Making Your Art Work Versus Showing It, A Common Struggle!

I just wrote this post and it vanished, so I’ll start again. This is another short post just to bring up some topics and questions, especially for artists and art therapists and those who identify as both.

Do you exhibit your work? If so, is it very sporadic or often? Where do you exhibit it? If you don’t, why not? Do you have gallery representation? Do you want to have your art out in the public eye? Do you sell your art work? Do you enjoy selling it? Are you attached to any of your art work, such that if you exhibited it, you would mark it as Not For Sale? Are you easily discouraged by the competition? Do you find yourself making lots of work as a way to procrastinate trying to show it? Do you every get blocks where it is hard to get yourself to make art? These questions are not easy to wrestle with for any artist, and often more frought with inner turmoil for us artists/art therapists…

For me, I’ve been an artist for way longer than an art therapist, even though I didn’t go to “art school” or major in Art. However, although my artist resume has a long list of exhibitions at various types of venues that I have shown my work, I find that in the last two years, I have not really exhibited it, beyond having it out for public view during the Tribeca studio tour: (http://www.toastartwalk.com/toastartwalk/Natasha_Shapiro.html)

I don’t have issues with getting attached to any of my art work, so that is not a road block for me. I admit that I get easily discouraged by rejection, and find it hard to hussle and market myself as an artist. I am currently working on these very issues, by writing about it here, and by actively trying to look for galleries and opportunities to show my work, that I normally don’t get out of my comfort zone to do… I have always been lucky in that I have no problem with blocks around making art. While I may have a block on a specific piece or idea, I always have two or three other things I’m working on, so I don’t notice getting blocked. However, I confess that I too find it very easy to procrastinate the marketing and selling end of things. For example, I got invited to be an artist on a great website called “Artiscle”, and it took me about a month to make a profile and get some work on it. I still need to post a lot more work on the site, as it is a great opportunity to not only sell work but rent it out.

I find myself making myself promises I do not keep. So it’s time to get on it, and work through all the things that get in the way of trying to succeed more as an artist! Share your struggles and triumphs in comments please!

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Musing on Relationships, Culled from Marilyn Monroe’s Writings…

I am reading “Fragments” by Marilyn Monroe, which constitutes notes, poems, musings, diary entries, etc. I have long been fascinated by her for many reasons, psychological reasons being the obvious focus for this blog.
In publishing these fragments of writings in 2010, the editors and publishers wanted to show a very different side of this very complicated person, and they succeed. One of the interesting things about the photos in this book is that they show a lot of photos of Marilyn reading all kinds of books, and she was actually a voracious reader who tackled Dostoevsky and James Joyce’s Ulysses. It is even stated in the book that she liked having pictures taken of herself reading. This was no Sarah Palin pretending to read a newspaper. Those who were close to her knew she had a sharp curious mind and loved reading. Seeing these photos did make me reflect on present day actors as well as past ones. I couldn’t think of any who especially liked to be pictured reading. There is something interesting about a photo of a woman reading a book, especially this woman who was so in touch with the camera. In most photos of her she is looking at the camera, but in these she is dressed fashionably but casually and seen sitting or standing in a casual position in a homey looking environment, and her eyes are on the book, so there are two subjects to the picture. There is the mystery also of what page she might be on and what words age might be reading when the photo was taken!

Anyway, it is quite interesting to read her fragments, many of which are poetic and quite beautiful, while others are filled with insecurity, loneliness and the desire to improve herself. Some are even directly related to her being in psychoanalysis. I’ve been looking through the book for something to quote somewhere and finally found something for this blog rated to a recent post I wrote about relationships. It is very thought provoking and both sad, realistic and somehow hopeful, which is a curious combination, but not so strange when touching on the subject of childhood and attachment. So here it is; please react and comment if you are moved to do so…

“(page 131) re relationships

Everyone’s childhood plays itself out
No wonder no one knows the other or can completely understand. By this I don’t know if I’m just giving up with this conclusion or resigning myself-or maybe for the first time connecting with reality-

how do we know the pain of another’s earlier years let alone all that he drags with him since along the way at best a lot of lee-way is needed for the other-yet how much is unhealthy for one to bear.

I think to love bravely is the best and accept-as much as one can bear”
(words underlined in this passage: plays, much, unhealthy)

Quick reactions. I found this to be very truthful and really focused on relationships that are very mature and/or deep, those moments when people become unsure and unsettled by what they observe in themselves and their partner. It raises some interesting questions for couples who are examining their relationship or in couple’s therapy: “what are the parts of your partner that you do not know or want to know better but seem buried under a lot of pain?” ” Do you think you can share your own childhood painful parts with your partner, and if so, can you use this to better understand your child selves within the relationship?” “Do you give “lee way” to each other for all that emotional baggage you still carry?” “How much can you each bear of this part of yourself and of her/him?” “Are you afraid of it and avoiding it, or are you bearing too much of it to the point that either of you can recognize it is unhealthy?” “Or, are you asking too much of your partner and wanting ir demanding him/her to bear an unhealthy amount of this early pain in the relationship as it is right now?” “Do you feel that you love bravely and strive to accept what you can reasonably bear in each other?” “What does it mean for you to love bravely?” “Have you ever done it or do you shy away from it?”

As a side nite the word “lee-way” is quite interesting, with origins in the concrete meaning of a sideways drift if a boat or plane. The best definition I came across that seems to fit her use of the word was “leeway – a permissible difference; allowing some freedom to move within limits.” Just thinking about this word and this definition, well, what a perfect word to encapsulate a bug part if intimate relationships: the balance between acceptance and tolerance of difficult aspects of the other while at the same time having reasonable limits, thus capturing the combination of surrendering as well as separating/having boundaries… Real food for thought in just a few short sentences…

Polyamory and The Prejudices Against It

Ok. This is not going to be scholarly or exhaustive. Wikipedia covers so much information about this lifestyle choice including guidelines for therapists working with polyamorous patients, a topic I will touch upon in this post.

I do confess that I was quite ignorant about this topic until I started working with a polyamorous or “poly” patient, a young woman, a few years ago, and then I got interested as I learned a lot from her and others. I have worked with LGBTQ people who are polyamorous as well as heterosexuals who are polyamorous; there isn’t any difference in the philosophy or approach to relationships based on your sexuality, as polyamory is concerned with the topic of relationships between humans, more than sexuality and sexual or gender identity.

