s).
Art directives depend on what the client needs in the moment or overall. They are carefully selected to meet you where you are and then move you forward one step at a time. The art materials offered are also mindfully selected. Some art materials can be overwhelming to use therefore I would not use them with someone who was already feeling ungrounded.
While clients are creating, I will move in and out when appropriate. I will ask questions if I feel it is helpful or I will offer silence. Silence is practiced a lot in many different forms of therapy because it is powerful. It gives clients time to be still and reflect and discover. Silence allows clients to move at their own pace. It lets certain thoughts and feelings rise to the surface perhaps for the first time. Silence moves us inward to places that states of busy do not allow us to go. When embarking on a healing path, we must go inward.
During this creative period, many clients naturally go quiet. Their focus becomes centered on their creative process which requires all their attention. After a period of quiet, some clients begin to open up and a stream of consciousness begins to flow. Thoughts, feelings, reactions are unhindered which can be insightful for the client and myself.
Every client’s creative process is different. One client may get a lot of information from a few sessions while others may need months. One client may work on a different piece each session while another may work on one piece every session.
At the end of every art therapy session we do some processing to make sure you are feeling safe and grounded. We discuss what you would like to do with what you created. I usually recommend that all art stay with me but that is dependent on each client. All art is deemed confidential and is kept in a locked filing cabinet.
I offer 50 minute art therapy sessions and 75 minute art therapy sessions.
*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.