The Therapist Profile: Reflections

Writing my profile for websites for therapists, such as psychologytoday.com, has always been a challenge for me. With each new website, I’ve discovered new clearer ways to answer the questions about my work. It’s hard to put into words my practice and approach and how I might be the kind of therapist you would work well with. I definitely look at other people’s profiles for inspiration, more to see how they word things, if they start with questions, what kinds of phrases they use that seem to be really clear  than to paraphrase. My profile is unique and I explain art therapy in the way I think of it from how I experience working as an art therapist, but I’m still not too satisfied with it. It’s an ever evolving process for me, so I’ve often changed my profile on psychologytoday.com (the Main Encyclopedia of psychotherapsits), when I am in the process of putting it on it  other websites.

I’ve recently joined the relatively new website and community of healers/doctors/providers, lighthouselgbt: Safe Space for LGBTQ + Wellness. The first part of the Lighthouse Profile defines the space and providers in this way: “We are a group of NYC based providers who have devoted our careers to caring for LGBTQ+ patients.” This is the link if you’d like to check out the website: https://www.lighthouse.lgbt

I am very excited to be part of the Lighthouse community, especially right now with the political climate we are forced to endure. It is more than ever important to find your “tribe(s)”, no matter whether virtual or “real world”. As an extreme introvert, I need meaningful soul to soul  person to person connections with other like minded open tolerant curious and out of the box people, including in my work as an art therapist. (I have yet to find a group of artists/writers/galleries/publishers/creative professionals that feeds me. Here I am in NYC and the NY Art World is not for me at all, but I’ve never quite found something. I do have plenty of friends whose careers involve creativity and the “arts”, and social media places to share my work, but it is not quite a real community of people for me. I’m hopeful I will find this eventually. I put this in parentheses because it is a whole other topic to explore that is on my mind lately.)

Identity: “Who am I and what am I about?” is a lifelong voyage of discovery. I’m a work in progress. The longer I live, the clearer I am at articulating who I am in whatever sphere of life, and then I’m able to look back and see how I’ve always been this way and are just in process of becoming more fully who I am, constantly evolving. I am passionate about evolving and becoming increasingly aware of ways that I want to present myself to the world more accurately. Whenever I have an “Ah ha” moment, I realize this was who I was even back when I was a 7 year old just being me, without as many barriers to being able to be myself. I understand when my clients report that they have bravely forayed into proclaiming their discovery of their gender or something else and gotten reactions of “you never said this before. You’re not this and that so how is it you say you are this (gender, career, creative mode of expression.) It can be as simple as “But you’re a performer, youre not a visual artist.” “You’ve always been “xyz”. Even, “You should talk to your parent. They are so nice or they are your family.” Someone has gotten to the point of taking a brave stand and boundary with an abuser and doesn’t always get this validated; in fact often people devalue whatever you’re proclaiming. I recently read someone’s essay about their identity as an asexual person and what it is about for them. The comments were downright nasty, some insinuating that you can’t say you’re asexual because you had sex in that relationship or you’re talking about having sex, so you’re not asexual. I’m happy that now there is a phrase, “the asexual spectrum”, which was invented to explain especially to such limited bullying individuals that being asexual is not that simple and only works when not a label slapped on someone.

I can say that most of the barriers I have had to being myself have been self created, but maybe I woulnd’t have created these barriers to radical full self acceptance and standing fully in the light if the world were a lot safer and more openminded and accepting.

“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”As I wrote that I think of Oscar Wilde’s words in a way I haven’t before. The two sentences are kind of a dialectic in the sense that being yourself involves having to define yourself in relation to other humans because we use language, verbal and non verbal, to express or hold back who we are. We can’t get out of the aspect of self acceptance that involves negating a sort of “norm” communicated to us by society and their constructs and clarifying taking space as unique and beyond the norm. There should be no “box” to be inside of or outside of in any arena of life; of course that is a fantasy. Imagine being born into a world where gender was a spectrum, where polyamory, monogamy and a romantic approaches and of were all just choices like the color of a t shirt and that your shape, size and color of your skin were seen like a box of magic markers. You wouldn’t need to focus on what you are not and what does not resonate with you as who you are. There would be freedom to be and freedom to play. My challenge: “What gender are you today?” which was the main focus of my last art show, “#Bathroom Art Only” would be like deciding on a cereal for breakfast. Some people want the same breakfast every day; others want different things or no breakfast, or have the same breakfast for years and at age 37 decide to have a completely new breakfast. It would be the ideal of “live and let live”, “whatever floats your boat” and the maxim would be “Be yourself. Be free to be yourself. Be free to evolve and change in your concept of yourself.” with no need to refer to others.

