Deepening Practice in Art Therapy and Mindfulness (Three Saturdays)

10:00 am – 4:00 pm on Saturdays 23rd January, 20th February, 20th March 2021 (Three Saturdays over eight week period)

London Art Therapy Centre, Pioneer House, 46 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JH

During three rich days, taking place over an eight week period, you will have an opportunity to learn core mindfulness practices and develop your experience of self-expression in art. You will receive mindfulness and art-making practices at home to support you between sessions, supported by a 20 page e-book. You will also have two meetings with other participants online between sessions. By the end of the eight weeks you will have an excellent grounding in integrating mindfulness into your daily life, use of art for self-expression and experiential learning to take forward should you wish to train professionally in this area. You are welcome to attend if you are a beginner, or more experienced, to either mindfulness and/or art making.

Day One: cultivating embodiment through body-based mindfulness practices and mindful art making. Connect with your sources of grounding, resilience and support.

Day Two: including the heart, feelings and emotions in mindfulness meditation and mindful art making, promoting self-care and compassion.

Day Three: responding skilfully to the 'thinking' mind in mindfulness meditation and art making, cultivating spaciousness and ease.

Previous feedback: ‘I could not recommend this series of workshops enough’ - C.Smith, Art Therapist
‘Very useful and insightful experience’ C. Kiff, Trainee Integrative Art Therapist
‘A great introduction to mindfulness linking it with creative arts therapy’. R. Tate, Play therapist

Facilitator: Nicky Roland is an experienced HCPC registered Art Therapist, and a trained mindfulness teacher, with several years work experience in the NHS, voluntary sector and in private practice.

Days: three Saturday workshops over an eight week period (closed group, commitment to all three days required)

Course Fee: £324 (incl. vat) students; £360 (incl. vat) self-funded; £432 (incl. vat) employer funded. Receive a 15% Earlybird discount if you book by end of August 2020!

Active hope and The Work That Reconnects

The following information is an introduction to The Work That Reconnects, based on the teachings of Joanna Macy, and the book Active Hope she co-authored with Chris Johnstone. The text below is also informed by recent workshops and presentations by other teachers, activists and thinkers who have been speaking in relation to climate crisis , racial justice, social justice and climate justice, including during a recent Awakened Action Conference, broadcast online by Upaya Zen Centre  (Bibliography below)

Active hope

We can think of two potential meaning of ‘hope’.

  1. When we feel hopefulness, when are preferred outcome seems reasonably likely to happen
  2. Hope elated to desire. ‘Active’ hope can be conceived of as becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for. This is a practice what we do rather than have

Work that Reconnects (WTR)

The Work That Reconnects is experiental group work. It is a way to connect with each other and the web of life. It is a set of practices and insights to draw strength from, a mythic journey to be transformed by. It involves the spiral of these areas which can be repeated on multiple occasions: gratitude, honouring our pain, seeing with new eyes, going forth. Illustrated in the Flower Image above (artist: Dori Midnight).

Bearing Witness and Deep Listening

As we practice the WTR during together there will be an invitation for bearing witness, listening to different peoples perspectives. We can practice ‘deep listening’ and speaking from the heart, being authentic and present to each other. We will notice when we may feel triggered or reactionary, we can always come back into our grounding as we practice in the breathing space. My aim for offering these workshops is to provide a diverse and inclusive space, with the guidelines of respect for each other and keeping confidentiality.


3 Stories of our Time

  1. Business as usual

You have to grow the economy we are in systems of, corporate capatilism, industrial growth society, we have commodified our earth. Industrial growth society ‘getting ahead and competing for profit and power by economic growth. An aspect of this is vast consumerism. In this story the earth as a product to be consumed , and historically indigenous people were colonalised and inslaved. Recent commentaries also include thinking around structural racism in our systems too.

  1. Great unravelling

People becoming aware of climate crisis, extincition of species, social and racial injustice. The Racial injustice and climate crisis links  include that the places most impacted by climate crisis in global south, how Black and POC impacted by climate crisis, and more insight into the conditions created by colonialism.

  1. Great turning

Transition to a life sustaining culture, social justice, ecological sustainability. In the Great Turning we are working towards these goals. This encompasses all the different ways people doing this. The great turning can include more visible actions, such as activism, and less visible actions, such as being present to each other, such as in these workshops, bearing witness to each other. The great turning can also be viewed as an internal transition of vision and commitment, perseverance and trust. Moving through the spiral of WTR on one or many occasions helps us live by the story of the great turning . We being to see the interdependence of all beings. During covid-19 this was evident in terms of the spread of the virus and the need for collective actions.