I approached the topic with an open and curious mind from the beginning and did not fall into the therapist trap of thinking that polyamory was an issue to be addressed as some kind of “problem”, but more that it would be a part of her discussion of her relationship issues. I was not unaware of this kind of lifestyle but had not gotten the chance to see it up close and learn about it.

As I said there are many scholarly studies as well as organizations, etc. around this topic. I just want to address the major misconceptions and stereotypes our monogamy oriented society has created towards polyamory. Imagine the President of the United States being an open polyamorous person. Once you do that, if you can even imagine it being possible right now in our current society, you can imagine the mainstream culture about so called family values’ view of it… Our society seems to expect the president to be married anyway, so the concept of a “single” president is just as foreign. Here are some misconceptions and “stereotypes” related to this minority group:

1. Polyamory is the same thing as polygamy.
Nope. Polygamy usually involves a man married to or involved with and cohabitating with multiple women and in rare minorities a woman with several male partners/husbands. The only thing in common here is that both groups exist in subcultures that accept and ascribe to these lifestyles. Polyamorous individuals emphasize equality in relationships, so a person may have multiple lovers or partners, but his or her partners usually also have multiple partners. It by definition is against there being a double standard in relationships. Gender equality is another big part if it. So actually polyamory is a very good approach towards no tolerance of any double standards, such as “I can love/be with others but she cannot…”

2. Leading directly to another common falsity, namely that polyamorous people are polyamorous in order to be promiscuous, or that polyamory is mainly about sex and being able to have sex with a lot of people.
The very term polyamory derives from “poly” meaning many and the amorous part means love, thus “many loves”. While many polyamorous people have a healthy sex life, most people who choose this lifestyle think of themselves as having and maintaining several romantic relationships at the same time and are more focused on the whole relationship, and not just the sexual aspects of the relationship. In fact many of the people who don’t choose this lifestyle are more promiscuous, for example, individuals who are single but choose to have sex with a lot of people or some people who suffer from sex addictions. Some sex addicts will have multiple sex partners in the span of a day or two. Some sex addicted individuals are in “monogamous” relationships but are actually leading a double life and secretly having many sexual encounters with strangers. In contrast, a polyamorous individual tends to be focused on getting to know a new person as a prospective romantic partner and, while s/he may be having sex with several lovers, these are actual relationships, not anonymous encounters. Each person involved is aware of the other person’s relationships and this kind of lifestyle tends to be concerned with openness and honesty, so secretive behavior is not sought out or encouraged. If your partner tells you about going on a date with someone else and you are accustomed to this type of behavior and would do the same, you are not very likely to be invested in secretive behavior.

3. Here is another false idea about polyamory: Most polyamorous people are gay men, thus even implying a stereotype that gay men do not like or engage much in monogamy. Well we know this is not true. First of all,many women of whatever sexuality are polyamorous too as are heterosexual men. In addition, this is quite false as LGBTQ populations are right now fighting for the right to get married and be thus recognized by society for being in monogamous relationships. Yes it is true that in places like New York, many gay men are comfortable with “open” relationships, not requiring complete monogamous fidelity. However, it is a big leap from being in a serious relationship and engaging in sex on the side once in a while that is tolerated or enjoyed by your partner and/or engaging in other sorts of casual sex in an open relationship to being polyamorous. The former that I described may be more common among some gay men, but it is an example of precisely how far that behavior is from polyamory. Also of course, there are plenty of gay men who are very monogamous anyway.

4. Anyway we now come to a very common misconception in our monogamy oriented society, that a polyamorous relationship is the same thing as an “open” relationship. Here the terms are confused. Basically all polyamorous relationships could be considered “open relationships” but not all open relationships are polyamorous. The contract in a typical so called open relationship is a rather vague permission from each partner for the other to be with other partners. Polyamorous relationships are more structured and involve a more complete concrete and detailed contract between multiple people. Which leads to misconception number 4, a bad trap most people fall into out of ignorance or plain prejudice.

5. Polyamorous people are in multiple love relationships at the same time because they aren’t equipped with the ability to communicate well in relationships and don’t take loving long-term relationships seriously. Very wrong. Quite the contrary; many polyamorous people have much better communication skills than monogamous couples. As such relationships involve establishing ground rules and a kind of very spelled out no secrets contract between each individual and couple, communication
in an open and honest way is a given most if the time, as well as a necessity for people leading this lifestyle to be comfortable in their relationships. Many polyamorous people have highly developed skills at communicating and working things out in their relationships, as jealousy is not clouding their judgment. This is a long topic, so suffice it to say that often the frustrations a very good communicator faces in being polyamorous is dealing with people who are new to it or who do not live up to the principle of all parties involved understanding the agreements… Sometimes a monogamy oriented person thinks they can be polyamorous but actually hasn’t thought it out enough and really is not able to follow the main principles of it. That is why most “poly” people look for other people that are very much identified as poly because there will be less misunderstandings. For obvious reasons monogamy and polyamory just do not mix at all because they represent opposing philosophy. Yet I would propose that there is plenty of room in our society for both lifestyles to coexist better if these misconceptions I am listing here were to get cleared up. In addition society would have to value them equally. That will take a while. Just take President Kennedy and his clan as an example of monogamy in its worst aspects. Cheating, double lives, the fantasy of “Camelot” of the Kennedy presidency. Not sure I’ve read exactly how many sexual partners he squeezed into his lifetime…

6. Monogamy is the be all and end all, and polyamorous people are simply unable to be monogamous. This is patently false. Some polyamorous people have tried out monogamy and simply found it limiting or just that this lifestyle was not for them, and so they chose to be polyamorous as it was their preference, not a judgment about monogamy or an inability to be monogamous. Polyamorous people, whatever their sexuality, often have a “primary” relationship that may last longer and be taken more seriously than their other romantic relationships, but usually the philosophy is that one can live or be in love with more than one “life” partner at the same time without trivializing any of these relationships. To simplify, polyamory is really by definition the opposite of monogamy, in the sense that many monogamous people believe there is “the one” out there, while polyamorous people place less importance on this kind of “soul mate” philosophy. So called “serial monogamists” tend to operate under the principle that each of their relationships is an attempt at being with the one love of one’s life, and the final one that “works out” ie. doesn’t end, is the one person one is meant to be with, or else the best choice possible. One could argue that a person who is in one serious relationship followed by another is not that different from a polyamorous person. The polyamorous person simply chooses to engage in more than one relationship at a time. A monogamous person could end up having more relationships than a polyamorous person in a lifetime. A side note, people also commonly think incorrectly that polyamory has some kind of emphasis on quantity over quality.

