My Supervision Group: Some Testimonials

I just got some great “testimonials” from people who have been members of my supervision group over the years, and I thought I would post them here first.

The supervision group has always been a big dream of mine in terms of conceptualizing my ideas about art therapy supervision, and the importance of the art studio and art making in supervision. I wanted to have an “outside” supervision group for professional art therapists that would further their growth as therapists and also offer them support and connection with other art therapists in the field. While many art therapists work in settings where there are lots of other creative arts therapists, it is also quite common to work somewhere where you are the only art therapist, and as such, an ambassador for art therapy, but it can be lonely without colleagues who “get it” right away.

So I think this group was born from my focus on my thesis article in grad school which was about the art therapist nurturing the creative artist self within. The connection between identifying as a professional artist and as an art therapist has always been a balance and inclusive, but not everyone gets to balance these identities, mostly because of time, money and space. So the supervision group was born from this concept: that the most basic need for making art be filled at least in the group, to enable the art therapist’s growth as an artist and a therapist.

The group involves clinical issues and case presentations, as well as career building and other essential aspects of art therapy supervision. What has excited me since I started this group in 2008 when I had two groups a week, was to hear from people in the group that they had not made their own art in a long time, and since joining the group, they noticed they have started making more art in their free time. Someone just mentioned this the other day in the group, and that is what is so fulfilling about facilitating this kind of group.

To avoid burnout and depression at very challenging traumatizing jobs, it is essential for the art therapist to have good supervision and the opportunity to process their work through art making as well as dialogue…

So here are a few testimonials I gathered, and thank you so much again to the people who wrote them for me!

“Natasha’s supervision group was great for self care. It provided a consistent and inspiring space for art-making and lots of support from both Natasha and my peers.”

 

“I looked forward to going to group supervision. I appreciated the open and supportive environment Natasha created. Making art together was integrated into the supervision process. My artistic choices were influenced by my own experiences, the case material presented, and my response to the other art therapists in the group. I highly recommend this group supervision for those who want to process case material with a professional art therapist and peers, and make art with others in a highly creative environment.”
 
“Supervision group offered a chance for creative processing weekly, with an awesome wide variety of materials. I found it refreshing as an art therapist to have a supervision group process that parallels our experiences as artists and art therapist. The group offered a sense of community and Natasha is well seasoned in providing guidance and support for any type of population you work with.” 

 

“I came to this supervision group upon starting a new job where I was the first Art Therapist on their staff. I received the foundations and support I needed to be more grounded in my work, learned to better advocate for my position, and gained resourceful insights regarding my population and others through the clinical observations, transference issues, and experiences of other group members. Having access to every type of art material in the meeting space facilitated interesting reactionary art, self exploration, and cultivated ideas for working with our clients. Natasha was also well-versed in all areas of practicing art therapy including private practice, insurance, and workshop/education preparation which was useful to me as I looked to expand my work in the field.”

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Quick Post: The Concept of the “Hobby”; Don’t Sell Yourself Short!

I hate the word “Hobby”, especially when it gets applied to any expressive arts. It’s defined as 

an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation andnot as a main occupation: Her hobbies include stamp-collecting andwoodcarving.
2.

a child’s hobbyhorse.
3.

Archaic. a small horse.

Idioms

4.

ride a hobby, to concern oneself excessively with a favoritenotion or activity. Also, ride a hobbyhorse.
Origin: 
1325–75; Middle English hoby n ), probably for Robin,  or Robert  (cf.hob2 ), used as horse’s name, as in dobbin
 

 

Dont’ know what horses have to do with this concept, but anyway, I take issue with calling something you are passionate about a “hobby”. Many so called hobbies have led to gallery shows and professions. Many have led to nothing but pleasure in the doing or making or watching or whatever. When I was a teenager, my main hobby was reading books; I didn’t think of it as connected to a career or even to school. I loved books and the act of reading. I liked being inside someone’s mind, the intimacy of the text. I didn’t even like writing very much. Anyway reading books occupied most of my free time and the only description I can think of for it is it was a habit/activity.