We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it? – Wendell Berry

Clearing by Martha Postelwaite
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself to this world
so worthy of rescue.

Bibliography

Active Hope  by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

Coming Back to Life, by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown

https://www.joannamacy.net/

https://workthatreconnects.org/

Awakened Action conference:
Women leaders speak to race, poverty, climate and the pandemic on 21/6/20 (offered online by Upaya Zen centre) recordings available by registering for the program
Dekila Chungyalpa; Christiana Figueres; Jane Fonda; Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD; Sensei Wendy Johnson; Sensei Kritee Kanko, PhD; Stephanie Kaza, PhD; Diana Liverman, PhD; Joanna Macy, PhD; Rebecca Solnit; Heather McTeer Toney, JD
https://www.upaya.org/
https://www.upaya.org/program/awakened-action-women-leaders-speak/?id=2326

Online Art Therapy and the Shared Gaze on the Image – Reflections and Technical Tools

Nicky Roland – 5th June 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic art therapists, like many other therapists, have been required to adapt their modality to the online context. There may be clear indications of what we miss or lose in meeting our clients virtually, but there is also creative potential. In this article I will explore the shared gaze in online art therapy. The shared gaze refers to the way that therapist and client view the image making process and the final image together. In a group context, this becomes a communal gaze of all participants seeing each other’s art making process and final image. In online art therapy I have found technological tools to help recreate some aspects of the studio environment, including the ways in which we share and view the art images together. I will offer some technical tools which I find help the art making and the viewing of the art together stay central to the process. My understanding is that art making in the sessions this benefits both client and the therapist therapists, in being embodied, soothing, connected, relaxed and in the present moment.The group is in a private practice context for self-referring adults whose needs include: a desire to learn about, and experience, art therapy and mindfulness, wishes for relief of anxiety, depression and physical health needs. This need to work online came out of sudden and unexpected restrictions during the time of ‘lockdown’ in the UK. This way of working was developed in a reactive way, adapting to these conditions. Offering art therapy groups online, and use of technology in this way, is in its infancy and will likely to continue to evolve in the coming months and years.

The physical setting of the art therapy process is part of the containment of the therapeutic relationship. Art therapists take great care to tend to their physical environment before sessions, such as, laying out materials in an inviting way and considering the position of chairs. In online art therapy, the containment includes the physical space that the client and the therapist inhabit and how we make ‘space’ in the ‘virtual’ context, for the art. For Joy Schaverien, image making in art therapy is conceived of as a ‘framed experience’ (See The Revealing Image). The symbol of frames can be applied to online art therapy where we have multiple frames, including our computer screens which frame the client’s and therapist’s physical space, and is the frame in which the art making, and art image, is viewed by the therapist.

There are some losses in the online art making process, and some interesting new aspects. The therapist cannot witness the art making process in the same way as when we are physically together. She may miss the tactile, sensual qualities of being physically closer to the art making physical process, or miss being able to see the 3d parts of an image and subtleties of colour from her perspective on her screen. The client at times may be out of the frame of our screen, when they move away from their camera, or their art materials or part of their images are out of the therapist’s view. Equally, some elements of the process may feel more in focus, enabling a new kind of intimacy. One mindfulness teacher colleague enjoys noticing the subtleties of the sounds of their voice directly in her headphones. When we watch and listen to the client’s art making on our screen we may feel intimate and close with their process, viewing in detail brush strokes and listening to their mark making. Are there times when we might actually observe with more intensity when on zoom? Is our focus more or less attentive when we are watching art making as if on a video? Personally, there have times when I have felt very absorbed in a client’s art making via a screen, a different quality of attending then in a physical space.

My aim in online art therapy is that the art making and viewing, just as in the physical space of the art therapy studio, is central to the process. When I began offering groups online, there were aspects that felt clunky and restrictive. Gradually, I found a few technical solutions to help the process. When the participants make art I suggest they angle their cameras so that their art making is visible. Prior to the group session I have met with each person individually to discuss the requirements that can help this process. The way I work I am keen to focus visually on their art making process, even if it means sometimes the view of their face and parts of their body might be obscured. In one-to-one art therapy one technical solution is for the client to access the zoom session from two devices, such as  a lap top and an ipad (or have two cameras attached to one device) and this way one camera or device can be focused on their face and upper body and the other camera/device on their image making. In a group the context is different as there is designated art making time which is a silent, making space, so it seems appropriate to have their camera’s angeled on their art making process during this time.

