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.

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Mission Accomplished: Art Therapists Are the Experts!

An Art Therapist Explains Why Justin Bieber Needs Coloring Books

Yes! Mission accomplished!!!

My biggest complaint about the media and art therapy is that they need to interview art therapists as experts when art making is involved. Too often I see an article where a psychologist is looked upon as the expert to explain people’s pictures. They ain’t the experts. We are, and we need to be the first ones out there. We need to be on more talk shows and all the stuff the psychologists do, and we’re on the way to getting in people’s living rooms and in their Twitter and other feeds.

For me, that’s the goal; get the general population to know about the existence of art therapy, by all means necessary. That means television, magazines, newspapers, articles, Youtube, all social media.

Now that we have the best adult coloring book out there: The Real Art Therapists of NY Coloring Book (https://nycreativetherapists.com/real-art-therapists), we need it to be sold in airports and supermarkets, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Duane Reade!

So check out this article in Vice and read Nadia Jenefsky’s take on Justin Bieber coloring as well as what he colored and how.

As art therapists, we are trained to look at images and pictures, and we know how to translate and explain them. We are trained in understanding what makes people drawn to certain materials and images, verbal and non-verbal communication. We make our own images, and we get other people not just to make images but we invite people who haven’t touched paint or other materials since they were 5, to get back the joy of art making and get in touch with their creativity, whether it’s cooking, gardening, sports, writing, coloring, sky diving, etc. Art therapy is not just about making stuff in therapy. Art therapy is about creative environments, connecting with others…

That is what it is really about, connecting on small and large scale, so this article is at the forefront of raising awareness of Art Therapy and who the expert art therapists are!

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…

Thursday Image Post: Mindfulness Bracelet

A great art therapy activity in session: make a mindfulness bracelet. It can look any way you want. Something you wouldn’t mind wearing often.

What is a Mindfulness Bracelet? Just as it sounds, something to remind you to be in the present moment, that pulls you back from going off in your head, that reminds you to be here now, observe and describe, slow down and breathe…


Above: first one made on string and connected with safety pin…

  
Second onr: blue wire with beads and beaded safety pins.

End of month Art Post

Slow down and breathe: evolution of a Coloring Page:

I am very happy to announce that I made two coloring pages that will be published in a book of Adult Coloring Pages, all made by art therapists. I have been interested in coloring pages as a tool for art therapy for a long time, and the more I work with people making them, coloring in with my patients, the more  I am convinced of how magical it is.

I am of course not talking about the big phenomenon of adult coloring pages you can find everywhere from Whole Foods to book stores to airports. They are marketed as “therapeutic”. Some even use the words “Art Therapy”; those ones are really a law suit in the making. Art therapy has nothing to do with buying a coloring book and sitting at home coloring to calm yourself down. It would be like saying that filling out a self help workbook is the same as going to see a therapist specializing in Cognitive or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. IT’s nonsense.

Luckily the people at New York Creative Arts Therapists are putting together this special coloring book to educate the public and bring awareness to the field of art therapy.

About a year and a half ago, I actually had a fantasy about finding an investor to open a “Coloring Bar” in Manhattan, NYC. I envisioned a cool lounge like space where people could go and sit and color pages provided that they could choose. Like going in a bar but instead of ordering beverages and snacks, you pick out coloring pages and art materials to use and sit alone, at a table or at the bar to color…

I shared this idea with the people making this book when I found out about it, and they are planning to have a launch event that will be like the Coloring Bar, and perhaps, a few other events of a similar nature. Kind of using the “Pop Up Shop” idea, and perhaps it will end up somewhere that there might be a permanent Coloring Bar. One can dream! I always say you can’t get withdrawal from dreaming high.

So, The Real Art Therapists of New York Coloring Book. Here is the link:

https://nycreativetherapists.com/buy-coloring-book

In addition, I was invited to color in my own coloring page to be sold as a piece of art and reproduced on postcards.

Here is a little of the process I went through. I started one and it went into a place where I didn’t like it, so I began an other. As with all my art, I surprised myself in the end by going to a place I’d not envisioned. I ended up with two finished pieces.

Here is the first image of the first page I colored that I almost threw out and ended up cutting up to make a collage with:

I was imagining that I would maybe start painting on it, messing it up to make a statement about coloring in the lines. Instead I got it so full of neon that I tried painting white over the background to tone it down, as you can see below in this second picture. I hated it and started a whole new one and put it aside…  

This third photo below shows who it was going before it got to that place. This is still the first one I was trying out:

HEre’s another photo of the first one when it was getting crazy with the colors…  

After I painted white over it, I took a photo from the back to show the neon that I covered, as I for some reason never took a picture of it right before the white paint…

The photo below is blurry. It’s a stage of the second page I made, trying not to use neon and just use glitter and metallic colors.