7. Polyamorous people are mostly into group sex and other types of “kinky” behavior. Some are, but plenty of polyamorous people do not engage in that kind of behavior. Some monogamous couples engage in this kind of behavior so it is not exclusive to any particular lifestyle choice.

8. If a polyamorous person goes to therapy, they probably need to examine their lifestyle and figure out what causes them to “not be able” to be monogamous or even that the person needs to try to change this choice if lifestyle. While this sounds ridiculous, you would be surprised at how many therapists out there think polyamory is some kind of deviant behavior that must have roots in the persons upbringing or sexual development or related to the persons parents failed relationships or something like that. This misconception sounds a lot like the old one where a parent might bring their son or daughter to therapy to make them “not gay”. Unfortunately this used to be common.

In any case, when a polyamorous individual chooses to engage in therapy, most often the reasons are the same as with anyone else, ie. issues around anxiety, depression, creative blocks and career issues, and low self-esteem (this low self-esteem is about the individual’s struggles with negative self-image and has little to do with being polyamorous, by the way…) Of course when you’re in therapy your relationships with your parents and other family members often get discussed as do your romantic relationships and your own comfort with your sexuality. However the emphasis is on each particular relationship with each individual. In some cases a polyamorous person will find him or herself involved with someone claiming to be polyamorous but actually not following the principles around ground rules and openness. So someone may come to therapy and say that s/he stopped dating a person after they discovered that this person’s partner was unaware that’s/he was dating that person. Some people claim to be polyamorous and may consciously think they want to be, but might not truly understand what it involves and are actually not cut out for the kind of open communication this lifestyle tends to require or lend itself to.

9. Polyamorous people are abnormal because they don’t get jealous or possessive, otherwise known as the false idea that monogamy is the best way to live and the best kind of relationship to have. Also not true. Our society finds it easier to follow this mainstream idea that one should aspire to loving one person and walking into the sunset with that “soul mate”. While it is true that people who really are polyamorous do not get jealous or possessive most of the time, this is not abnormal, it is simply different. If you want to stretch your mind, one could even posit the idea that ideally individuals would be neither jealous nor possessive. Indeed, imagine if society dictated that you should only have one child as people having two or more children were thought to be incapable of loving two or more children at the same time. To most people that sounds crazy, or we would live in a society where having only one child was the way to go. In a sense polyamorous people simply believe that they can and do have romantic and sexual feelings for more than one person at the same time and also do not mind if their lovers or partners also do the same. To some extent most people tend to try to decrease their jealousy and possessiveness anyway as these qualities usually do not help one to have a healthy and equal relationship with a partner. Perhaps polyamorous people are actually just better at putting this principle in action, or perhaps I am now suggesting that monogamy turns out to be a choice for people who simply are unable to love another one the way that polyamorous people are, that monogamy is simply easier, less challenging and just happens to be the norm, and we could “take a page from their book” as the saying goes…

People Who Live with Mental Illness

I have talked about several memoirs of mental illness that I’ve found to be absorbing and brave. I just in fact read two by Marya Hornbacher, in reverse order of when they were written: “Madness” about her struggles with severe bipolar disorder and alcoholism, and “Wasted”, her first book about her serious long bouts of “bulimarexia” before she found out about the bipolar illness.
Anyway, I think one of the most challenging topics around mental illness, (besides acceptance that you “have” the diagnosis, which in itself is big and can take many years of illness for someone to finally accept it as a biological illness that needs to be treated with medication), is the day in day out living with your mental illness.
Many People are remarkably resilient and can return to their everyday lives quickly after a bout with psychosis, or an episode if some sort or relapse.

However the constant battle to stay stable and healthy, to keep up all the self-care required to keep illness at bay, that requires a dedication and perseverance of a rare sort. As these memoirs show, it isn’t enough to just be taking your medications as prescribed, although that is a big step forward, but usually, there needs to be some sort of consistent therapy and/or peer support group or group therapy. Along with that, people taking meds need to be aware of mixing them with alcohol and other substances. Part of regular self care involves regular exercise of some kind, engaging in soothing and relaxing activities, and eating healthily. Soothing self talk is key, especially for people hearing mean voices and those who have a running judgmental commentary going on in their brains. Many mindfulness meditation techniques are very useful.
For some, even after severe psychosis and several hospitalizations, life returns to “normal” and taking ones meds becomes like brushing your teeth. These people tend to take good care of themselves and push the mental illness to the side as they go about their day.

For others, it is quite the opposite. For example, for many people with eating disorders “under control”, there is a daily battle with the mind obsessing about body and/or food intake, and it can be frustrating to have mastery over the self destructive behaviors but not over the “sick” thoughts. For these people each day is a battle with their demons.
The same is true for many with bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. Taking morning meds begins the day with the reminder “you have to watch yourself. Be vigilant. This could happen again…”
For these people just having or struggling daily with a mental illness can be exhausting. Self care plans can seem daunting and overwhelming. There is a certain kind of “burn out”, for lack of a better word, that occurs. This person is doing everything s/He is supposed to do. But, “I’m sick of dealing with this. I want it to go away. It’s too painful to try to be stable…” These kinds of thoughts can lead to suicidal ideation. In this case the fantasy of suicide is not directed outwards at wanting to hurt someone else by means of the ultimate form of self destruction, but is really a response to ones situation and being too drained and exhausted by the constant battle of ones own mind. For these people , every day starts with the profound ultimate choice:”Do I still want to live or am I ready to die and thus admit defeat over my illness.” S/hemust recommit to life every morning and choose the hard road of continued extra work, pain and exhaustion. Unfortunayely, once in a while the answer is clearly “no”, and then a well thought out suicide is planned. This is usually not the type of suicide “attempt” cry for help. In this case the person has already shouted and received help and support, but the illness wins over as it is simply too much to bear.

Dreams and Their Meaning; Dreams and Creativity

I have always been interested in dreams and dreaming. I have taken various classes about dream interpretation, mostly focusing on Carl Jung’s teachings about dreams, now more than five years ago, but I remain open to all kinds of approaches to dreaming and meaning.

I don’t know what came to me or why, but at the beginning of this month, February, I decided to make a real concerted effort to write down my dreams. It started with just a dream here or there, and within a little more than a week, I was remembering at least 2 dreams a night. I thought this would keep up, but it’s an up and down process, where sometimes I have a day or two where I don’t wake up to write down a dream, and then another day I have one or two detailed dreams. I’m hoping with the passage of time, I will be regularly, nightly, remembering at least one dream, and that my dreams will become longer, more detailed, more complicated, or from another standpoint, it could be that I’m training my mind to remember them more often and in more detail.