The online art therapy and mindfulness group has several components: Teaching on an aspect of mindfulness practice; a guided mindfulness meditation; art making time; group reflection and, finally, discussion about home practice (which is art making and mindfulness meditations practiced between sessions). The art making time is normally a forty minutes duration, following which, the group participants are invited to hold up their images to their camera, as a way to share together what had been made. This group was previously offered face-to-face at the London Art Therapy Centre. When I started the group I observed that it was tricky for them to see each other’s image at the same time as holding up their own image (and trying to get angles right). To resolve this I encouraged participants to hold up their image their cameras, at which point I use the ‘print screen’ function on my PC to take an image with everyone’s art images close to their camera (without their faces). I then open this photo (of all the participants images together) on my computer and use the ‘share screen function’ to share my screen with them (see Technical Tips below). Together we then have a shared pause. A time to linger in the communal viewing of the art images together. In the studio setting we would be sitting in a circle and there would be a shared moment of response to the images laid out in front of every individual. This technique of screen share, in my opinion, helps keep the art central to the process. The art is the main frame and image on our screen, with people’s faces smaller (and less emphasized). This lingering shared-gaze includes a variety of responses such as awe, curiosity, delight and intrigue. In the online group in the same way, we can rest in this shared response.

After the art making time we move to group reflection time. Participants are invited to speak about what they have directly experience in the guided meditation that has been offered, their experience during the art making process, and share any associations and responses to their own and other’s images. In the studio environment the art is in front of us and there is a communal gazing at the images. A considerable amount of eye contact is on the images, as well as looking at each other. Participants and therapist enter into the individual’s experience of the image with a communal gaze, accompanied by listening and words, and together meaning emerges. I am exploring a technical solution to help recreate this process. At the start of group reflection I have my screen shared. Then, as the first person begins to speak about their art, I zoom onto their art image. I find this is helpful rather than the person needing to get the angles right and hold their image up to the screen at the same time. (see Technical Tips below). What everyone can see on their screens is the participants image who is speaking (via screen share) and the group’s faces are small pictures to the side of the screen. So the focus is mainly on the seeing of the image, and the hearing of the words, and merely a small side panel with everyone’s faces. At time’s I zoom in and out of the individual’s image, in response to what they are saying. At times I switch back to seeing the groups’ faces in the gallery view.  And there may be times to switch to ‘speaker view’ so every one can see this speaker who may wish to hold up their image, such as when the quality of the screen shot was not adequate. When one participant has finished speaking about their image, sensitively, after a pause, I zoom back out so we can see the collection of all individuals image’s again, then zoom in to the next person’ who speaks image.

This use of technical features can help recreate aspects of the group studio environment. For some this will be seen as a usual aid, other therapists might be uncertain about this technology or find the use of the technology a challenge. To manipulate these controls at the same time, as being fully present to the entirety of the process, the therapist needs computer savvy and confidence with technology. This is adds new dimensions into therapeutic relationships. In the same way, this virtual form is adding many other new dimensions to the relationship.

There are further questions to be considered in this use of technology. The therapist has control of some of the visual functions on this screen, ideally she is seen as attuned and sensitive to the process. Alternatively, could at times this be seen as controlling or challenging in some ways? All these responses are aspects of the online therapy relationship to be further considered.
A couple of months into ‘lockdown’ in the UK I demonstrated the way I was working with groups online at a clinical meeting at the London Art Therapy Centre. This meeting included clinicians making art. During the reflection time I zoomed into my colleague’s art image as people spoke about it. One participant commented that the process felt attuned and responsive. This is the aim; to use technology in a way that facilitates the process and helps recreate what we feel is beneficial in the studio environment. For some therapists and clients there are challenges with this technology, and further reviews and adaptations may be required. There are of course some limitations. We are continuing to find ways to use this technology in the way that best supports our client; this will continue to evolve during this Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

Technical tips

The following tips are for use with a PC:

• Control-Print Screen: press together to print screen
• The image should be automatically saved to a ‘screen shot ‘ folder, have this folder pre opened on your computer (before the session) so it’s easy to access during the session
• If I am scrolling between images in the session I find it quickest and easiest to use the arrows on my keyboard (rather than the mouse)
• When I am zooming in and out of images I like to press ‘control’ and use the wheel on my mouse. Another option is to use the track pad on your lap top and drag in and out with a finger and thumb.
• Clients receive technical advice regarding the sessions in a document and in their initial meeting before the groups start. Technical advice includes using a laptop/computer if possible which helps angle the camera better than on a phone, and sitting at a desk.