There is a therapy phrase, “ego syntonic” and another one “ego distonic”. I like these phrases because they get to the heart of self acceptanc, self worth and learning how to navigate an unsafe unpredictable world we all have to live in. Something is ego syntonic if it is in sync with who you are and your values and aspirations, like when you put on a t shirt and it fits you in size as well as what it looks like and what kind of t shirt it is. Jobs can be seen in this way. If you are working at a job that is deadening you and feels like it’s not what you want to do or the people you work with are people you would not choose to be around, the job is ego distonic. When I worked cleaning the house of a science fiction writer in the summer during college, it was ego syntonic because he was nice and weird and non critical and paid me cash and the job was temporary; a job doesn’t have to be on your career path to be ego syntonic; it just needs to match who you are and your wants and needs. Same with any relationship. Therapy for example. If you feel comfortable with your therapist for whatever reasons and that there are minimal blocks in the way of your accomplishing your therapy goals created by the therapist, or even if the therapist has done so and you are able to address it, then the therapeutic realtinoship is ego syntonic; at certain points in therapy, it can be very therapeutic for you to notice and tell your therapist that they have said or done something that was not ok with you. Then you have an opportunity for the therapist to adjust/correct and you are improving your communication in important relationships and growth occurs. Often we discover what is ego syntonic by experiencing something as ego distonic. That’s the “everybody else is taken.” part of the dialectic. It means asking “Is this for me or for the other person?” “Am I ok with this or am I now not ok with it even if I was in the past?” “Is this something I want now in my life or not?” “How does this serve my growth or impede it?” The more you can clarify what is ego distonic, you also clarify what is ego syntonic. The process is unique for each person.

As an artist and person who has a deep need to approach life creatively and express myself creatively, I have always been someone who tries many of the t shirts on, or has different breakfasts every day. I like to shape shift and morph and copy and try on things; I learn best by watching how someone does something and trying it out, but reshaping it to do it my way. I don’t learn well by being told what to do in a rigid way or being told what I did wrong. My college was ego syntonic to the way I learn and the kinds of people I needed to find for my life, so I was able to grow as a person during thpse important years. I like seeing diversity and experiencing diversity, as I am easily bored and like the new. At the same time I don’t gravitate towards situations involving meeting new people in a social context. As a therapist I enjoy meeting new clients because I am curious and interested in how unque and fascinating each person’s inner life, identity and approach to life is. As an artist, I often try out new things and then in that process, keep repeating something I’ve stumbled upon. With drawing especially, it involves looking at other people’s drawings or images; to draw musical instruments for my Warrior Series, I looked up musical instruments from other cultures, especially middle eastern and African.

Using the line from Annie Hall comparing relationships to sharks, as an artist I need to be like a shark, constantly moving. The dialect between me the artist and me the art therapist is being the shark and the snail. As a therapist I slow down and stay with whatever the client brings in to explore and process.

Day 2 of Writing Class: List

These are the choices:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

I wrote a whole draft of a list of Things I’ve Learned, but I decided to do something different with the same topic.

Things I’ve Learned about My “Writer” Identity:

  1. I’ve been hiding in the writer “closet” for years, at least 30 years.
  2. I was struggling with this beast back in 1985 in my writer’s journal for an English Creative Writing class in high school.
  3. It’s always been, “What do I write about?”, “What do I have to say that people will want to read?”, having this urge to write but not having anything to write or write about, least of all fiction.
  4. I try in every way possible to destroy my thinking of myself as a writer or at least place obstacles in my pat. I left the 1985 writers journal on a subway two weeks ago. I was terribly upset and angry at myself. I had lost a big clue to who I was, not as a teenager, but as a budding writer back in 1985. When I first discovered that journal in the spring, I felt like I had been given a time capsule to this person that had been me, at least, what she wrote and how she thought about writing. I found it at this point where I had started writing a lot more again, so it seemed so just right that it fell into my lap.
  5. Did I lose that journal to tell myself that I can’t write or to make things hard for me, did I lose that writer in me, or that key into my mind as a 17 year old, or, did I lose that journal because I don’t need it and have already incorporated that writer inside me and need to focus on what I am writing now or my writing process? the Maybe both are true. The reason I was carelessly carrying around this old green covered Meade notebook was that I brought it to my therapy session that morning to show my therapist. This is a new therapist I am working with after several years hiatus from therapy. One main focus of my therapy is my struggle to be ok with being a writer and with my writing. It seemed even more of a message from the universe that the last event with that journal was for that very purpose. I texted my therapist about it right after I lost it. I seemed to need for him to know that he was the last person to see it and hear it.
  6. The more I write, the more I delete my writing and sometimes edit it but no longer just look at a first draft as finished. I used to write posts for this blog and fling them out there. Now even for the blog, I write many drafts I never post.
  7. I started writing something new in the spring that was a new kind of writing and a new sort of genre I tried out, some kind of  personal narrative. I did not know until then how much my work as an art therapist from the past especially was going into my writing. The other thing I discovered was writing and my daughter, writing about being her mother and writing with her. I already considered her a good writer back when she got excited by writing in second grade.
  8. The whole writing issue, beast or monster is intricately connected with my  GraphicNovel, started in 2000, which is a sort of memoir of the mind. This graphic novel has been torturing me for the past 16 years, most of which have been “writers block” years. It was started with the goal of publishing it; that goal has always been there despite my success in squashing it.
  9. My writing and my art have been coexisting with my Graphic Novel illness. I only realized it with writing recently when I saw that the more I write the more likely I am to get back to the graphic novel, and that whatever I’m writing somehow seems to be an act of avoiding working on the graphic novel, but sometimes seems to get me back to it. The art coexisting has been going on since the beginning. This last project involving cartoons, Bathroom Art Only, is the first series of work where my art directly connected to the graphic novel and sort of spilled into it and the art work threw me back into it after a long block. Then the door closed a few months until my writing flung me back at it. At other times, my art has seemed to focus on being as different and far away from the graphic novel as possible, as if it is trying to keep me away from it.
  10. The graphic novel has become a strange realization of my personal “Pictures and Words” struggle. More on that another time. End of list!