It is a necessity to have a notebook by the bed and a pen that I like, because I am often writing at 2 or 5 am in a haze. At first I found it hard to read my handwriting, but I started having the intention to write more clearly. Then while reading a book about dreams that I randomly found in the library a while ago, “The Secret History of Dreaming”, by Robert Moss, I was reminded of the concept of the really “rich” dream, the dream filled with symbols, and last week I voiced to myself my desire to dream about animals. I think I was hoping for dragons (it is the year of the dragon) and other mythological creatures. Anyway, I haven’t gotten dragons yet. However, the night of the day I wished for animals, I had a dream with a lot of pink pigs in it that took place in a hotel. (I actually have  had a few dreams in hotels and I remember last time I did this exercise years ago, I had some hotel dreams.) To me, the hotel symbolizes a transient place, and if the setting of the dream is where my psyche is at, having a hotel dream means to me that I am going through transitions, and a lot of temporary things as well as many changes, comings and goings, which seems to be true. A lot of new things are coming into my life, especially my professional life as a therapist. At the same time both the supervision group that I run and the one I participate in are going through terminations and new members and transitions simultaneously. Synchronicity!

So I am hoping I can train myself to have richer more symbolic dreams simply by having the intention of remembering my dreams. I have not done this in a long time, but I remember the last time was for a dream class, and it is very true that if you keep a notebook and pen nearby and are very focused on the topic of dreams, in any way, it becomes easier to remember dreams, and one’s dreams become longer and more complicated. Even the possibility of a kind of chain of dreams where one leads to another, can actually happen. And when you become really involved in the process, you can sometimes engage in lucid dreaming, which did happen to me once a long time ago…

When I took the Jungian classes, the method of interpreting or “translating” dreams was taught in a very specific way. The idea was that dreams contain messages that we need to decode that tell us important things about our waking life and our “attitudes”. Nightmares were seen to be dreams that shout at us that we must change something very big in our lives and “wake up” to some reality we are not facing or the results will be scary and dire. The setting of the dream is seen as the setting of one’s psyche. Having dreams with groups of unidentified men or women is seen as having a very undifferentiated unevolved animus/anima. Having a dream about an older man for a woman could mean that her animus is highly developed and wise. Having a dream of a young woman could tell a man that his feminine side is undeveloped and needs work and integration. The same is true of the Shadow in the dream. Sex dreams can be about connection and integration. There were some other very specific ideas I don’t remember any more. I still remember one teacher saying that dreaming about one’s patient(s) tells us something in the therapy is very wrong and needs to be looked at. I never liked that idea, as I think dreaming about a patient could mean multiple things, including the opposite of what he said, that is, that one is very connected to the patient or that there is something special and positive happening in the therapy. Or it could be about boundaries and fantasies.

However, I like to approach dreams from all kinds of angles, and I don’t believe there is any one way best to understand their meaning, if you believe they have a meaning. I also believe that, if you believe in dreams, if you really believe they are not random and have messages in them, then they do. I have even seen people, actually close family members, who think dreams mean nothing and are just the brains way of tossing around bits of the day or some other biological function, well, I have sometimes seen those same people marvel at a dream they had in a way that shows they have come under the spell of the dreaming mind — the mystery and wonder of it, rather than it being bits and pieces of random leftover brain matter. However this is not a common occurrence. It is we people who love dreams and looking at them, who even find a magic in them, we are the ones who will pay the most attention to them. For us, the dreaming process is a very personal and very important journey of one’s soul and consciousness.

I am also interested in doing this experiment on myself, that is, recording my dreams on a daily basis for an extended period of time, to see if this exercise has an effect on my creativity and on my work with my patients. To see if indeed, Jung’s idea is true that in dreams we can learn about how to approach important aspects of our real lives.

“A Mesopotamian term for an obscure or mysterious dream is ‘a closed archive basket of the gods.'”

“The early Iroquois regarded someone who was not in touch with his or her dreams as the victim of serious soul-loss. A specialist might be called on to bring the lost dreams — and the missing vital enregey — to the sufferer.”

Some quotes from Moss’s book that I like. I do have this feeling that I want to find something by dreaming and catching my dreams, and to feel that I am living my life more fully, more awake when I’m awake, and more awake to my dreams when I sleep…

This post will be continued in a few weeks as I learn more about this mysterious and wondrous process called dreaming.

Next week’s post will be called “Silence and its Meaning”. I find if I allude to the next post in the current post, it helps remind me that I want to address this new topic…

Medication and Therapy

In my last post, I touched on the topic of medications and mental illness. This post will attempt to address some of the issues connected with this vast topic…

Psychotropic medications have always been a controversial topic in many different societies. I have had much experience working with people on all kinds of medications, as well as working with people in the midst of going off their medications, starting to take medications for the first time, and many who tried out medications and then stopped them without finding a medication that was helpful. In addition, I have encountered people suffering from various emotional and mental difficulties and disorders who were vehemently opposed to taking any form of medications but were willing to try alternative forms of healing instead of medications.

I try as a therapist and person to be open to all points of view about this topic. What one chooses to put in one’s body is a very often private and vulnerable personal topic. While psychiatrists that I have talked to about this admit that we know very little about what makes a medication work and why and how, we also know a lot more now than ever before, and there are a lot more choices of meds than ever before…

As I mentioned in my last post, I have found that people struggling with and suffering from such issues/disorders as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder (both 1 and 2 as they appear in the DSM), really benefit from regular medication for an extended length of time. Often the reason for a re hospitalization or “relapse” with one of these serious disorders is caused directly by the person stopping taking their medications, usually because the person feels a lot better and thus thinks, “Oh, now I can stop taking these medications,” which makes some sense, as very often when our suffering is relieved by medication, it makes sense to stop taking it. But these disorders are more like diabetes. You don’t stop taking your insulin because you feel better. When I worked at a Continuing Day Treatment Center for adults and also at a residence for emotionally disturbed children, I saw how the medications really helped people with these serious types of disorders. Almost all the adults at the CDT were taking some kind of psychotropic medication, and a lot of but not all of the children I worked with at the residence were also on medication. The topic of medication and diagnosis and children is a complicated topic better addressed in a separate post. Suffice it to say that I saw children also helped by medications, especially those with ADHD and other behavioral disorders.