Extra technical tips for Mac users (Thank you Adam Levene, Art Therapist for providing these)

Print screen on a Mac: hold these 3 buttons down and a target symbol comes up. Click and drag over the area you want to take screen shot of and let go. It takes a photo which appears on your desktop.

Confidentiality and Security

It is not the focus of this blog to discuss issues of confidentiality and security, but therapists clearly need to consider these issues in online working, including privacy issues on zoom and confidentiality sharing images. See the latest BAAT advice on the BAAT website.

Access to Technology

Not everyone will have access to the technology required to access art therapy on Zoom. Some media attention in the UK has been given to the socio-economic context during coronovirus, such as, not all children have access to technology to enable them to access their school curriculum online. In the same vein, Art Therapists can be part of the process of conceive of, and applying, creative solutions to help ensure everyone who wishes to can access online sessions.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to art therapist’s Joss James and Joan Woddis for their expertise and assistance in developing this integration of art therapy and mindfulness. Thank you to mindfulness teachers: Martin Alywald, Rosie Dores, and Margaret Kerr for their supervision and support with my mindfulness teaching. Thank you to all the team at London Art Therapy Centre for their pioneering work in art therapy and development of a fantastic art therapy studio space.

Image permsissions

The Images at the top of the page were taken during  two workshops, one at Still Space Studio, Brighton, before the pandemic, and one during the pandemic on Zoom run at the London Art Therapy Centre. Thank you to all the participants for giving permission for your image to be included here.

Click here for more information about the Online Art Therapy and Mindfulness Group

Mindfulness and Art Therapy Article

by Nicky Roland

Published British Association of Art Therapist, Newsbriefing, June 2014

The meeting of mindfulness and art therapy is a newly developing area. This gives rise to a potentially rich scope of enquiry into the ways in which art therapists may choose to incorporate mindfulness into their work. What might this look like? Which modalities and therapeutic approaches will inform this process? As Peterson (2014: 55) notes, there is a potential ‘dance’ between mindfulness practices and expressive therapies. In this article, I will explore the ways in which mindfulness practices can be incorporated into art therapy and investigate mindful qualities in art making and mindfulness within the client/therapist relationship in art therapy.


Mindfulness can be defined as:

‘… a state of consciousness, one characterized by attention to present experience with a stance of open curiosity. It is a quality of attention that can be brought to any experience’ (Smalley and Winston, 2010: 6).

Mindfulness is well evidenced in its effectiveness as an eight-week model of practice, based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (1990) work. The eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program includes teaching about and practice of mindfulness of breath, body, walking and movement (Kabat-Zin, 1990). There is a meeting of mindfulness and therapy in: Mindfulness- Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This suggests a value in the integration of mindfulness in existing modalities and provides a reference point as we consider the integration of art therapy and mindfulness.

What needs to be considered in this meeting of modalities? 

Many therapists have a predominant modality they draw on in their work, for instance, a significant proportion of art therapists in the UK work psychodynamically. Mindfulness may or may not fit neatly into this model. We have an example of mindfulness being incorporated into an existing modality in Segal, Williams and Teasdale’s (2002) work on developing Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), with its roots in cognitive therapy. When MBCT was being developed, it was not without its challenges. One turning point was the realisation of how vital it was that that an facilitator conveys an ‘embodiment of mindfulness’, and that this could not be derived without the facilitator committing to an on-going mindfulness practice (Segal, Williams, Teasdale, 2002: 56). This is now widely recognised as fundamental to mindfulness facilitation.

When approaching the question of how mindfulness and art therapy can be brought into co-existence it is necessary to examine what is effective, any contra-indicators and the various forms it can take. It is helpful to ask, what are our aims in incorporating mindfulness approaches in art therapy? What do we know of its efficacy? What outcomes do we expect? We know something of the benefits of mindfulness, something of the benefits of art therapy, consideration will therefore need to be paid to the benefits of mindfulness and art therapy together, and whether there may be specific clinical groups or specific problems that may most benefit from this modality.

