Responsive Art making in Art Therapy

ResponsiveArt

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”

Pablo Picasso

Responsive art making is one way that therapists can establish a routine of self-care without sacrificing a great deal of time and money. The benefits of responsive art making to the therapist, and to their clients is limitless.

Responsive art making is a term that refers to creating a visual art-based response to something that just occurred. It is a visual response to an event, a conversation, or unspoken emotions, etc. that can clearly document the perspective of the artist. Responsive art making is a means of communicating that which one may not have the words to explain. When we create art, we are sharing a perspective; our perspective, (Leavy, 2015, p. 224). Leavy (2015) continues, “Visual art inherently opens up multiple meanings that are determined not only by the artist but also the viewer and the context of viewing.”

Moon (1998) began the discussion of responsive art making with his case study showcased in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, “The Tears Make Me Paint.” The success of the study described in this article is what sparked the researchers interest in responsive art making in the therapy session. That, along with her own trauma-related recovery and responsive art making in therapy inspired her to seek further knowledge on this subject.

In the above mentioned article, Moon created response art and recorded the powerful responses he received from the adolescents he worked with. Many trauma-related disorders keep the client locked in the age in which the trauma occurred, especially dissociative disorders which are primary in the presentation of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), (Chefetz, 2015). Rubin (2006) states that “trauma often involves and resides in the body… it can occur before a child has language, or can render the victim psychically speechless… For these reasons, and because of the frequent injunction by abusers not to tell, memories of traumatic experiences are often difficult, if not impossible to access with verbal therapy alone, (p. 10).” Responsive art making can be a unique way to communicate and relate to clients of trauma while working in the age locked parts. Because the arts help to express and contain overwhelming emotions due to the shock of the trauma, (Rubin, 2006) it is not a far jump to hypothesize that the arts will aid in the treatment of clients who have experienced trauma.

Responsive art making in session as well as out of session can be an invaluable tool to foster a deeper therapeutic relationship, especially in the treatment of CSA clients. Responsive art making allows for distance between the therapist’s reactions and response to the clients ongoing journey through the trauma. Art making in and of itself can become a mode of communication when words just are not available to the client, (Fish, 2008; Pifalo, 2007) and could serve as a reflective mirror of the therapists validating, non-judgmental response to the client.

Chefetz, R. A. (2014). Intensive Psychotherapy for Persistent Dissociative Processes: The Fear of Feeling Real (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Kindle Edition. ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Fish, B. (2008). Formative Evaluation Research of Art-Based Supervision in Art Therapy Training. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 25(2), pp. 70-77.

Leavy, P. (2015). Method Meets Art, Second Edition: Arts-Based Research Practice. Guilford Publications. Kindle Edition.

Moon, B. (1998). The Tears Make Me Paint: The Role of Responsive Artmaking in Adolescent Art Therapy. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 16(2), pp. 78-82.

Pifalo, T. (2002). Pulling Out the Thorns: Art Therapy with Sexually Abused Children and Adolescents. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 19(1), 12-22.

Rubin, J. (2006) Foreword. In Carey, L. (Ed.), Expressive and creative arts methods for trauma survivors (p. 9), (Kindle Edition. ed.). New York, NY: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Copyright 2016 Childers



Only Jesus. Only Jesus – Trusting Jesus in the Hurting

Journal 1.12.14

Dear Cheryl,

It will be easy for you at this time to feel utterly forsaken, because the abuse, that is the reality.  You have been forsaken in an awful manner, and your perpetrators haven’t even begun to see what they have done.  That makes it even harder…. Don’t forget the awful, blinding power of sin when it goes deep into a life, and it goes deep into all of our lives.  Such sin cannot endure suffering.  They have admitted that they cannot endure suffering, and they have made you suffer so terribly.  So now you suffer for them, and we suffer for them.  We die at the sight of their blindness, and yet in all of it is so profoundly rebuked by the same blindness in ourselves to God’s surpassing love in Christ.

The whole thing makes me hate sin, mine, your dads and everyone else, as I see what it did to my Lord on the cross and in Gethsemane.

We do not mean to urge you to take your identity from your suffering, and having been made a victim….  That is what has happened to you, but that is not your identity.  Your identity is defined in Ephesians as being in Christ. You are first of all forever defined by your being in union with your most faithful friend, even the Son of God, who saw you perishing in your sin and blindness and then gave His precious life for you.  He sees all of us as betrayers of His love, grace and laws.  And yet He found it in His great, loving heart to die for the treasonous, faithless ones.  For me and for you.