While Bipolar Disorder is a serious and sometimes even deadly illness, it is amazing how much medication taken regularly can really transform someone and their ability to function, such that people who continue to take their medications on a regular basis can function and thrive. Sometimes one or sometimes a combination of medications, and there are now many different mood stabilizers whereas a while ago it was mostly lithium, anyway these meds can really help balance the fluctuation of moods from manic to depressive. Most people have to learn the hard way that they need to accept their biology and that they suffer from Bipolar Disorder, by going off their medications, having a relapse or even two or three, and then accepting it and staying on the medications that work for them. Luckily there are now a variety of mood stabilizers, and these medications don’t all take away a person’s creativity and liveliness; they just help an individual to manage their mood disorder.

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are much more debilitating than bipolar disorder. However, I witnessed many of my patients healing with a combination of therapy, day treatment which provides structure and socialization, and medication. This combination of approaches really help people with severe symptoms, such that the voices they are plagued by can disappear, or at least subside to the extent that the individual can function on some level and receive some relief. It is very unusual for an individual suffering from these illnesses to be able to not take any medications. There are many good medications out there that work; unfortunately many of these  st cause weight gain, and I saw my patients suffer with the side effects of weight gain as well as worse side effects. Some people manage to be careful with their diet and are able to take these very potent medications without experiencing weight gain. However, I saw many of my patients at the program who were on Medicaid and had poor dietary habits; still for many to be able to socialize with others, even to be able to leave their house or residence and attend the program was a big step towards healing. The medications were only one part of this; therapy, groups, meeting others with similar issues, having a structure to their day — all of this was necessary for some or partial recovery.

Depression, including both major depressive disorders and other less serious depressions, is much trickier in terms of medication management. I have certainly seen people with bipolar disorder take medication for depression along with a mood stabilizer and be helped by the extra medication. I have also seen people get out of a terrible depressive period with the help of anti-depressants. Some of these people were helped by taking some  kind of anti-depressant for several months to a year and then were able to stop their medications and use other means for their daily self care to avoid slipping back into a depression. I have also seen people with depression who continue to take their medication even when they are not depressed, and these people find it helps them to combat the return of depression. Any person taking anti-depressants temporarily or permanently is greatly helped by having  some form of therapy, as well as a support group or yoga or regular exercise or any other number of  “non medications” that help with healing. In fact, sometimes the medication helps the person to be able to be motivated to do these other things that they were too depressed to do for themselves before taking medications.

On the other hand, I have seen some people struggle with taking anti-depressants, even to the point that they are willing to try a few different ones, looking for one that works, only to be defeated. These people sometimes can find no medication that works for them ,and they often make a valiant effort to find one. However, the good news is that there are other ways to shift depressive brain chemistry. Art therapy is especially effective in that the act of making art and being creative in the moment does have a positive effect on the brain. With the support of the art therapist or the group therapy, a person with depression can begin to shift his/her mood towards feeling better. Regular exercise has been proven to help with depression as does yoga. With good support from friends, family, a therapist, a support group or therapy group, some people are able to combat their depression without the help of any psychotropic medication.

Of the people who refuse to try any of this kind of medication for their depression, many do self medicate and even are aware they are doing so. Some use drugs or alcohol, which of course actually physiologically contribute to depression, but the slight lift or high at the beginning of injesting substances can outweigh the crash for many people caught in a cycle of addiction or dependence. Even limiting food intake to an extreme is known to produce a high, so restricting food intake can be another form of self medicating. The challenge for this group of people is to become aware that they are self medicating in an unhealthy way and after that to change these behaviors.

There are people who do not self medicate with unhealthy behaviors who believe alternative medecine is the way to go. These people really work hard to combat their depression with positive self caring behaviors such as regular yoga, massage, reiki, some kind of creative endeavor or creative arts therapy, as well as writing and using some of the cognitive behavioral therapy techniches as well as creative visualization, acupuncture, and even being careful with their diet, as it is true that certain foods contribute to depression.  Often it can become a vicious cycle where depression leads to eating unhealthy foods or bingeing on unhealthy foods, then becoming more depressed and continuing to take bad care of oneself. So changing one’s diet can really help with depression.

Psychological Memoirs Continued

Many of these memoirs have been made into movies. Most notable there are “Girl, Interrupted”, “Prozac Nation”, and “A Beautiful Mind”.

“Girl, Interrupted,” which came out in 1999, was based on writer Susanna Kaysen’s account of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. I think I saw the movie before reading the book, which is unusual for me. I actually liked the film version and thought that it stayed pretty faithful to the memoir. In the story, Susanna was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, but it isn’t very clear that that was the correct diagnosis. The other characters in the memoir give a nice overview of a variety of issues that these girls got hospitalized for, especially the girl with the eating disorder who ultimately commits suicide when she gets out of the hospital obviously too early. Of course there is the great character played by Angelina Jolie who even won an Oscar for her performance. It is also a good period piece that portrays how different hospitals and society’s treatment of mental illness was in the 60’s as opposed to now.

“Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America: A Memoir”, written by Elizabeth Wurtzel about her struggles with depression while she was at Harvard was published in 1994. I do not remember if I have read the book or not, but the movie was ultimately disappointing despite some good acting on the part of Christina Ricci. The movie was released in 2001 and did not receive much critical acclaim, much less any Oscar nominations. I personally much prefer the psychologist and author Lauren Slater’s accounts of her own bouts with depression, which were covered in “Welcome to My Country” and “Prozac Diary” which came out 1998. Slater has always been a controversial figure in the community of psychology and psychiatry. The story of the controversy is well covered in the Wikipedia article about her many books and their reception. The fact that she stopped working as a therapist for the most part in order to focus full-time on her writing helps me deal with her unorthodox methods of discussing her own mental illness and her work with her patients. I get the sense that she is a much better writer than clinician. This is partly due to her strange boundaries. I remember reading an article of hers in Vogue magazine called “Divided Lives” which turns out to have come out in the January 1995 issue. If I remember correctly this is the article of her deciding to try an experiment and become friends with one of her patients who terminated the psychotherapy with her. As far as I remember, this experiment was a disaster, as one would have predicted. Anyhow, her depictions of her bouts with mental illness, including writings on her difficulties with pregnancy and medication issues are very interesting and well written. I think her metaphorical memoir of lying that I mentioned in my last post would actually make a great film. Christina Ricci might do well portraying Slater!