Thus far, it has primarily been US-based art therapists who have recorded and evidenced their work in mindfulness and art therapy. For example, in Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies (Rappaport, 2014) the intersection of mindfulness and the arts therapies is explored: Peterson (2014) presents her work on Mindfulness- Based Art Therapy for people with cancer ; and Fritsch (2014) presents his use of mindful awareness, body scanning and art therapy with people with chronic pain. Both models are short term and group-based. Other art therapists use mindfulness in longer term and one-to-one work. There are differences in the way art therapy is practiced in the UK and in the US and in light of this, mindful art therapy may take a different trajectory as it evolves here.

Qualities essential to being mindful, such as attentive presence, are inherent in art-making and in a complementary fashion, mindfulness can support creativity.

‘…there are ways in which the arts therapies cultivate mindfulness, present-moment awareness, compassion, and insight, and ways that mindfulness fosters awareness of and attunement with the creative pulse of life itself’  (Rappaport, 2014: 4).

In examining the meeting of art and mindfulness, Rappaport notes that artistic practices are a feature of many religious and spiritual practices. She also argues that psychotherapists, such as Freud and Bion, can be thought of as describing a mindful quality in the way they describe the therapist’s quality of attention within the session (Rapport, 2014).

Mindfulness in a therapeutic context can be defined as:

‘…a non-elaborative, non-judgemental, present-centred awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is. The present-centered awareness or way of paying attention is cultivated, sustained, and integrated into everything that one does…Within the client-therapist relationship, mindfulness is a way of paying attention with empathy, presence and deep listening that can be cultivated, sustained, and integrated into our work as therapists through the ongoing discipline of meditation practice. (Hick, 2008: 3)

There is a distinction between mindfulness-based therapy and mindfulness informed therapy that many therapists have found helpful in understanding different ways of incorporating mindfulness into therapy. In ‘mindfulness-based therapy’ mindfulness is taught to the client, by the therapist guiding mindfulness practices and through psycho-education. In ‘mindfulness-informed’ therapy, the therapist embodies mindfulness through their presence, communication and through relational mindfulness without specifically presenting instructional elements to the client. For Siegal, who has written extensively in this field, he differentiates the effect of the therapist’s ‘mindful presence’ and the effect of the teaching of mindfulness (Siegal, 2010: 32).  Whether the therapist does or does not choose to guide the client in mindfulness practices, there will be ways to incorporate mindful qualities into the therapeutic relationship. This can include the ways in which the therapist uses her personal experience of mindfulness to inform her process, in the relationship, the content of the  dialogue between client and therapist, and directing a client to notice a felt sense in his/her body during the session. Relational mindfulness is described as the flow of mindfulness between the therapist/client, and emphasises authentic speaking and deep listening (Beardall and Surrey, 2014).

In mindful art therapy, art-making can be either directive or non-directive. Peterson (2014) adopts a directed approach in her work with cancer patients. Her eight-week MBAT programme (mindfulness based art therapy), is closely linked to the MBSR curriculum and incorporates mindful exploration in using the art materials and directed image-making based on body sensing and feelings (Peterson, 2014). In a non-directed approach, the client is invited to use the art materials however they wish. In each approach there can be an emphasis on mindful experiences in art making, such as how the materials feel, and what is known, sensed and experienced in the body-mind during the making process.

When a person makes art they can experience a state of immersion, flow, focus and calm, accessing an inner witness, and being absorbed in present-moment experience (Rappaport and Kalmanowitx, 2014). Some mindfulness practices emphasise focus, such as awareness of the breath. This can enhance the capacity of the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, associated with calm, rest and repair, to bring the body back to a homeostatic state (Smalley, 2010). In making art in art therapy, clients may enter this state of focus. In art therapy, clients report that they find the process relaxational and calming. In both mindfulness and art making there is an orientation away from the habitual thinking mind, towards heightened feeling and sensing. It may be hypothesised that both processes promote the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

The mindfulness of art, the art of mindfulness

What is this art making process? Any attempt to dissect it falls through my fingers. I am here and I decide to make something with art materials. I either visualise an image or allow something to spontaneously emerge. My hands make contact with materials. My body moves. There is an activation of my imagination and my senses. An external form, outside me, manifests. There is constant change as the image evolves. The object, as it is created, shifts, transforms, is added to; possibly erased, possibly torn up or destroyed. There is something in observing this motion and fluidity that can be likened to the state of impermanence that is also known through mindful practice:

