Sensitives and sensitivity: the psychology of “artists”


my life as a poem




I work as a licensed professional clinical counselor. I work using an expressive arts methodology of resource building and decentering.  I work as a board certified art therapist teaching my supervise’s ways to facilitate expansion, surface, and resonance through art making with their clients.

I was taught at Southwestern college in Santa Fe, NM that the clients you are supposed to work with, will find you, and flourish your private practice. I find that “sensitives” find me and I find great joy in working with them.  Some of my “sensitives” identify as artists, some are hidden artists easily revealed, and some would not identify as artists, but do resonant with being a sensitive.

The needs of a sensitive: ” time to reflect, nature, art making, relationship harmony”

The reactions of a sensitive: “to hide”

a sensitive in denial of being a sensitive: “feels inadequate”

A sensitive : ” sees the beauty in the dark”

Self Portraits as Expressive Arts

phenomenology , as dicussed by Husserl, is describe by “what shows itself, and what appears.”

phenomenology wants to understand something from the point of view from the art

art is the making of something not emotional expression

poetry vs justice

thinking and truth going beyond body experience

knowledge transcends experience

“Theory of intentionality paying attention to something, attention is the natural prayer of the soul

the arts as modes of sensory experience,” Paolo Knill

From Broken to Beautiful: Mosaics as an Expressive Arts Therapy

Connection through Body Art

Body art has been around for as far as I can see any how.

This body art piece is about pregnancy, birth and midwifery.

I am again reminded how art making is bonding, is attachment,  and is intimacy.

Making art with each other, around each other  and on each other brings me a calm not a fear.

Often times my clients ask “how can I decrease my anxiety, or increase a sense of well-being.” And often times I ask myself these very questions.

Over the last 10 plus years I have tracked this question for myself and for others.  The red thread I see is connecting.  Connecting through both expression and communication.

Expressive Arts Therapy can promote connection versus answers; a power within verses a power over a struggle or conflict. A space where relationships and responsibilities are seen and felt.  Soon we will be in Peru exploring such issues as multiplicity and uncertainty.

Power Animal and Expressive Arts

We have been facilitating an Expressive Arts group that starts with the ceremony and ritual of a  shamanic journey to find and converse with the power animal that most relates to your present life. We then create art as an aesthetic response to the shamanic journey.

Above is a picture of the journey to find one person’s eagle guide and below is an image of one person’s turtle guide. In the journey you are able to ask your power animal what they see that can help or support you and/or a loved one.  After the journey and the aesthetic art response, we write about the image and the journey. What words describe the animal and the journey? What did the opening to go into the underworld, or liminal space look like? Then we sit in council and share our sacred experience.

This Expressive Arts group helps us to foster a deeper relationship with our animal kin.  Through ceremony and ritual shamanic journey work I have learned how decentering into liminal space to relate with my power animal can provide me with a more calm pace and a bigger heart for healing.

Review of Art Heals

Art Heals by Shaun McNiff highlights two important stages in the history of Art Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy. The first is that our work involves us, the therapists.  We are not strictly observers documenting and analyzing another’s process, but rather therapeutic participants.  Secondly, Art Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy is a combination the new and old of cultures and people’s experiences through artistic traditions.

People from various cultures can relate to the enduring shaman, a role that was revered in the past and still is today.  Similarly, people from various cultures can relate to the world of the creative arts.  One of the ways a shaman works is to go into the unknown in order to balance out the rhythm of life; likewise creativity embraces an inward journey to achieve the same.  When I gather discarded materials to create a mosaic or the shaman gathers fragments of one’s soul, we are both seeking to reinstate health through the process. “Shamanism is more likely to come to art and healing through image than through the therapist’s desire to be a shaman” (198). Shamanism can be a safe space for the creative arts to be researched in a respectful and complimentary atmosphere. “The generative powers of a creative expression need to be fed with a corresponding consciousness which appreciates and keeps their mysteries (28).”


When does an Art Therapist become an Expressive Arts Therapist?

Art Therapy leads me into inner worlds and guides me to explore and enhance my feelings and relationships.  I learned how to recommit to beauty and peace while allowing the dark and ugly. Through art making, I can experience clarity and knowing, while embracing the mysterious and bigness. Pure and simple art therapy gave me back a consciousness of my soul and the importance of caring for soul health through nurturing responsibilities and passions.

The Expressive Arts give me movement, gesture and poetry. It is providing me with an opportunity to use my body in new ways, to play with mind maps and cognitive understandings.  I like how I can see an image and interpret it with a new aesthetic response such as movement, gesture, poetry and then follow that movement into a new frame of mind and personal understanding. Comfort ensues as well as new skills in facilitation.

Process and Product

I have been a dedicated process over product art therapist, until now. Now I am expanding into a process and product art therapist. It feels good. There’s some more breathing room. I love the art making, image making process. I enjoy the protection of the process being allowed to guide the image formation. I am committed to trusting the process to guide the end product. That was my main framework from where I worked and from where I guided participants in my facilitation. Then I came to be exposed to the radical notion of why not also embrace the product as well. What does that even mean?

I notice that as I place the art product on the same level as the art making process it feels right. I have not abandoned process for product, but rather created room for both to exist and compliment each other while providing opportunity for another aspect of relationship between art maker and art to happen. Is my facilitation of art therapy different with this added framework? The answer I get is actually another question. What would I want to change about the art piece that I created or the process from which it was born? This is the question that seems to lead to an art making and art product valued space.

No longer afraid of the word “product”. Now, it is process and also product.

Putting the pieces back together

Art Therapy – It’s about helping put the pieces back together. This gentleman is doing some individual art therapy work after working with a group to create a beautiful public mural. His treatment was focused on healing some past traumas and awakening a new sense of safety and discovery. Through the destruction and creation process of the mosaic mural, he found healing within the art. The group dynamic is an additional support structure as well to help people along their path to healing. Many people don’t know they are artists. But really, we all are artists in some form or another. It is about helping people find their inner artist and express themselves in order to work through an area in their lives where they may be stuck. It’s about letting go of what’s in our heads and letting it come out in our art. Whether it’s with canvas and paint, clay, mosaic, or photography, it’s about finding that pure form of artistic expression to go deeper into one’s own inner knowing and emerge on the other side whole. In this way, art therapy is a holistic health approach to support a positive, healthy lifestyle.

We Are Mosaics

Putting the pieces back together

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