Anyway, next time you talk to someone who says bird watching is their hobby, I bet that person knows a ton about birds and would be better off saying they enjoy engaging in bird watching on a regular basis.

The other annoying related expression is the “weekend painter”, implying that this artist is an amateur who fits in extra time to paint but is not as good as a so called professional painter. First off if you are painting every weekend, you are ahead of a lot of artists in terms of hours put in anyway. Secondly, just because you spend more time doing something other than painting does not mean painting is less important to you.

And that is what’s most important about the concept of the hobby, the implication that whatever you do most of the time is what’s important to you and anything else is secondary. Not true.

In fact, blogging is kind of in that category for me now, so I guess I can say I “blog” or even that I’m a “blogger”…

So if you love photography, horseback riding, water skiing, painting, making boxes, etc., embrace what you’re doing. You don’t need a label for it, so at least don’t use the word hobby. After all verbs are closer to the truth than nouns. What you are doing and how you feel about it is what’s important, not how to explain or define it to anyone else!

Ending relationships – Is it BPD?

It’s still May: Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month: This is a really great blog and in particular, this blog post describes BPD in terms of how many people are confused about it and label it on people without understanding the full extent of what it is about and really understanding the diagnosis. When a relationship ends, or gets “crazy”, it seems that many people think their partner has BPD based on a few, granted, extreme types of behaviors, but in fact these are very common behaviors in humans when ending or acting out in very intimate romantic/sexual relationships. Even if one of the people is going hot and cold from one day to the next and pushing and pulling away, starting arguments to get closer, threatening crazy things, having a lot of angry outbursts, doing scary things like punching walls or getting very drunk or disappearing and reappearing, none of that stuff guarantees the person has BPD. Indeed, if you want to get inside someone who really suffers from BPD, think of your worst, most scary bad or painful relationship in which some of the above behaviors occurred, and imagine that happening not just daily but feeling that unsure about yourself and others moment to moment and also having the other criteria that this blogger explains in more detail; if you imagine this or have felt this way, you might be able to begin to understand the pain and suffering involved in having this disorder:

Day in the life of a Busy Gal...

I hate you - don't leave me.  Image by Kaoxita - Deviant Art.com  (http://www.deviantart.com/art/I-hate-you-don-t-leave-me-102465289) I hate you – don’t leave me.
Image by Kaoxita – Deviant Art.com
(http://www.deviantart.com/art/I-hate-you-don-t-leave-me-102465289)

A diagnosis of BPD is not something to be taken lightly, it is life altering, in many ways.

Increasingly I am finding that people are contacting me through my blog regarding their relationship difficulties. Mainly the end of a relationship that has been quite turbulent or toxic, most often the person breaking off the relationship in these scenarios is a woman, and nearly every message includes reference to a concern that the ‘ex’ in question had/has BPD. I apologise if you have recently written to me about something like this, you may not like what you are about to read, but it’s nothing personal about anyone who has contacted me, just a general observation and attempt to clarify things a little…

I recognise that writing this post is likely to bring a few attacks and trolls…

View original post 1,209 more words

BPD Awareness Month Post: “Love Me”

There is an important aspect of BPD I mentioned in the last post involving not having a clear self iof self, something everyone struggles with usually during their teenage years.

I found a great song by Katy Perry that expresses this need to learn to know and like yourself rather than taking your skin off like a costume and putting on another one in irder to be what someone else wants you to be or who you think you’re supposed to be based on what you perceive to be others’ expectation. Part of the bio social theory around BPD involves tthe child being very emotionally sensitive as well as growing up in an invalidating atmosphere where the child is not helped with understanding accepting and regulating his or her feelings.
These are the lyrics to the Katy Perry song “Love Me” that really capture both the lack of sense of defined self as well as the chameleon like attaching to the loved one and attachment issues; at the same time, most people can relate to this song as these are not just qualities embodied by people with BPD in relationships; we all experience some form of merging with the lived one and loss of self at times: I will interrupt to make comments. It’s a great song anyway and great as a self worth building song…