‘Just being alive means being in a continual state of flux. We, too, evolve, we go through a series of changes and transformations to which it is difficult to affix an exact beginning or exact end’ (Jon Kabat Zinn, 1990: 242)

In image making we also are in touch with this state of flux and transformation. What starts off as one thing, may end up totally different. We engage our senses: visualizing, touching, feeling, moving, hearing. The sound a chalk makes as it is dragged across the page; the motion of the arm as a roller moves from side to side. As in mindfulness, the sensing and non-verbal communication may promote heightened attention. A common image in mindfulness teaching is to view the mind as the sky and thoughts as clouds that pass, thus conceiving of the mind’s inherent sky-like nature. Perhaps we may recall this as we start off with a blank sheet of paper, ready to hold our act of creation: in the mind, there is a relationship between thoughts and spaciousness; in art making we may also play with this relationship between form and spaciousness.

There are some mindful qualities that are particularly relevant to art-therapy, and indeed may reflect how art therapists already work. These include the attitude of non-judgement (Smalley and Winston, 2014) and the inter-relational awareness between client and therapist within the session. A non-judgemental attitude is cultivated in art therapy by informing the client that the art in art therapy will not be judged, and that the intention of the art making is not an aesthetic one. The art is a medium for the client to express their feelings and experiences. This models a non-judgemental attitude, which can help the client relate to other views they may have in this way. The image is valued, along with all parts of their experience, and together there is an acceptance of whatever is externalised through the art. Sometimes a client will be pleased or proud of what they have produced, it may feel affirming; at other times, what is made may feel messy, confused, uncertain or broken. Each is accepted as how things are at this present time, with an understanding that all things will change.

Another quality inherent to mindfulness is compassion: mindfulness as ‘infused with warmth, compassion and curiosity’ (Williams and Penman, 2011: 173). This warmth and compassion may be embodied by the attitude of the therapist and in the relationship of curiosity between client and therapist about what is made.

Art therapy promotes play, even for clients who are adults! Clients are encouraged to experiment with materials. This supports them in accessing something innate from childhood, an inclination to make marks. Art making can be seen as a reclamation of our ability to play. This can support the development of a playful attitude towards other areas of our being, including our attitude to our mindfulness practice, such as noticing when there is tension and judgement and inviting ease and compassion to this.

Another quality of mindfulness is non-identification with thoughts (Smalley, 2010). Mindfulness teachers describe how, in mindfulness practice, one can notice both the observed and the observer. This has something in common with an aspect of art therapy. The relationship between client, therapist and an art object is unique to art therapy, and has been referred to as the triangular relationship. Through this relationship there is the externalisation of an inner experience. Client and therapist observe what is made together. In the act of the client making an object, there is a distancing from their inner experience, which promotes insight.  Art therapy facilitates exploration of the whole self and the externalisation of inner states, including feelings and emotions. Together client and therapist explore what has been made. This can take the form of inquiry and dialogue. The client is encouraged to speak about their responses to what they have made and the therapist mindfully observes the making process. McNiff explores this process in depth in his writing on ‘witness consciousness’ (McNiff, 2014).

There is, perhaps, a commonality between a person who invests in practicing mindfulness and a person who invests in the process of art therapy. In practicing mindfulness there is an encouragement to be open to all aspects of the self: this complex, mysterious, body-mind; the unknown territory of what will emerge when we start investigating and knowing ones-self. We may feel like risk-takers in this process. In entering into art therapy there is also the willingness to explore our inner world, within the framework of the containing relationship. There is a potential to open our awareness to areas of oneself that are unknown; to be with the depths and range of experience, through verbal and non-verbal means, this can include states that may be subliminal, pre-verbal, dream-like, or illustrate dreams. In both the process of mindfulness and art-therapy there may be an experience of freshness as we bring insight into what this body-mind is. There may also be painful experiences and feelings that emerge, which in mindful art therapy are explored and supported, within the relationship. (Although mindfulness can be seen to emphasise present moment experience, this is not to reject an exploration of how past experiences can shape our present experiencing.)  Likewise, the dynamic in the client/therapist relationship can be a mirror, and means of insight, into the impact of prior relationships on the client’s current experience.

