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Mastering Your Inner Critic in Art Making

For those of us with a loud and persistent inner critic it is easy to get used to the constant commentary, meaning that we are either resigned to it as a truth or we have adjusted our lives in such a way to normalise it or drown it out.

Our inner critic can be described as the voice or stream of thoughts that intrusively and sometimes continuously offers criticism. It sounds like too much, too loud, too negative, too ugly, too dumb, too fat, too skinny, too lazy, too inexperienced, too fake, too late. I am sure you recognise it. Inner critics love to preface things with “too”, just to drive home that the trait is too much and therefore negative.Other common versions of the voice are “you can’t” or “you are” It is very easy to feel that this voice or stream of thoughts offers us the truth. In actual fact your inner critic is often a blend of persistent and unaddressed fear or insecurity, vulnerability and cultural conditioning as well as habit. Depending on the volume and origin of your inner critic, mastering it can be a long-term practice. While it might confront you to think it is here to stay, with a bit of work, a whole lot of compassion and some creativity you can loosen the grip it has on you and your wellbeing. Continue reading Mastering Your Inner Critic in Art Making

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Art for Change

 Let me take you through a mix of positive power stories from artists and creative influencers to some tips of tried and true ways to put your creativity to power and make art for change.

So unless you have had a trip to Mars recently or live technology free you will be have experienced the heartbreak of watching the Australian fire crisis unfold over the last few months. Perhaps you experienced it or had family experience it directly. If you did, then my heart goes out to you. The horror must have been unimaginable.  The amount of loss and devastation tally’s high. From 24 deaths, to estimate thousands of dwellings burnt. And the affected animals falls into the 100’s of millions as declared by Sydney University. Amongst that boggling mix has been disenchanting behaviour by Australian politicians, toxic smoke haze issues, river and sediment imbalances and the list goes on. ABC recently reported on widespread misinformation and “bots” spreading arsonist claims that aren’t true. The fact that climate change discussions, in a country dedicated to coal got ah, heated, is hardly surprising. But it’s enough to increase the agitation and despair we all feel. Australia ended and started the decade with a physical and emotional enormity that no-one anticipated. I think feeling all the feelings is so important; sadness, despair, fear, uncertainty, agitation and contempt all help to mobilise action.

Action is the reason I am writing this blog post. Because alongside the terror and the pain there has been incredible amounts of action and as time continues i hope that much action will continue. This beautiful country we live in requires better care urgently. Continue reading Art for Change

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5 Ways to Creatively Talk about Fear

To talk about fear you can quite simply make a cup of tea and pull up a chair to chat about fear, but being human and a therapist I know how difficult this is for most of us…

Fear: it’s a big four letter word and just as taboo as four letter swear words. Most of us spend a healthy amount of time trying to avoid fear. Some of us get fear avoidance down to a fine art, whilst others (me included) find we always have one eye on the dark crevices waiting for it to creep back in.  The truth is we all feel fear, whether it’s of elevators, spiders, heights or the more serious existential aspects of life like dying, illness or being alone. Fear overlaps with anxiety and worry and is one of those hard-to-define, ambiguous emotions when it comes to dictionary definitions. Fear is often coupled with anticipatory risk, sense of danger and threat of the unknown. More often than not it is a visceral sensation felt in the body. Fear is felt and triggered through the primal parts of our brain and triggers the immobilisation of the body and brain for reaction. Continue reading 5 Ways to Creatively Talk about Fear

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How Scribbling Increases Imagination

The best thing about scribbling is that it not only boosts the imagination but it can also be a way to connect. I use these scribble activities to break the ice, build rapport, have a giggle, get my brains and hands warmed up and connect with others

So If you are a parent, teacher or you happen to be in possession of the family archives you are sure to be in ownership of a hefty amount of scribble artworks. We all know children scribble a lot. They get themselves through reams of paper and sometimes choose to delight you with some on on-the-wall versions. Scribbling is part of kinaesthetic development, meaning that it is a means of developing body awareness and awareness of movement. Kinaesthetic feedback is required to draw, write and engage in motor activities and tasks. Baghban, M (2007) also points out that scribbling development underpins a child’s ability to story tell. Drawing directly creates symbolic cues used for storytelling.  So next time you get handed yet another page of scribble, remember that the chaotic (and lovable) mess of lines is the building block of drawing and writing.

Continue reading How Scribbling Increases Imagination

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Superheroes Get Sad Too

It is much less confronting to talk about superheroes or popular characters at least to begin with. Superheroes come in handy, they assist in talking and exploring strengths, difficulties and emotions

Lately I have been thinking a lot about Superheroes.  I have also spent a few too many hours down the rabbit hole of internet googling. I can now share that Batman’s biggest strength and also weakness is that he is human, ironman can heal his own armour and that elsatigirl stretches herself so much she is vulnerable to getting stuck in doors! My recent (and admittedly first) interest in superheroes makes a little more sense if I explain the title of  my recent art therapy workshop; “Superhero’s Get Sad too”. Since updating my knowledge of superheroes and sneaking in a few non-traditional (but  popular) characters  into the planned activities, I have been interested in why kids are so naturally apt at idolising fictional characters.