Here is another photo of the one I “messed up”. At this point it looked really cool. That’s how art is, you take things too far and that’s the way it goes, at least for me. The point of coloring in my own page was to illustrate the inventive things you can do with a coloring page: that the limits of what you have can open up creativity and be a way to experiment and have fun…    

Below is the first one with the paint covering up the background, and the start of the second one…

Below is the second page on the way to being finished, or so I thought at the time! Actually, I finished both final pieces while at the meeting for the Coloring Book Event planning at New York Creative Arts Therapists in Williamsburg this Saturday, Jan. 30!

I will post the final results in another post…

These aren’t in time order…  

Depression Comix

I saw this when it came out but only just figured out how to reblog these great comic! I was talking about this to a patient. She was scared her therapists (she has me and a psychiatrist) were going to abandon her if she started feels no much better. We talked about the value of therapy when you’re not in crisis and how the goal is healing and growth which can be celebrated and witnessed in therapy. This is a common idea that therapy is just for when you’re no t feeling well…

Depression Comix

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Read at depression comix at http://wp.me/s3zYhM-266

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End of Month Art Post!

I started this as an ongoing regular series of images posted the end of each month, specifically involving images in my journal.

As of this month and for the new year, I’ve decided to change the focus to posting pictures of my art at the end of every month and reflecting on my goals, objectives and accomplishments. So this month I picked my series entitled (for now) Expansion. All work is made with pens on paper. I’m considering adding pencil into the mix.

 
These four are older ones I started in mid May 2015, about 6 and a half months ago. 
This one, begun in May, I have been working on for two days. My current new goal after restarting this series in the fall is to focus more on finishing the drawings I’ve started.

It’s nice to have a goal that is doable and what I enjoy about this series is that my goal for each drawing is to cover the whole paper with marks, so it’s easier to be able to know when I’ve finished one. 
   
This one is a large one started recently. 

 
This one is an example of a finished drawing.  It’s the biggest I’ve completed: 15 x 18 inches.

Here below is a picture of that one with other finished ones on my studio wall: I will end the post with it. So by next month I hope to have finished at least 5-7 more of already started ones!  

How I arrived at the idea for a “One sentence/Image or 3 images/sentences”!

This post will be long and seem disorganized and many sentences and will be followed by my short posts, my newly invented Blog Prompt (one of the assignments of the blogging class), which is to make posts that are One Sentence Long!

First of all, the great benefits of taking a Blogging Class in the WordPress Community:

  1. You can trust it’s pretty safe, as the majority of other bloggers are super accepting of all kinds of people, blogs and posting styles.
  2. You can trust you will learn Assignment 1 no matter what you do! It involves the identity of your blog, why you’re blogging, how etc.
  3.  My creative process has to be edited and organized and suppressed in all sorts of everyday settings. Here, as in art work, I can “let it all hang out” with only great consequence, unique to the internet, WordPress, and this class/community!
  4. The class accepts and embraces these aspects of my creative process/blogging: not doing homework or doing it in any order, not participating for a week or 2 and then participating a LOT, going in and out of attention to blogging class, getting easily distracted by a million blogs, starting blogging tasks and not finishing because already distracted by a million cool things on the internet, getting confused by anything with too many details, and being able to ignore complex stuff in the class and jump around in a fast seeming “disorganized” creative brain way. I’m even allowed to appreciate and absorb other bloggers blogs any way I want. I can read a little and comment on one thing. I can read it then not read it again for a long time. That means there aren’t the usual restrictions on Reading (from elementary school Reading and Reading Comprehension Class): read the first time for the main idea ,then reread to absorb something they want you to get, prioritize what the writer wrote and be able to spit it back in a way that shows someone very organized how well you read it. Ask the questions we say you should ask.

That is a big one, as my natural reading style is probably called ” Inattentive” I am irrelevantly attentive to some things and not attentive to so-called important things in a Seemingly Chaotic way, reading very fast and not wanting to reread most things. Jumping around with my mind and having my own weird reactions and importances…

The rules of the Blogging Class Commons are all useful and helpful and help you contain your Creative Blogging Mojo safely: make comments on the Commons (WordPress’ cool classroom, which of course is in the form of a blog where all participants can share their ideas: Make them brief. Post link to your blog. Don’t put your blog post on the Commons blogging site. Be considerate and kind of all other bloggers. Post only in English language. Then from there, the other rules of Acceptance of All Bloggers Involved in the Class!

  1. You don’t have to remember other classmate’s names or be distracted by what they are wearing, how they are sitting, and all the other stuff in a regular non-virtual class. AND, you are allowed to remember the way your remembering process is, not the way you are told to remember something! That is HUGE. I wish Blogging had been there for my years in high school…
  2. Basically, the virtual atmosphere of WordPress promotes and attracts people who naturally have the following: Total Tolerance and Acceptance of Other Bloggers’ unique process and blogging style and personhood/identity; the appearance and content of your blog MATTER. What you look like physically or how you stand, walk, sit or talk doesn’t matter at all! Yay.
  3. Big one, post as long as you want and have very longs meandering sentences which get you in big trouble in outer reality conversation but are ok in the blogosphere! Or do short posts or post whatever you feel like in whatever way and order or disorder that you want! As opposed to college essays etc.
  4. This means having a messy sloppy overfill, disorderly distracted, irrelevant, non linear, non-anything, non logical imaginative mind works fine.