Conclusion

Mindfulness approaches and art therapy, together, can offer a unique benefit apart from either offered in isolation. In mindful art therapy there is a complimentary meeting of work within a visual modality, the therapeutic relationship, and the practicing of mindfulness. The developing eight-week taught mindfulness courses described above have proven effective for treating a range of conditions, but may have some limitations, such as: what a person may require if they have material related to their past that needs further therapeutic work; if they have painful or sensitive experiences; or if traumatic memories have surfaced during their mindfulness practice. Mindful art therapy has the potential of providing a different type of framework and experience, including conditions for a safe, containing exploration of an individual’s experiences and feelings, within the therapist-client relationship, in which mindfulness is practiced. In art therapy, specifically, the individual’s visual expression is valued and mindful qualities are directly experienced through art making.

For a person to move towards increased health and wellbeing there may be a role to play for: psycho-education about mindfulness; experiential mindfulness practice; as well as, the personal growth that is possible through art therapy. Mindfulness can also be embedded in the practice of the art therapist. The mindfully-orientated art therapist can choose, based upon their client’s needs and the context in which they are working, whether or not to guide mindfulness and whether or not to include directed mindful art-making, with this decision based on the bedrock of the therapist’s  own mindfulness-practice and knowledge of mindfulness approaches. The art therapist, through the lens of mindfulness, is enabled in the processing of their own feelings and bodily sensations during the session and the client is enabled to increase their capacity for curiosity, awareness and self-compassion.

Bibliography

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    • Rappaport, L. and Kalmanowitz, D. (2014) ‘Mindfulness, Psychotherapy and the Arts Therapies’ In: Rappaport, L. (2014) Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies. JKP, London.
    • Segal, Z. Williams, M., Teasdale, J. (2002) Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression. Guilford Press, New York.
    • Siegal, D. (2010) The Mindful Therapist. Norton, London.
    • Smalley, S. and Winston, D. (2010) Fully Present. Da Capo, Philadelphia.
    • Williams, M. and Penman, D. (2011) Mindfulness Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Hatchette, London.

Art Therapy, Mindfulness and the Body, Heart, Mind (Three afternoons)

Next date t.b.c.

 

Previous Workshops:

1 pm - 5 pm on Saturdays 6th, 13th, 20th June 2020

at The Unity Centre, The Old Turkish Baths, 35 Friars Walk, Lewes, BN7 2LG*

* Now Online Via Zoom. You will be emailed details once you register for the workshop.

Learn and practice core mindfulness meditations along with developing your self-expression and creativity in art making. You will be part of a group meeting every Saturday afternoon over a three-week period.

Saturday 6th June: Art Therapy, Mindfulness and the Body

  • Cultivate embodiment through body-based mindfulness practices and mindful art making
  • Connect with your sources of grounding, resilence and support

Saturday 13th June: Art Therapy, Mindfulness and the Heart

  • Connecting with the heart, feelings and emotions in mindfulness meditation and mindful art making
  • Cultivate self-care and compassion

Saturday 20th June: Art Therapy, Mindfulness and the Mind

  • Respond skillfully to the ‘thinking’ mind in mindfulness meditation and art making
  • Cultivating spaciousness and ease
  • Open to all levels of experience.All art materials provided.*
    * Due to current circumstances: Please have one, two or more art materials to use during the session - you will receive more information about this before the session.
  • A zoom link will be provided to access the meeting.
  • Low cost places for online sessions are available for people who may be experiencing financial constraints at this time (low or no income). Contact us to apply  here.

Facilitator: Nicky Roland, is an experienced, HCPC registered Art Therapist, and a trained mindfulness teacher, with several years work experience in the NHS, voluntary sector and in private practice

Fee: £150 is the total price for all three Saturday workshops.

 Please contact the facilitator if due to your circumstances (low or no income) you wish to apply for a low cost place.

Click here to book online via eventbrite:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/art-therapy-mindfulness-and-the-body-heart-mind-three-afternoons-tickets-89747855251

Retreat Day

Art Therapy and Mindfulness Retreat Day

at London Art Therapy Centre, 25-27 Bickerton Rd, Archway, London N19

Please send us an email if you would like to attend the next retreat day.

In this day retreat we will be going deeper into therapeutic art making and mindfulness practices.

The day includes silent practice, guided meditations and group reflection. It intended for people with experience in mindfulness. Beginners to art making are welcome.