So “A Beautiful Mind”, which came out in 2001, technically does not go with these other films, as the book it is loosely based on is a biography (1998), not a memoir. However the movie’s portrayal of a man’s descent into schizophrenia seems to put it in the category of these other films as a biopic and portrayal of mental illness based on a real story. Many were disappointed in this film’s avoidance of John Forbes Nash’s homosexuality, and I would agree that it was a shame that the film steered clear of this part of his life. However, the film was very moving, and the acting by Russell Crowe was really stunningly great, from my point of view. While the film did not follow Nash’s real life closely enough, as a story of a young man’s descent into madness and semi recovery from schizophrenia, the film was excellent. The portrayal of the loss he felt when he on his own decided to reject his own hallucinations of, most notably, a young friend from college and a little girl, which seemed to be parts of himself that he could not internalize and integrate, this portrayal of the loss he felt while at the same time deciding to “ignore” them for his own health and sanity was a great commentary on an interesting issue about all kinds of psychosis. The truth is, people often do become attached to aspects of their psychosis, and then it can be a wrenching life or death decision to choose sanity and lose one’s very close companions, who have seemed very real to the person. There is a loneliness that follows, and even sometimes, people report feeling empty and flat without their invisible unreal companions, while at the same time they recognize that they have returned to sanity from a very dangerous inner world. This is a complicated and difficult crossroad which was very well and quite movingly portrayed towards the end of the film. In fact I found it to be the most important moment in the film. I found it a little hard to believe that genius Nash stopped taking any form of medication and used mind over crazy mind, so to speak, in order to remain sane. This seems highly unusual. I have worked with many people suffering from schizophrenia and schizoaffective illness as well as bipolar disorder, and these very biological illnesses almost without exception require quite a bit of medication to keep a person stable.it would be as though a person with diabetes decides to use her mind to control it instead of insulin…

In my last post on memoirs of mental illness, I failed to mention Styron’s brilliant memoir, “Darkness Visible”, a story of alcoholism and suicidal depression that interestingly comes late in the author’s life while he is in his 60’s, quite a contrast to the majority of these types of accounts which begin with the author having some kind of episode in their late teens or early twenties. Styron is a great writer of fiction, and this very personal non-fictional account of his struggles is really a great book for anyone to read and get a good glimpse into the world of depression.

“My Depression: A Picture Book”, written and illustrated by poet, children’s story writer and playwright Elizabeth Swados is also brilliant, as well as being quite funny, despite the serious topic and the writer’s very serious family history; both her mother and brother suffered from schizophrenia and both of them committed suicide. So this is a brave story of survival and a courageous battle with terrible depression. The illustrations are whimsical and delightful. She does decide to take medication and her treatment of this topic is great. I have worked with many adults suffering from depression, some of whom have taken medication for it as well as many who stopped their Ned’s or never decided to take them. This is a very controversial topic- medication for depression, as opposed to medication for the other mental illnesses mentioned above. Good topic for next week’s post…

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is normal in extremely young children up to around 14 months old. As the child gets older s/he can tolerate periods of separation from caregivers. Obvious signals that your child is too anxious about separation includes crying and inability to be soothed after separation, nightmares about separation, excessive obsessive “checking” that parent is there and clinging, constant temper tantrums at separation and reuniting, even bed wetting.

Often a child will pick up on an adult’s anxiety, and sometimes changes in the caregiver’s behaviors can go a long way towards easing the anxiety of the child.

What happens when these issues don’t get addressed? What behaviors linger on into adulthood?

“I notice that I get very anxious when I know the time I’m spending with a friend or on a date is running out and we are about to say goodbye. I know it’s an overreaction but I still feel this anticipatory anxiety and after we part ways I feel immediately a lot of sadness, loneliness and fears of being alone.” At other times this person is fine with being alone.

Another interesting scenario: “I seem to keep getting into long distance romantic relationships. Reuniting is always so dramatic and intense but then when one of us has to leave, it feels almost as bad as if we’re breaking up, and the depression lingers for a few days. During that time I’m excessively calling, texting, chatting online with him/her. Then for a while I feel fine and then it’s time for another visit and the whole pattern starts all over again”

“I hate the beginning of the therapy session. I always feel really uncomfortable. And at the end of the session it’s hard to leave. The worst is when you announce a vacation…”

Some people express their anxiety through needing to control the session, wanting to be the one who alerts their therapist that the session is over every time.

Of course as therapists we constantly see different styles of attachment. Aloof and avoidant: this may be the patient who can only tolerate bi-weekly sessions and/or “misses” sessions often through forgetfulness. It can be very challenging to work with a patient with this attachment style as they have a hard time staying in therapy. They may need to control things so much that they become the patient who suddenly leaves therapy when the therapist is noticing that s/he is finally starting to open up and trust. Next minute the patient leaves with no warning or notice. S/he may be able to send an abrupt text or email saying s/he needs a break from therapy, but in some cases this is the elusive patient who just stops coming to sessions and avoids any contact with the therapist. In these cases I have found it is still a good idea to contact the patient and leave a message voicing concern about this behavior, demonstrating to your patient that you have noticed their disappearance and are concerned about it. Often the “parentified adult”, used to the role of caretaker of absent, unstable or anxious even alcoholic parent is very accustomed to their role and has a hard time being in therapy and admitting they need care and attention.

The “ambivalent” attachment style can be expressed quite differently. This may be the patient who opens up very quickly in therapy, demonstrates many shifts in and dramatic affect states, even starts a fight with the therapist. This person needs a lot of contact but feels conflicted about needing it and how to express that need. The consistency and firm boundaries of the therapist with this type of person can be very effective.

The very neglected child can be very consistent as a patient and respond well to individual psychotherapy. S/he is often punctual and gets a lot out of the consistency and holding support of the therapeutic relationship. While this person may take a long time to trust the therapist, I have found patients like these to be very self aware even if their awareness includes a lack of connection to their feeling states and a lot of intellectualization. The goals of therapy are as clear as the patient is eager to work on his/her self…

Many people oscillate between different attachment styles and feeling states about separation depending on the stressors in their lives.

Personally I have oscillated a lot in my life between feeling overly needy and clingy to feeling overly detached, uninterested in connection with others and when under too much emotional stress, reacting very differently as a teenager versus young adult versus older adult. Most of us have a variety of experiences with separation.