Do remember your identity.  Soak in Ephesians if you will.  See yourself as a new person.  Hurt and wounded, yes, but not controlled by that hurt, but controlled by your Savior in whom you live and move and have your being.  I don’t have any great counseling formulas, only Jesus.  Only Jesus, Cheryl.  Only Jesus.  Remember Jesus and see yourself, your dad, your family, and all of the rest of us from that standpoint.  See the abuse through Jesus’ eyes as you pray for them.  See how desperately needy they are….

Only believe, only believe, says Jesus.  Dear sister, we love you.  Pray for us.

adapted from: C. John Miller’s The Heart of a Servant Leader, 288-289.

I changed and personalized that letter because it spoke to me. It’s not really any different than anything Emily has been saying. A year ago, I never would have guessed I’d be at this place with an identity problem. I had made it my prayer to not be content in my current place, spiritually speaking, so that I would not grow immune to the need for Christ – and yet here I am. I don’t believe I am immune… just unworthy? No, that’s not the word. Perhaps I am too ashamed. Guilty, beyond acquittal.

I’ve picked up the identity of having been made a victim. I’ve sat, and watched with horror, over and over some of the things done to me. I’ve felt it all over again. I’ve seen things I had forgotten, or didn’t quite understand. Now, I understand all too well. I understand why I chewed tacks and staples when I was a kid. I understand why I always wet the bed, why I sucked my finger through middle school… why I knew of sexual things in the first grade. I understand why I felt so alone, and why I felt so sick all the time. I get why ice cream trucks freak me out… and why I’ll never ever be able to forget the smell of scotch.

I feel the disappointment with each night that passed by that each prayer went unanswered. And I feel the tension between being in that place of fear and terror, in front of a man who said he loved me and wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, accused me, lied to me, and the place of being in front of God, who says he chose me; adopted me; redeemed me, and has forgiven me.
Which cloak do I put on? The dirty, tattered one which shows my sins – his sins – their sins? The one that displays a childhood stolen – the one that serves as a memory of the little girl who died in the process that I so grieve for. The one that will never ever become clean, not matter how many times it’s washed.
Or do I wear the new cloak, clean and worth far more, but feels so uncomfortable – unbelonging. Like a mask, it covers all of the dirt, and smells, and fears. Do I wear that one even though it feels as though it doesn’t belong to me? Like I’ve stolen it. It’s new, and never soils. But, it’s a cloak that is made for royalty. Not someone who came from the depths of where I came from, who did the things I’ve done. I don’t deserve that cloak. I deserve the one that will never be clean, because I will never be clean.

Your identity is defined in Ephesians as being in Christ. You are first of all forever defined by your being in union with your most faithful friend, even the Son of God, who saw you perishing in your sin and blindness and then gave His precious life for you.  He sees all of us as betrayers of His love, grace and laws.  And yet He found it in His great, loving heart to die for the treasonous, faithless ones.  For me and for you.

I’m completely missing the point. I’ve been sucked into the trap. I’ve been on this downward spiral listening and believing all of the lies. What does Jesus see when he looks back at all of that deep dark abuse. I wish that was an easy question for me to answer. I don’t know what he sees. A child being raped? And he didn’t intervene? And why? Because it was best? I think that’s kind of sick. I don’t understand that and yet I’m defined by him. I’m sure that’s inaccurate. I’m sure there is more I’m not seeing, not believing.
We die at the sight of their blindness, and yet in all of it is so profoundly rebuked by the same blindness in ourselves to God’s surpassing love in Christ.
And yet, I am just as bad as they are. Those who hurt me. I’m just as blind. Just as sinful. Just as evil. How then can I wear that royal cloak? I’d get it dirty, stained.
And yet the only answer is Jesus. Over and over, Jesus. Only Jesus.
How do I reconcile this? Just close my eyes and take the leap of faith risking everything to see if it’s right? Just step…?
Hurt and wounded, yes, but not controlled by that hurt, but controlled by your Savior in whom you live and move and have your being… only Jesus. Only Jesus, Cheryl.
I am being controlled by the hurt. I don’t want this to take me over, it’s not who I have grown to be. Being free of this for 22 years has been an awesome time of rest, and not I have simply succumb to it. I’m so disappointed in myself for doing that.. for letting it rule my days, and putting me in this pit. I don’t know how to crawl out. I don’t know how to take away it’s power. Maybe speaking it. Maybe just letting it out, no matter what? Saying the words? Finding my voice? Try on the stainless cloak? Trusting Emily… and my husband and close friends… Trusting what they say, and tell me to do? Just trust? That’s simple… trust.
 
Just trust.
 
JUST trust.
Only Jesus. Only Jesus.
Help me, Jesus.
Help me to trust.
Please.
Help me, to trust:
Only Jesus. Only Jesus.