Day Before Workshop!

All blog posts related to this workshop will have the category that you can search, “Altered Books Gender Identity Workshop”.

I am excited for tomorrow’s Altered Books and Gender Identity/Gender Diversity Workshop that I am fascilitating at the Expressive Arts Therapies Summit Conference from 2-5pm.

I will be posting materials for the workshop, used in the workshop, and for workshop participants and others to have that have not been fully covered or to continue any topics about altered books as art therapy and gender identity and diversity.

I am going to be “showing” more than telling, in terms of directives that are useful with clients using altered books and directives about gender identity and both.

 

 

The main focus of the workshop can be summed up as:

Let’s play with gender, and let’s acknowledge and celebrate the gender spectrum. Your altered book in progress is your personal gender story unfolding.

I will try to post photos and images to these posts when I have time and hope to post photos from the workshop itself, which I will be writing up to submit to the new Trans Bodies Trans Selves book…

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New Post: Feature, Altered Books

Today is my first day back from vacation. I kept up a lot of daily habits while on break, but did not keep up my writing daily at least 15 minutes habit, so I’m starting up again.

The last assignment in the WordPress Blogging Fundamentals class was about having a Feature topic.

 

  • First, think of the type of regular feature you can commit to — something you’ll publish weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Next, start your new post by clicking the button below. This can be the first installment, or an announcement of what’s coming.
  • Finally, give your post a few tags, including bloggingfundamentals, and publish it.

 

My Feature for this assigment is going to be Altered Books, no surprise, which I hope to post at least weekly about in order to have it be helfpful for preparing for my looming upcoming workshop on Altered Books and Gender Identity.

Last time my Feature was Gender Identity, which should continue to be a Feature and at some point  the two, Altered Books and Gender Identity, will of course come together in some way.

Anyway, I haven’t really approached altered books in terms of writing about what makes me interested in them and topics connected to that. Things have to have a starting point.

Some ideas for separate topics for this Altered Books Feature include:

How did I get interested in Altered Books as an art form.

What was my first altered book that I made.

What led to my using altered books in sessions with clients and supervisees and even for peer supervision.

Some nuts and bolts about altered books, how to make them, the important stages of making them, the materials used.

How altered books involve a great way to use almost anything as an material from paper clips to coffee filters to coins as some odd examples.

What it means to finish an altered book vs. abandon one in some stage of the process, especially with clients in art therapy.

More specifics about the workshop and using altered books to explore gender identity.

I had started writing about the first topic, but I think introducing the Feature is best for this post and I will focus on beginnings in my next Feature post.

 

Day Two: Take Control of Your Title and Tagline

Assignment 2: Write a post explaining the origin of your new title and tagline!

Right now the title of this blog is “Musings of a Creative Spirit” and the tagline is “Balancing the Artist and Art Therapist Self”.

I started the blog so long ago that I do not remember the initial title and tagline, which were not the above ones. I’m trying this basics blogging class to revisit my blog and give it a whole new look and maybe refocus it. “Musings” was a great word for the blog to give me license to think/write about all kinds of things and not have to have resolutions, to put forward questions, touch on topics, and go in all directions related to my tagline in any way and not always about the dual identities and balancing them.

Looking back at my last post, I see and am reminded that I want this blog to be an art protfolio, a place to work on my book, The Art Box, and my new drawings series and reflect on my creative process. Since the book is inspired by my work with clients, the blog will still be about my experiences as an art therapist. In addition, I want to keep up regular posts on topics that are important to me, especially gender identity, art therapy theory and practice and the art making process as well as culture.

So maybe the title, “Musings of a Creative Spirit” is now no longer serving me for this new identity of the blog. I’m thinking about words that might go with the new blog. Here are some ideas and phrases:

pictures and words,

process,

behind the art work,

balancing lines and images and words,

being an artist, art therapist, writer,

not balancing any more but commingling,

the idea that these identities are not totally separate, especially artist/writer.

That leads me to this possibility for title and tag line.