“I lost myself in fear of losing you”
(This may seem cliche but it captures the strange reasoning in love and attachment. If you were not validated enough and in the right ways, it makes sense to “lose” who you are out of actual fear that your lover/partner won’t love you. You were trained to be sensitive to cues from the caretaker as to how to be rather than to be seen as who you are and are becoming as your own person…)
“I wish I didn’t do
But I did
I lost my own, my own identity
Forgot that you picked me for me”
(This part just reinforces the idea of how easy it can be to lose your sense if self and “forget” that someone may have loved you from the start for those very qualities, which you may not even be aware of if these qualities were not validated…)

But now, I don’t negotiate with insecurities
They always seem to get the best of me
I found I had to love myself, the way I wanted you to…

…love me,
No more second guessing
No, there’s no more questioning
I’ll be the one defining who I’m gonna be
No concealing feelings, or changing seasonally
(Questioning, second guessing and changing for the other person capture this form of attachment; anxious insecure attachment where you hide feelings out of fear if being abandoned and second guess anything you’re thinking or feeling on your own as everything is seen in terms if figuring out frantically ways to not be abandoned)
I’m gonna love myself, the way I want you to love me

Sometimes I wish my skin was a costume
That I could just unzip
And strip
(This is a great line that captures what Kiera van Gelder discusses in her memoir of BPD about how easily she would unzip herself and put on the next “costume” that would fit the particular relationship she was in and match that guys interests, likes, even taste in food. It also captures how the emotional skin becomes so raw…)
“But who I am is who I’m meant to be
And it’s who you are in love, in love with

So now, I don’t negotiate with insecurities
They’re gonna have to take a back seat
I know I have to love myself, the way I want you to…

…love me,
No more second guessing
No, there’s no more questioning
I’ll be the one defining who I’m gonna be
No concealing feelings, or changing seasonally
I’m gonna love myself, the way I want you to love me

[2x]
No more standing in my own way
Let’s go deeper, let’s get closer
No more standing in my own way
(I want you to love me)

No more second guessing
No, there’s no more questioning
I’ll be the one defining who I’m gonna be
No concealing my feelings, or changing seasonally
I’m gonna love myself, the way I want you to love me

No more second guessing
No, there’s no more questioning
I’ll be the one defining who I’m gonna be
No concealing feelings, or changing seasonally
I’m gonna love myself, the way I want you to love me

The last part that isn’t among the lyrics already discussed is the idea of “standing in my own way”; that we all stand in our own way when we are too fearful of abandonment and too insecure about showing or getting to know who we truly are and that we define who we are, we are not defined by others. For many suffering from BPD as well as any others with self image problems, defining yourself and figuring out both who you are fundamentally, the aspects of yourself that don’t change as well as the parts that represent who you really want to be, is a great big challenge that can be accomplished in a healing and validating atmosphere; it’s never to late to discover who you really are and to like yourself for who you are, all parts of your self… This song captures that hopefulness.

For BPD Awareness Month

May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month. I will try to post about this disorder and treatment during this month to increase awareness of this very treatable and very painful disorder.

What makes BPD so fascinating to me is that it is a disorder described as and about relationships with others. This is very different from say a mood disorder. Someone with bipolar disorder, for example, may have close friendships and romantic relationships that are healthy, and if this person has proper medication and treatment, s/he may have episodes of depression and mania that will of course have an effect on their relationships, but the disorder is a mood disorder and people experience changes in moods as severe, but they are not necessarily connected with being “set off” by relationships, personal and business. When treated, people with bipolar disorder experience stability in a way that others do; however, people suffering from BPD who are in treatment or using their treatment well, are very aware of their “triggers”, which are other people, and their own thoughts and emotions. Imagine having a disorder that involves having to be very aware of your emotions, their intensity, your emotional reactions to other people on a constant basis.

So people suffering from BPD may be prescribed all sorts of medications, which may help with anxiety and mood swings, but so far there is no single medication that can alter your way of processing emotional reactions that occur on a moment to moment basis. THis is why the disorder is described in the DSM in terms of relationships and reactions. The description of BPD in the earlier DSM IV is very different from the DSM 5, but both are relevant to explaining the experience of BPD. In DSM IV, there is a description connected to relationship and a list of criteria:

“A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

-frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
-a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
-identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
-impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
-recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
=affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
-chronic feelings of emptiness
-inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent -displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
-transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

When you see that list, it is hard to see how people used to confuse Bipolar Disorder with BPD, as there are not many similarities, other than descriptions of mood instability and impulsivity. Many people with Bipolar symptoms do not have “anger” issues at all.

