Often the hands will solve a mystery
that the intellect has struggled with in vain.
Creativity and play are vital to human existence. It seems to me that the permission to explore creativity and to play diminishes as we age in our culture. Self-expression through the arts should be an integral part of a balanced lifestyle for people throughout their lifespan. Exploring the arts as an avenue of expression can expand and accelerate the therapeutic process in moving and profound ways. Particularly when words don’t come easily due to trauma, shame or fear, using nonverbal and imaginal processes such as drawing, painting, or sand tray in a safe and protected space can be an effective way of accessing the unconscious and releasing emotions. Under these circumstances, the intention is to facilitate discovery and movement from within rather than simply making a “pretty picture.”
Images, whether from paintings, poetry, dreams, or nature, gift us with the possibility of infinite personal interpretation.
As developed by Carl Jung, active imagination is a focusing or meditation technique wherein the contents of one's unconscious are translated into images or metaphor. It can serve as a bridge between the conscious "ego" and the unconscious (unknown) and includes working with dreams and the creative process through imagination and fantasy. Jung linked active imagination with the processes of alchemy in that both strive for oneness and inter-relatedness from a set of fragmented and dissociated parts.
I always keep oil pastels, colored pencils, and painting supplies nearby, so that, at any time during session you can express your internal process. Bringing personal images into life in this manner can be extremely powerful.
80% of communication is perceived through your eyes, so by nature we are visual beings. As therapeutic tools, photographs are particularly useful when words don’t flow easily.
PhotoTherapy is the use of photographs in therapy. As tangible referents, photographs are brought into the therapeutic process to aid in the healing journey. Judy Weiser is perhaps the most respected expert in this field and has written the book PhotoTherapy Techniques: Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums. I have had the pleasure of receiving training from Weiser and follow her principles in my practice.
"PhotoTherapy techniques use therapy clients’ own personal snapshots, family photos, and pictures taken by other people – and the feelings, thoughts, information, and memories these evoke as catalysts for therapeutic communication, change, and healing."