Therapy Process

What Happens in an Art Therapy Session?

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.

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*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.

Art Therapy

What is art therapy? Why should I try it?

Art Therapy is a therapeutic modality that involves an art therapist and client working with the creative art making process to support a client’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Working with the creative process allows people to reach deeper levels of healing that talk therapy alone cannot always do.

If you have trouble expressing yourself verbally or find yourself unable to describe your experience with words, then working with art can help you express yourself without the use of words.  Studies have shown how trauma impacts the verbal language area of the brain making it difficult to use or even find the right words to effectively verbalize traumatic events.  The ability to use images and symbols can facilitate healing when words fail.  Creating art can also feel like a safer way to express yourself which also ignites the healing process.  Visual and symbolic expression can empower individuals and help develop self-awareness, explore emotions, address unresolved emotional conflicts, improve social skills, and raise self-esteem.

art enables

You do not have to be an artist to engage in art therapy.  This is a common concern and fear of many people who are not familiar with art therapy.  You do not need to know how to draw or paint or do anything.  You are not responsible for creating a great masterpiece.  Art therapy focuses on the creative process itself.  It is about what is coming up for you while you are creating.  As an art therapist I will not be judging or critiquing your art.  I am with you to support your process and make sure you feel safe.

Many clients choose to create a variety of pieces.  Some clients like to paint pictures while others like to experiment with mixing paint colors.  A few clients may roll balls of clay with their hands while others create pinch pots or clay animals.  There are clients who like to draw cartoons while other clients just like to scribble on a page or two.  As individual needs are different so is the creative process to each client.  Your “art” is whatever you create it to be and that is okay.

As an art therapist I focus on a client’s strengths, interests, and abilities so engaging in the creative process feels safe and comfortable.  Art expression includes drawing, painting, sculpting, clay, writing, collage, poetry, music, and much more.  Research supports the use of art therapy and acknowledges the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self-expression.

It is always the client’s choice to engage in art therapy or not.  It is okay to start at anytime and it is okay to stop at anytime.

Benefits of Art Therapy

• Promotes self-expression and self-awareness
• Supports self-care, balance, and well being
• Decreases stress, depression, and anxiety
• Manages chronic pain and physical ailments causing distress
• Encourages the development of healthy and effective coping skills
• Explores traumatic experiences in a safe manner
• Assists in improving focus and memory
• Develops problem solving skills and interpersonal/social skills

 

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*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.

Empaths & HSPs

The Empath & The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

A warm welcome to all my fellow empaths and HSPs.  And if you are not an empath or a HSP then perhaps you know one and are curious to find out more information to get to know them better and support them. 

EMPATHS

Dr. Judith Orloff is an expert on empaths and describes empaths as those who feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms due to their high sensitivities.  They are incredibly intuitive and often have a difficult time sorting out their feelings.  Dr. Orloff has a free self-assessment to find out if you are an empath.

Dr. Orloff discuess the differences between empaths and HSPs in her blog.

HSPs

Dr. Elaine Aron is the originator of the ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ concept and describes HSPs as having a sensitive nervous system.  HSPs are aware of subtleties in their environment and can can be easily overwhelmed in a highly stimulating environment.  Take Dr. Aron’s self-assessment for HSPs.

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A person who is an empath or a highly sensitive person, or both, holds unique skills and traits that can be powerful.  Both are deeply genuine and care about others with a great intensity.  They are loyal in their most treasured relationships.  They are excellent workers and thrive in environments that supports their autonomy.  Empaths and HSPs tend to be drawn to the arts, whether they are creating it themselves or merely observing all its beauty.  They enjoy a rich inner life and have numerous ideas swirling around in their heads at any given time.  Deep conversations are welcomed involving the sharing of passions, ideas, meaning of life, and beyond.  And with this deep thinking comes impeccable problem solving abilities.  Some of the more commonly known characteristics of empaths and HSPs are their sensitivities.  Empaths and HSPs are highly tuned in to the energies and emotions which surround them.

The sensitivities include but are not limited to:

  • Sight: Bright lights including sun light
  • Sound: Loud noises (easily startled); Yelling; Non-stop talkers
  • Smells: Perfume; Food; Cleaning products
  • Touch: Scratchy clothing; Pain; Hot/Cold
  • Other people’s moods/reactions/energy
  • Violent TV shows/movies

Research by Dr. Arthur Aron and Dr. Elaine Aron, the originator of HSP, has shown the different ways HSPs process emotion, awareness, and empathy through MRIs.  20 percent of the population is genetically pre-disposed to empathy.  “We found that areas of the brain involved with awareness and emotion, particularly those areas connected with empathetic feelings, in the highly sensitive people showed substantially greater blood flow to relevant brain areas than was seen in individuals with low sensitivity,” said Dr. Aron.

I want to be clear that being an empath or an HSP does not constitute having a mental illness.  However, empaths and HSPs often experience challenges due to their sensitivities.  Some of these challenges include but are not limited to:

  • Becoming easily overwhelmed, confused, panicked
  • Feeling anxious, depressed
  • Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day
  • Experiencing panic attacks, excessive rumination, negative thought patterns
  • A lack of self-confidence, self-awareness, self-worth
  • Somatic symptoms not due to a medical condition

Those who are not aware of being empaths or HSPs are likely to experience unexplained stressed reactions leading to confusion, guilt, and self-blame.  Without proper education and guidance, these challenges may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

My intention is to help you discover who you are as an empath and/or a HSP.  I would like to help you develop your own tools and resources so you feel safe, confident, and capable navigating your chosen path.  And hopefully help you see your sensitive nature as a part of you to embrace.  I view our sensitivities as a strength but you may need some time before you get there and that’s okay.

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hsp

Heather Hassenbein Counsellor Vancouver, BC Art Therapist Empath Highly Sensitive Person HSP Downtown Kitsilano 

 

*Heather Hassenbein is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Professional Art Therapist located in Vancouver, BC.