The new DSM 5 describes the disorder of BPD in a different way, dividing the symptoms between “self” and “interpersonal”, which is interesting, as people with BPD describe their suffering in terms of reactions in their relationships as well as difficulties with being OK in their own skin and difficulties having a concept of their own identity that is not defined in terms of another person. In her book, “The Buddha and the Borderline,” Kiera Van Gelder describes well how she went into different personalities based on the person she was in a relationship with, changing her way of dressing, her interests, her tastes and likes and dislikes to match whoever she was in a romantic relationship with, so her sense of self was constantly in flux…

I will end with the DSM 5 description and a few comments on it:

“Self (impairment in at least 1):
Identity: Experience of oneself as unique, with clear boundaries between self and others; stability of self-esteem and accuracy of self-appraisal; capacity for, and ability to regulate, a range of emotional experience. To be rated from healthy functioning (Level = 0) to extreme impairment (Level = 4).
Self-direction: Pursuit of coherent and meaningful short-term and life goals; utilization of constructive and prosocial internal standards of behavior; ability to self-reflect productively. To be rated from healthy functioning (Level = 0) to extreme impairment (Level = 4).”

So concept of self is divided into ideas around identity and then having some kind of direction in your life that is not defined by others or simply taken on when with others, ie. studying writing because your best friend is a writer, and then when your friend ends the friendship, delving into archeology because your new boyfriend/girlfriend is studying archeology. It’s as though we all have a compass we follow in our lives to figure out where we are going or trying to go, but people with BPD find someone’s compass and follow it while being with that person, then if that relationship ends, they have no compass until they find someone else they feel close to. So, it seems to me, that it is hard to separate the self from the interpersonal with this disorder as they are so connected due to the extreme lack of self identity…

Here are the Interpersonal descriptions from DSM 5:
“Interpersonal (impairment in at least 1):
Empathy*: Comprehension and appreciation of others’ experiences and motivations; tolerance of differing perspectives; understanding of the effects of own behavior on others. To be rated from healthy functioning (Level = 0) to extreme impairment (Level = 4).

Intimacy*: Depth and duration of positive connections with others; desire and capacity for closeness; mutuality of regard reflected in interpersonal behavior. To be rated from healthy functioning (Level = 0) to extreme impairment (Level = 4).”

The issues I have with these descriptions of interpersonal issues is that it is very tricky to describe. Many sufferers of BPD feel too much empathy with others and may be hard wired in a bad way to sense energy from others in a minute level. It’s like being a “Highly Sensitive Person” but to an extreme that causes suffering and ruins relationships. On the other hand, it is true that people with BPD have difficulty when in highly disregulated intense emotional states with having any concept of their effects on other people or even the concept of checking in with others to find out what the other’s experience of their behavior is.

There is a desire and capacity for closeness, actually often to an extreme, however it seems like what may be impaired is that the person with BPD experiences closeness as vascillating from extremes of intense merging and intimacy and intense feelings of separateness that someone with BPD experiences not as separateness but as utter extreme abandonment. You may think you had a normal phone conversation with this person, but have no idea that because you rushed off, that person is obsessing all day long about it, feeling totally abandoned like a child left in a supermarket. S/he will believe until you reassure him/her that you are dumping them and never want to see you again. While experiencing such painful searing emotions, the person cycles through extremes of anger and rage at yout for not paying enough attention to them and possibly has several extreme stories about what you did that would make no sense to you but are very real for them.

Thus, it is clear that BPD is a hellish disorder and we need to have more compassion for what people with BPD go through daily.

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month: What BPD is Like

May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month!
Many people in the mainstream as well as many clinicians do not know or understand this disorder and it is very stigmatized, so I am happy to repost from blogs that give you a sense of what it is like as so many people suffer from it, and there are real roadmaps to recovery and happy life for people with BPD!

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month: What BPD is Like.