Pictures and Words: The Intersection of Artist and Writer

I then looked at some samples of great Titles and Tag lines, and they are all much more creative and humorous, playing with words, not directly telling you what the blog is, using metaphor, even quotes and weird words, so I really need to be more creative for a blog about creativity and showcasing my creativity. I think because my writings with the drawings are not humorous, I don’t go right away to funny and quirky. Here are some attempts:

Factory, Combine, Visual, Verbal

“Stop Making Sense”

Impossible Things, from Alice in the Looking Glass

Title: Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Drawritings

That last one feels better. Maybe I can include the Art Box somehow…

Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Drawritings in the Art Box

Look what I just found by looking up the word “Drawrite” that I just “invented”:

Je dessine mon écriture et j’écris mes dessins.

[I draw my writing and I write my drawings.]

Hugo Pratt. Quoted in Harry Morgan’s Principes des littératures dessinées (Edition de l’An 2, 2003).

New Blog Feature: Gender, starting with Gender Activism Presentation

I’m taking the Blogging Fundamentals Class very slowly and not in lesson order (knowing ones learning style is helpful!)

Assignment: Make a feature for your blog to post more regularly on a particular topic!

Challenge Accepted! My Feature will be posts on Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Activism and Related Issues. I hope to try to post weekly and make it on Thursdays but I’ll aim for two posts per month. I may post more than weekly. For example, this post is a many part post as there are many subtopics to it.

Today I’m did a presentation at nearby school PS 234 to a 5th grade class about my activism as an artist and art therapist, especially around gender identity and trans/alternate gender rights. Also to tell them about mental health stigma and activism, being part of the Open Path Collective and LighthouseLGBT affirming website of therapists. Activism in different fronts and through different means, ie. individual personal, making art, then on community level, sharing it on social media platforms for activism, such as this blog, and especially Instagram. I brought in foam door hangers as an art activity for the kids to do at the end. It was a big hit, so I was very excited when I left. I got the kids thinking about guerrilla art and talking about the bathrooms in their schools. One kid said she was only going to use the gender neutral bathroom on the floor below their classroom…

Here are some photos from my solo art show, #BathroomArtOnly, October 2016. I’m going to start the presentation talking about an old art project from the 90s about gender and this more recent one.

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.

Book Chapter!

I haven’t posted since February 7. I’m going back to trying short posts more often. I get too long winded and don’t finish posts. Hoping it helps me post more often. Say more with less…

This is the book I have a chapter in. (It’s available on Amazon for range of high prices: 50$ -95$).

The book is edited by Anastacia Kurylo, a Professor in Communication Studies at St. Joseph’s College. She has written several books about communication and stereotypes. I highly recommend her blog, The Communicated Stereotype:

Anastacia Kurylo’s Blog

The book is mostly written by communication professors. Chapter 15, my chapter, is in the last 4th part of the book, called “Practical Tips for  Navigating Intergroup Status.” It’s called, ” Questions That Open up the Field of Impossible Things”.

My writing process, as always, was crazy and torturous, however, I am excited that it has yielded results and an edited finished product with footnotes. I’ve had my visual art in published books before, but this is the first time I’ve had my writing published. The joke is that it is in a book about communication; a lot of people find what I say to be incoherent and confusing! I’m still learning the English Language…

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!

Guidelines about Boundaries in THERAPY

This is my post for my Tuesday “words” post.

Finding a therapist that is a good fit is hugely helped by the internet. In addition, if you’re confused at any point about the therapy and your therapist’s boundaries, You can find a lot of top ten lists online about therapist’s boundary violations.

In fact, here is a great list of 30 things to watch out for in your relationship with your therapist. All are very good things to notice; a few things on the list are sometimes ok if you feel your therapist has your best interests in mind (ie. when therapy is free of charge, what are the terms of the contract?)

http://www.therapyabuse.org/p2-wrong-questionable-treatment.htm

Here is another good, slightly humorous view of top ten things you might not know about therapists:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/61462-10-things-therapists-wish-youd-understand-about-what-they-do

I thought I might have something to add to these very good tips and important boundaries to the only thing I think might be missing from these types of lists:

THE INTERNET and SMART PHONE DOS AND DONTS in THERAPY

The internet and other technology make every field completely confusing again and cause us to scratch our heads and reconsider the way we do what we do. From the law to the music business to anything, we need new GUIDELINES:

The Internet (social media, websites, etc.)

DO NOT GOOGLE or LOOK UP former patients:

One interesting mention of the internet in the second link was about how therapists do think about former patients more than you’d imagine but we still don’t/shouldn’t google them to see what is going on with them.