I also find it interesting that having a pet dog or cat can help a person heal from whatever childhood separation anxiety they may have experienced. The unconditional consistency of a dog cannot be matched by a human. While this leads probably to a big topic for another post, I find it fascinating how our relationships with our pets can help repair early anxiety and trauma. Of course there is the other side to this, when people get overly attached to their pets and it affects their relationships with people…

The Other Face of Facebook: Facebook in the Therapy Session

A day or two ago, I witnessed the miracle of Facebook. One of my college friends, in fact, one of the first people I met in my new dorm my first day at college over 20 years ago, had a baby girl. The announcement of this great birth appeared in her Facebook status within the first day of this baby’s life, with the amount of hours of labor and her name and weight. 115 “Likes” and 110 comments within six hours of this status posting! But for Facebook, I would have no idea where my former classmate lived, much less, have been able to participate in witnessing her marvelous pregnancy and the birth of her first very healthy child. This is the wonderful power of Facebook, and a big reason for why I confess I check in almost daily to see the “News Feed”. Many other wonderful pregnancies and births are going on, not to mention little children growing up before our eyes through Facebook photos…

So, the wonderful world of Facebook is truly a great way for people to see each other’s kids, and for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents to participate in the lives of these children, no matter where they live.

There is also grade school, high school, college and graduate school classmates to keep in touch with so easily! In fact it turns out the most friends group people have is from high school…

The other great reason I like Facebook is to be able to casually post a photo of my latest art work, whether just a weekly scribble drawing or a more serious work in progress and get instant positive support! For us therapists, once we’ve navigated the issue of making sure we’ve looked carefully at our “privacy settings”, Facebook represents a place we can “let our hair down” and be people, as goofy and weird as we want to be…   Or you can figure out how to live comfortably with a professional and personal presence on Facebook by joining professional groups, starting your own Artist page or Therapist page or starting your own Professional group…

Of course there are many pitfalls and huge complicated issues that arise from Facebook. Sometimes the whole six degrees of separation thing means one has to block a friend’s friend because they are or were a patient. Or my patient comes in and says she saw my happy birthday post to my old supervisee who happened to be her supervisor recently. Not too big a deal, as it was a week where my profile picture was an artwork and not a private photo. The world of art therapy is small…

Far more difficult than privacy issues we therapists face, are the issues our patients are bringing in to therapy that often involve Facebook in some major way. First of all there are parents. Many parents are young enough that they want to be on Facebook for their own social reasons and secondarily to keep an eye out on their young adult children and get to “peek” into their lives. Some parents are on Facebook purely to peek into their young adult or even older adult children’s lives. Sometimes this isn’t too complicated and only requires the child “educating” their parent about Facebook parental etiquette. That means telling your parent, don’t make a comment on every one of my posts. In fact, try not to make your presence known at all on my posts and I won’t “block” you from seeing them. Simple instructions, followed well. Done.

Not so easy if Mom is using Facebook to spy on you. “What were you doing out so late partying when you called me earlier freaking out about your English paper due tomorrow?” and, “I thought you quit smoking (or insert “drinking”, “gambling”, etc? What’s up with that photo of you from last night? Woops. Forgot to set blocking Mom from that particular revealing photo…

“It’s Complicated” is actually a relationship status you can post to your profile and put the name of the complicated person you are in this mess with up next to it. Not a good idea if you’ve met each other’s parents and are on Facebook with all of them. Most difficult scenario with a parent is the following one. The said “child” over age 20 is going through messy breakup or even messy divorce. Suddenly that 2 am drunken weepy phone call to Mom late at night right after she dumped you by email is seeming like a really impulsive move now that it’s 6 weeks later (an eon in modern relationship breakups and makeups) and she has posted pictures of you together after you and your mom agreed she was the scum of the earth and had been mistreating you the whole time you were dating. Oops. So you go into therapy and talk to your therapist about how you decided to block your mom completely and defriend her and then she called you hysterically crying upset that you would treat her that way. Which one is more high maintenance now, the girl who took you for granted and dumped you and then realized she couldn’t live without you, putting you through torture, moodswings, extra therapy sessions and bad phone calls to your parents, or the mother who now is too thorouhly involved in your love life, such that you have to figure out in therapy how to manage her Facebook presence in your life without her knowing you are keeping her out of the loop so she doesnt call you again crying? And in between all that you had to confess in therapy that after your girlfiend dumped you, you checked her Facebook wall about twenty times a day to see if she was hanging out with other guys/girls or what she was doing. (There is a whole different post I need to write about cyber confessions in therapy — “I knew his password, so I broke into his emails and read them for a week to see what the hell was going on in his head after the breakup…”, “After that asshole blocked me from his Facebook and defriended me, I signed in to his page to spy on his Facebook wall and chats…” etc.)

With some patients, we have had to talk about Facebook addiction and treatment which involves “breaks” — take a day off where you aren’t allowed to go on Facebook at all. Take a week off going onto your partner’s or soon to be ex’s or ex’s page. No peeking at all.

Re-set the boundaries with mom and dad. Translates as, keep him or her as your Facebook friend but block him or her from all photos of your wonderful reuniting with the girl or guy that your parents never want you to mention much less see again. Yes you can manage each post and each photo separately, thus blocking mom from only the ones you don’t want her to see. The challenge in therapy now is beyond Facebook pages. How do you “delete” the 5 am crazy phone calls you made to mom or dad when you were ready to jump out the window from finding all the terrible things this “awful” relationship was putting you through while you secretly start over with the same person who has gone from awful to adorable love of your life again within the last month or two, or worse, you moved out and back in all within about 4 months time and can’t bear telling your parents because of their obvious and predictably bad reactions? And now you have to go home for the holidays and pretend to be still sad about it or deal with everyone in your family (yes, I forgot about grandpa and the siblings who know all about it and who have seen those new photos on Facebook of you back together.) Damage control first, arrange with all of them to keep it quiet and do not mention any of it to mom or dad during the holiday visit. Second, what do you do when you are baking with your mom and she starts casually asking if you’re meeting any new people, or if she found out, how do you steer her away from the topic of how you are throwing your life away in this relationship, how disappointed she is in your terrible choices, and worried sick as well. “And how could you even think of defriending me on Facebook!” she will definitely bring up, still hurt about it.

This is not dramatization. It happens all the time. As does the addiction to checking up on your too attractive boyfriend who gets too many likes on all his photos and comments… Jealousy redifined, or jealousy obsessions now have a new Face, and plenty of new places to find fuel for the jealousy.

The other Facebook therapy topic is just plain old addiction. Complaints of spending way too much time playing “Farmville” or some other Facebook game, or even worse, just spending countless hours on Facebook and not too sure what you were even doing. This one goes with other internet addictions, porn being a typical one. Almost worse than porn which at least involves some kind of “goal”, is the hours on the internet people spend and cannot account for and have no idea what they were doing, but one minute the computer was on and suddenly four or five hours of time has gone by and nothing to account for it. This usually happens when someone has a paper or thesis or work related activity due.