Without getting too technical; children’s social and emotional development is shaped somewhat by how they make sense of the world around them. Children use a mixture of imagination and observation to construct and explore their reality and to distinguish self and other. Continue reading Superheroes Get Sad Too

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Art Therapy For Children

So what if the client is not actually you, but your child. Is art therapy for children any different than adults?

So I’ve written a post describing art therapy previously, but I thought it was about time I was a little more specific about art therapy for children, plus I promised this post way back in my new-year activity idea and it’s now March (whoops). So to recap my previous Understanding Art Therapy post ; Art therapy blends traditional counselling techniques (i.e. methods of talking and thinking) with creative processes to promote insight, reflection and expression which are all important parts of the healing journey. Art therapists employ many different activities and materials with their clients from painting and drawing, to collage and clay modelling. Like any good therapist, art therapists respond to their client and then guide the art therapy accordingly. This will mean that depending on your comfort levels, your current difficulties and your goals for art therapy, you may do a number of different activities. The art therapist may guide a playful interactive process that is all about sensation and exploration, they may prompt you to create an image on a particular topic or they may let you direct the session based on what you need. Continue reading Art Therapy For Children

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Angry Volcano

Volcano’s are the perfect metaphor for anger, they bubble, spit and are scorching hot. Really the sky is the limit with this art activity but here is the basic method and some variations to get you bubbling (!)

It’s been a little while since I added an activity to the blog. But an angry volcano is a long time art activity favorite which I am very excited to share. An angry volcano can be crafted many different ways and can be adapted to make a big multi-stage art project or you can whip up the basic materials for a bit of instant fun. I have used this activity countless times in my Art Therapy practice, because it’s interactive and a great conversation starter about anger.

Angry Volcano

Really the sky is the limit with this art activity but here is the basic method and some variations to get you bubbling (!). Younger children may need some extra help, but it’s  suitable for any age. Continue reading Angry Volcano

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What to remember about communication and mental health in children

 It can be distressing to have a child who is struggling and it’s even more bewildering when you feel like you’re on the streets of suburban Rome speaking one language and waving your hands frantically in the air, while your child frowns and speaks another.

Imagine you have traveled to a foreign country. You wake-up and stroll out into the street of the picturesque little village that will be your home for the next two weeks. You are ready to take on the day as the new Simon Reeves; cultured adventure awaits!  But first you need to just pop into the local supermarket, pharmacy or bank. Maybe you like to travel last minute, or without plans or maybe you’re just poorly organised or communication was last on your list of worries. Either way you haven’t planned ahead for internet access and there is no free Wi-Fi. The backup plan when Google isn’t an option is simple; ask a stranger for help. I mean, surely it can’t be that hard to find someone who speaks English. So you stop and ask a few locals; an elderly man, a young mum with her two children and a couple walking their dog. But they all shrug and smile awkwardly, repeating something in words that you do not understand. No one speaks English. While your stomach is starting to flutter with a rising concern you consider what to do next.  What do you do? I have been in this situation in the outskirts of suburban Rome. I was looking for a supermarket and asked a lot of people. I tried miming, rather hilariously, a shopping bag and eating. My two travel companions tried their own versions and eventually a young woman pointed down the road, signalling some directions, her charade game on point.  To end the story; we never found the supermarket. My sense of direction is atrocious and I had the feeling with all her frowning that the supermarket was more than a short stroll away. At least I learnt about my own assumptions and naivety. Continue reading What to remember about communication and mental health in children

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How the Heart and Brain Help us Heal

Understanding the relay race of our body and brain can help us understand eclectic processes of healing and direct us how to choose the type of therapy we need.

There is an amazing comic illustrator The Awkward Yeti who has designed human organs into characters and I must admit I find endless entertainment through the accuracy of their dialogue, particularly the characters Heart and Brain (find them here). While not entirely surprising, the subject of our biological organs is relevant to the way we psychologically heal. By understanding the process of healing and information processing through our biological mechanisms we can gain a better understanding of how eclectic approaches to therapy can work and where art therapy may fit. Rest assured if you’re not a human biology master, you’ll be fine to read on. This blog would cause a neurologist to cringe at my over-simplification and generous metaphors. Still, I think you’ll get the point and who doesn’t love a little metaphor!

Continue reading How the Heart and Brain Help us Heal

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Does Art Really Heal?

Can art heal? My answer to one of art therapy’s biggest questions, flavoured with coconut water

As an art therapist I come across a whole range of claims, phrases and titles to do with my profession.  Sometimes I roll my eyes, sigh in frustration or giggle at bold promises. It is not that I am being disrespectful of other professionals it’s just that, well; it can be of a minefield in marketing at the best of times and it becomes even more so with things like art therapy. Why? Because art therapy is still a young practice in Australia and yet to gain mainstream familiarity. This ultimately means marketing has more weight because professionals aren’t only trying to advertise their brand or service but educate people about the profession as well. And the interesting thing is that marketing can influence how we answer questions before we have even had an experience. I find myself writing this article, an odd combination of art therapy and marketing to explore how people might be shaped to have an opinion of art therapy before they have even tried it. By considering how people consume something new we can begin to look at the answer to the question i hear a lot; does art really heal?

Continue reading Does Art Really Heal?