I know that is a good one, as I have been tempted, when thinking about a former patient, to look them up and see how they’re doing/what they’re doing. I have NOT done so with anyone, as I saw a big STOP sign in my head and it was a fleeting “fantasy”.

Social Media makes things extra fun and confusing:

USE SOCIAL MEDIA THERAPEUTICALLY ONLY:

It is great for people to find support and other people going through their experience, whatever media they are using, Youtube, Facebook Groups, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I often recommend to patients who are interested and use social media, that they look for support groups and other things online, AS WELL AS out in the physical world.

I have watched a few Youtube videos made by patients and listened to Podcasts. The reason is important: The patient wanted me to and asked me to and it was always an important aspect of their therapy work, especially self-esteem and recovery topics. I have even used Youtube videos in session when appropriate.

In addition art therapy gives a patient alternate ways to express him/herself, including through social media. Think of it as similar to brining in some art you made between sessions that is relevant for therapy.

SOME DON’TS OF SOCIAL MEDIA. Some seem obvious:

DOn’t be Facebook “friends” with any patient and with former patients, with some exceptions about former patients. You cannot control patients accidentally seeing posts of yours and finding out you know someone in common. There are proper ways to handle this which would be a post in itself. Start with asking your patient about it  or if you found something, telling them as soon as possible and exploring this.

DON’T connect on  LINKED IN with patients and most former patients. If you’re in the same field, art therapy, you may not be able to avoid some LINKED IN stuff and can have a little more flexible boundaries about it. I never accept Invitations to Connect from current patients; I don’t usually bring it up unless my patient is on LINKED IN a lot or brings it up themselves.

TWITTER: Can I “follow” some patients on Twitter? My answer would be what’s the reason? I have avoided it except in cases where someone had something important related to treatment on Twitter. As a rule, I abstain.

FACEBOOK PAGES: I have public Facebook pages that I cannot avoid patients finding and considering “liking” my page. As they are related to therapy and art, I consider it ok for patients to do that only if they decide on their own for some reason. Also, I do not look a lot at who is “liking” my pages and don’t care much about how many followers or who. IF you’re very into that, be aware of any feelings about patients liking your posts or not…

In some cases you may have liked someone’s Facebook page and then found a patient involved with it. There are cases when you can’t avoid this, especially having patients who are/were art therapists and got a diploma from the same place. Your worlds will be very close and it’s a good boundary test to be aware of this. (IF I am attending an event or workshop etc. and a patient is likely to be there, I process this with the patient before hand.

BLOGS:

This is a huge question mark for me. Do any of my patient s or former patients follow or ever read my blog? I actually don’t know. When I post here, I am aware that a patient may come across my blog, so I do have that in mind. As a rule, if it does not come up, I of course do not bring it up, and if it does in the future, I would of course explore the topic with my patient. I have read a patient’s blog only if they give me the link and it is connected to their recovery and they want me to see it.

Therapist bloggers out there: Please share any further guidelines and experiences! You can put it in my comments section.

Blogging Classes: Most therapists out there don’t take these classes, but I do, and I even recommend some of them to patients. If I recommend a particular class, I do not enroll in it, even if I thought I wanted to before. If I found a patient in a class, I would address that and most likely leave the class or at least stay passive (no posts or comments on Blogging U site).

DOs and Donts of SKYPE/Video session: A big topic to address in future…

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Next post could be about the SMARTPHONE and boundaries. It’s a fascinating aspect of therapy and books or at least long chapters could be written about the uses and abuses of the SMARTPHONE technology…

 

Real Art Therapists Coloring Book!

Link to book

There is a long post to do on this. For now, Yay! Check out this Coloring Book, with drawings all made by NYC based Art Therapists! I am proud to have two drawings in this book. It’s for sale!!! More on the Launch Events later…

 

Short Posts Again!

Going back to the 1-5 or 7ish sentence post (thank goodness for semi colons.):

New dilemma/challenge for therapy process, for therapists and their patients: Texting. One issue involves receiving a text meant for someone else; I’ve experienced it both ways. I accidentally texted a patient something meant for a personal person; I was relieved that it wasn’t super embarrassing. You can imagine how crazy it could be for either party. Also have received texts that follow a text for me, where the patient meant to send the text to a significant person in their life and by mistake sent it to me. What would Melanie Klein and all the others make of that??!!