In addition: the class also is great because:

  1. there is a great balance between working on your own blog and also looking at other people’s blog, blog style and content, and their blogging process unique to them. You learn from blogging and sharing and equally from looking at/checking out other people’s blogs!

(Just want to say Blogging is probably one of the few types of writing I have ever done where my crazy writing/creative process is pretty much unobstructed by being required to write for certain audiences because the internet audience who look at my blog are basically all a “curious and neutral and validating” audience. I have found this nowhere else! It explains why I get super excited whenever anyone in non-virtual reality mentions that they have a blog and have to suppress all the questions and just observe while being excited, limit questions and be brief in mentioning my own blog or notice I should NOT mention my own blog. On the internet you can show off your blog everywhere and get  whatever amount and intensity excited about any Blog and Blogger with only mostly wonderful consequences!!!)

Other great things about the class for me personally specific to my style of blogging AND learning especially learning: I figured out the why of the how of my process of Learning Anything from another language to how to take a train somewhere:

The class accepts and embraces all styles of Learning Stuff: for me, going in and out of attention to blogging class, getting easily distracted by a million blogs and blog topics I like, not doing homework in sequential order, starting blogging tasks and not finishing because already distracted by a million cool things on the internet, getting confused by anything with too many details, and being able to ignore complex stuff in the class and jump around in a fast seeming “disorganized” creative brain way. Also being allowed to not take in information if it feels like something to put off till later. AND you can ask for advice, go back to your blog and do what you think is right, then go back and read the advice without being judged for not Waiting and going about decision process in a backward way!!!
2. Being allowed to post this too long post with no bad consequences! As opposed to talking too much in a non-internet classroom where it’s seen as “hogging”. There’s room for everyone here!

3. you can think out loud to learn stuff and not be told anything or have your long crazy thought/ideas interrupted because it’s making no sense and too long and not staying on topic, like this post

SO this post is a great example:

I’m excited about discovering how my weird brain can be used for blogging and the class without having to change or control my brain process. I then decide to share this excited idea with the class. I start posting in the Commons, and very new for me, I don’t post my thoughts quickly on the commons, I realize it’s too long and can be a blog post I can share as a link with the others. So I decide to do one of my long thinking on the page posts and can illustrate all this by numbering things and not caring if they belong with the other things, AND, I am allowed to repeat myself with no consequences. In non-virtual life, I found out I say the same thing too much.
And noticing a thing that is irrelevant to the current focus of class!

Given my presentation of all the above,  and probably in answer to a few of the assignments in the class that I don’t remember in front of my brain:here is one Dilemma I have had since I started blogging:
Subjects for Bloggging: In one day I post a thousand blog posts in my head. As soon as one topic’s novelty wears off I want to move to something else irrelevant, AND I can’t figure out what to pick to post versus keep on the shelf for later…COnfusing.

My particular Blog TOPIC Choice Dilemma seems to involve very impulsive reactive type of excitement, limited attention to one thing at a time, and lots of attention to all kinds of things all over, and a very ingrained brain thing of not wanting to stay with something for what seems like a long time and is not to others because there is other cool stuff. Having impulsive attention style. Works for art to be into anything from a certain kind of glue to a scribble on a page, to change focus whenever however much!

The reason I don’t follow up when I introduce a sequence of posts if I plan to discuss it later on whenever: It is NOT that I have some problem with follow through or organizing or what you should do when you say you will follow with more of the same:

I thought it was laziness, that I had this great idea for Nutrition and Psychotherapy involving many blog posts was that I got excited about it, wrote the post, then didn’t feel like writing any more about it, thought I could “Catch up” later. It wasn’t laziness, it was the BLOG TOPIC dilemma. When you’re interested in lots of things as a “creative artist”, you want to put something on the paper, then get into some other cool thing or material, and so on. It works for my visual art, and now it works for my blogging style…

My current solution that of course seems totally original but is not is: Post a sentence whenever you want to post with no schedule of frequency or need to conform to anything except that it be one sentence or a sentence and an image… Sort of a more free kind of Twitter type of communication that I wish was Twitter Rules: only one sentence but it can be as long as you want! and have an Image too (which is part of Twitter)
I have impetus to write more on here and it’s too long already, another ADHD thing.

Next post may be a continuation of this one, not one sentence, about my use of mindfulness in blogging to help with my blogging “issues”… So I am going to cut out the next big paragraph and save it for that…