Which brings me to Facebook at the workplace. At a party recently, someone told me about a new form of work interview “prejudice”. That some people are complaining that at a job interview they were asked why they do not “do” Facebook, that there must be something wrong with them. I was astonished, but she had actually heard this from several people. This one goes with the big question, do you friend people you work with or your boss? Do you friend the babysitter? Are you Facebooking while at your workplace and do you do this on the sly or in full view of everyone?

Blocking, unfriending and defriending…Do you really want to stay friends with some ex from years ago? What about the friend you have stopped speaking to or the cousin you suddenly regret friending. Turns out according to a recent article in Huffington post,

“Offensive comments” and a lack of knowledge about a person are the top two reasons people unfriend on Facebook, according to NM Incite’s research. People were also more likely to be disturbed by the nature of the content friends shared, rather than the frequency of it: 23 percent said they unfriended people over “depressing comments” and 14 percent unfriended over “political comments,” while just 6 percent unfriended because someone had posted too frequently.

Wow. I was quite surprised, actually shocked. Nobody said they unfriended because they got in a fight with someone or broke up with someone, the two top reasons I would have guessed for unfriending. And what about obvious reason number 3, “Woops, I am so regretful that I friended Mom and Dad…” Why do people have such a low tolerance from a single depressing sentence in a Facebook status, when, last I checked, most close friends include long depressing phone calls, coffee, dinner or drink sessions, as a major part of friendship, that they know this Friend has been there when they were in tears, so of course they will be there for this Friend through countless depressing but worthwhile hours.

Another interesting topic is the content of status posts. Everyone on Facebook has at least one friend who posts just to say what s/he made, had for dinner or even put a photo in of the meal. In one case my gourmet friend posted several photos of the many courses of an elaborate meal and the menu; it went from the mundane to a work of art in progress to see this gourmet meal unfold. But there are those posts that sound like the person needs to let everyone know s/he just sneezed. What is involved in the psychology of the everyday ordinary aspects of life being “glorified” or at least expressed on the “news feed” of Facebook? Just raising the question…

There is also the Facebook “love/hate” relationship. One week you’re on and reading it daily and posting. Then suddenly something happens and you get a bout of  what I like to call “Faceebook overexposure”. “Suddenly I felt really weird and decided I hated Facebook and did not want to be on it, so I am leaving Facebook.” This is often accompanied by a goodbye post, which often sparks a lot of comments from friends suggesting/begging the person not to leave Facebook. Sometimes this is enough to get you hooked again. Or a week later, the soame person reports that s/he returned to Facebook, so easy to get back on with the sames profile and friends all saved and waiting for your re-conversion to Facebook. Some people treat Facebook like a messy on again off again relationship and then finally call it quits with it. There are other people who actually are totally internet savvy and may even have great websites and/or blogs or other internet presences who might even work in publishing or publicity or television other internet related fields who never go near Facebook. What kind of personality is completely immune to the Facebook bug. I have a few friends and relatives whose spouses are on Facebook but who themselves are not going to go near it.  And I cannot figure out any one characteristic that these people who share the Facebook allergy have in common. Someone’s got to do a survey on that topic: what makes a person immune to the magnetic pull of Facebook?

Yes, Facebook has become a therapy “topic” and is here to stay. Now it’s time for me to edit this post and then, of course, post the link to it first to Facebook and only after that, on LinkedIn…

The Artist and The Art Therapist: Can they both live within you?

This post is for all you art therapists and artist out there, and art therapy students, as well as people curious about art therapy, art vs. therapy, and artists.

I will mainly pose questions rather than give any answers as this topic is meant to start a discussion or dialogue  about what it means to be an art therapist, and what it means to be an art therapist and an artist.

When you are out socializing and someone asks what you do for a living, do you say, “I’m an art therapist.” or do you say, “I’m an artist” or do you say, “I’m an artist and art therapist.” If you say both which one tends to come out of your mouth first?

Personally I’ve always, as long as I’ve been an art therapist, as I was an artist for years before that, tended to view myself as an artist who is also an art therapist, although that does not show up on art therapy profiles on insurance and other psychology, find a therapist, types of websites. More importantly even than what you tend to say to identify yourself is what you spend your time doing, what you value doing, and other questions. For example, do you make money as an art therapist, an artist or both? While I am often in exhibitions and sell my work and participate in the open studio tour in my neighborhood once a year, and even have my art therapy and psychotherapy private practice in my art studio, my consistent form of income comes from my private practice. However in terms of my identity, I think of myself first as an artist, maybe because that was the first vocation I ever felt called to do. Also making art is a necessity for me to stay stable and focused, not an option, so I manage to make time for it and value every minute spent making art even if I spend much more time with my patients than making art.

In graduate school for art therapy, I kept my studio and used it while being a full-time grad student. I noticed a pattern in my classmates that they for the most part seemed to put their artist identity to the side to focus on art therapy. Some of them even objected to making art in classes. During class I would doodle and draw in my notebook in order to pay attention to the discussion. It helped me focus. This was many years ago, and things seem to have changed. I come across many recent graduates as well as students who are actively making art and continue to participate in their profession as a professional artist,; they have websites of their artwork and exhibit and sell it.

I have colleagues who even plan and stage exhibitions of artwork in their studio/office, ArtSpa, so they have successfully integrated their practice and supporting artists with their shows. Over the years they have had many themed group invitational exhibitions, “Little Pieces”, “Trees”, “Home” and the last one which is up now until the end of the year: “Connections.” Their website is:

http://nycreativetherapists.com/

The link to their exhibition announcements is:

http://nycreativetherapists.com/connections

I’ll end this post by saying that as indicated by the last paragraphs are an indicator of where the field of art therapy is going in terms of supporting the identity of the artist within the art therapist. It looks like a very different landscape to me now than it was years ago when I began my work in the field, which is very heartening. Are you thinking of becoming an art therapist? Are you also an artist? What is your view of this topic? I would also add that I don’t want to neglect another category of art therapists, those who came to the field not as artists and who still make art with their patients but are not pursuing an art career. There is certainly room for all sorts of art therapists. Another related topic is: do you make art with your patients? If so, is this the only artwork you make, or does it inspire your personal artwork in any way? Is the art you make in any way related to  your work as an art therapist or completely separate?