 

End of month Journal Images!

Today while on a long bus ride, I took photos of recent and older drawings in my current journal which is finished. Time to make a new one!

Most of the images are drawings of things and some are talking. I just visited friend with baby chickens so I tried to draw some of them. 

This is the front cover:


Below is the back:

Some drawings…

From this weekend:

I was visiting friends who just got chickens! Hard to draw!


The one above- there was only one salt shaker, so one must be fake!


I’m rereading a great App about DaVici’s dissecting bodies and figuring out anatomy, so I found a basic drawing of a heart and copied it….

Drawings below: I’ve been inspired by Edward Gorey Fantod cards, and tried ideas for my own..,


This last drawing below is a favorite, not done by me… I love when kids get into my journal and do their thing!

Wednesday: Image Post Day

I started doing “Mindfulness Drawings” at the beginning of this month, February. I got the idea from a patient who showed me their journal and how they were trying to write down the time and do something to get them more in the moment doodling things.

It’s a great idea and has brought me back to drawing in an observational way. It’s also a great way to draw everyday things without judging your drawing harshly.

It started like this one below in my journal, done on Feb. 4. I wrote down words that were either in my head or observations of the environment or conversation if I was with other people.

I was thinking about mindfulness principles in this one here, like “Observe and Describe” from DBT Mindfulness. In DBT there is also noticing when you’re in “rational mind”, “emotional mind” and “wise mind”.

Some of these drawings are layers of time, where I did some one evening and added more the next day.

The drawing below shows the heart hole puncher I drew as I was using it to make Valentine’s. I drew most of it during a phone session. My communications expert friend had told me recently, “Communication creates reality.” and I shared it on the phone. It was resonating for me and my patient.

This image below is the other side of the page posted as the first image, with the words “Observe and describe.”  I was looking at my watch and a clock so I drew the hands of my watch as well, and the song quoted was going on in my head about time…

The image below from Feb. 9 is in my journal. I started drawing scissors a lot because they were there. I hadn’t yet gotten inspired to make the objects talk.
  This one above is the other side of the journal drawing from the same day/time.

This one below is from yesterday afternoon during another phone session, and the tea pot is talking…

The one below was done last Friday, when I discovered that the heads or objects on the page were talking to me and about me. It started with the objects saying whether I drew them right or not and kept going. I had been drawing these heads from the coffee mug I made out of my images. The heads are from a collage piece; I noticed I was thinking about posting this picture of this drawing on Facebook which I do a lot, so the heads made a bet about when I would post it!  

This one above is from earlier yesterday. I had been drawing pens a lot and hadn’t drawn a bunch of pens in a cup as it seemed too hard. I was thinking of Morandi’s still lives and looking at post cards of them. I think I’m also thinking of Morandi as he mostly did still lives of everyday objects, and this series is starting to be about objects which are used, mostly basic office materials or art supplies, cups, etc.

This one above is on a piece of drawing paper and done last night as the date shows.

These drawings have become a way to be reminded to be mindful, in a different way than the bracelet. Drawing things you see often does get you into a different level of discovery, of looking closely at things you see every day.

This morning I drew the keys on my keychain; I’ve been challenging myself to just draw things, which get rid of judgment, another aspect of mindfulness, which is to be neutral about what is going on right here right now.

The added discovery of the objects talking to each other or saying things is partly thanks to my reading more this year, and thus reading more graphic novels, which inspire me to make my own talking pictures…

Final Coloring Pages Done!

Side comment: I am terrible at deadlines and in January I had at least 2 big ones, both for parts of books, so I am excited I met both deadlines.

Here in the first image is the final Piece: I took the first image and cut out the letters and glued them on a piece of paper and then added drawing with gel ink pen! I really like the result. I was still working on it during the meeting! 

Below is the final version of the second page, with more drawing and embellishment added. I like the scribbly lines added to the outside of the “frame”!

Here is the first piece collage, still in progress.  

Below is the second one not done yet…

two more images from this past Saturday…