Booking: To reserve your place email arttherapy.mindfulness@gmail.com
Course fees: £90 fully employed/employer funded; £80 part-employed; £60 students

Facilitator: Nicky Roland is an experienced, state-registered Art Therapist, and a trained mindfulness teacher, with several years work experience in the NHS, voluntary sector and in private practice.

Clinical Meeting: The compassionate self-observer

by Nili Sigal, art therapist &clinical meetings coordinator at The London Art Therapy Centre

Based on the works of Jon Kabat Zinn and the principles of meditation and compassion, mindfulness is becoming an increasingly popular therapeutic intervention. Consequently, there has been a growing interest in the ways art therapists might be able to use mindfulness in their own work. Joss James and Nicky Roland, two art therapists who work with clients at the London Art Therapy Centre and who have their own personal meditation practice, have developed a new model of integrating art therapy and mindfulness, and will be offering this in their weekly group starting in May 2014. In this month’s clinical meeting they talked to us about the thinking and the theory behind this exciting new way of working, Art Therapy and Mindfulness and gave us an experiential ‘taster’ session.

Both Nicky and Joss have a long-standing interest in this field: Nicky has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for ten years and has recently completed a Mindfulness Teacher training programme, with Mark Coleman (Teacher at Spirit Rock centre in the US) and Martin Alywald (Director of Moulin de Chaves Meditation Centre in France). Joss has over 25 years of regular mindfulness practise, starting with Vedanta (yoga), moving to Buddhist (Insight) and discovering mindfulness 5 years ago on the Tibetan Buddhist Holy Isle in Scotland. She continues to practise, study and train with teachers and practitioners from the Insight tradition and the Aberdeen & Sussex Mindfulness Centres, keeping abreast with the latest research and development in art therapy and mindfulness and developing this emerging practice with colleagues.

At the start of the meeting Nicky led the group through a sitting meditation practice, gently encouraging us to be aware of our bodies and of the ways our thoughts try to escape to different places. We were asked to conscious of the activity in our mind and to softly bring it back into the room, grounding ourselves in our chairs and in the group. We were also encouraged to develop awareness about the kinds of thoughts and distractions we become preoccupied with and to observe ourselves during this process, with kindness and compassion.

Following the group meditation we were asked to make art in a mindful way, which involves being aware and present in the room. The resulting artwork evoked powerful feelings which resonated with many of us. Several images explored the ways we often struggle to be present and to ‘be’ in our bodies, as we spend much of our daily lives in our minds. The relaxed atmosphere of compassion and acceptance in the room made it possible for the group to discuss the experience openly and to contain the feelings which emerged through the art-making.

Joss and Nicky then talked to us about their reasons for developing this particular model and the theory behind it, expanded on in Nicky’s article Mindfulness and Art Therapy. Towards the end of the meeting we did a mindfulness exercise called the three-minute breathing space. This brief meditation connects us to our direct experience, and can be used at any time of day.

At the end of the meeting many of us said we felt lighter and more relaxed. Starting the process with a mindfulness exercise brought the group together and helped us leave our daily stresses behind, clearing the mind and making it easier to focus on the ‘here and now’ of being in the session. Clinically, this seemed to allow the work to start from a deeper place, by removing the immediacy of minor annoyances and concerns which can distract us from facing ourselves. Equally, ending the session with a mindfulness exercise helped contain the session and make the transition from a place of being and sharing back into our everyday lives. There was a real sense of transition in and out of a very personal space within a group, at the same time as feeling accepted by others, which made this a powerful and effective therapeutic experience.

The Art Therapy and Mindfulness Group will be held on Thursday evenings at the London Art Therapy Centre, and is a therapeutic group for deepening mindfulness practice and enhancing wellbeing, and for those who wish to incorporate mindfulness and creativity into their lives. More details can be found here.

Further reading:

    • Rappaport, L. (2014) Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies. JKP, London.
    • Smalley, S. and Winston, D. (2010) Fully Present. Da Capo, Philadelphia.
    • Hick, S. and Bien, T. (2008) Mindfulness and the Therapuetic Relationship. Guilford Press, London.
    • Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990) Full Catastrophe Living. Piatkus, London.

This blog was first posted on the London Art Therapy Centre Website:

www.arttherapycentre.com/blog/clinical-meeting-compassionate-self-observer/