Saturday, June 14, 2014

Guest Blog: Photographer uses craft to connect with his father


Many thanks to Jay Sullivan, who contributed this guest blog post, who shows us how he used his art of photography to process the memories of his father and process his relationship with him after his death.  Thank you for showing how powerful art can be.
 
The Father I Always Had


I hated my father most of my life.

When I was five years old, my father had a bipolar breakdown and was sent to a psychiatric institution.  The traumatic events that followed forever defined my relationship with my father: violent outbursts, endless days of him sleeping away the afternoon on the couch, picking him up and putting him to bed after many too many beers, late night calls when he needed a place to stay, and bailing him out of jail. I spent most of my life angry, embarrassed, and ashamed at whom and what he became. When he died in 1992, I put his ashes in my closet and put him behind me for good – or so I had thought.


In early 2011, I started a photographic essay titled Glove hoping to reconnect with my father by exploring what it would be like to have had a normal, adult relationship with him.  I began by imagining he lived with me. I photographed articles in my house that I remembered him owning: a wallet on my nightstand, a razor on the bathroom sink, a baseball glove in the closet. I photographed them large and direct, seeking to dissolve the memories I had in my head of a weak, failed man and replace them with images that were strong and masculine.

One step led to another, and the process became more and more integral to the images that were being created. I dug into his professional past, finding a man that was different than the one I knew – one that I could be proud of: pledge captain in his fraternity, top salesman at both IBM and 3M, President of the NJ Jaycees, MBA at Seton Hall (which was earned several years AFTER his breakdown). I photographed a college ring, a "How to Win Friends and Influence People" book, a briefcase; the images created an admirable story where there once was a void.

If you want to really understand someone, research the brands they buy.  The headline for my father’s brand of cigarettes?: More Scientists and Educators Smoke Kent; for his hair crème?: Brylcreem…For Smart, Healthy Hair; for his watch?: Why Most Teachers Prefer Bulova. These reminders of my father’s lifelong pursuit of learning helped subjugate his less noble attributes.

I started a journal that recorded the days of an imagined adult life together: days at the beach, at the coffee shop, at the ball field; the process sparked real life memories and subsequent photographic images: cooking Christmas pancakes, fishing on a tiny pond, trips to Yankee stadium. The more images I created, the more I remembered – and the more I wanted to be his son again.

Photographing this series resulted in a rich, visceral connection between me, the objects, and long-buried memories.  Many of the memories were anxiety-filled, connected to my father, the tragedies of his life, and the beliefs of a 5-year-old child who thought it was all his fault.   Creating Glove helped me discover that fear confronted leads to fear released.  Three years into this process and 20 years after my father’s death, I have found the father I always wanted – and in many ways always had.

About Jay Sullivan

Jay Sullivan grew up playing baseball in New Jersey.  His life changed direction when he received a film developer kit for Christmas.  It started an interest in image-making that, along with a decent curveball, gained him entrance into Rochester Institute of Technology where he studied photography.

Jay went onto a 25 year career as a Creative Director, creating media for print, online. installations and live events.  He's traveled to over 20 countries on four continents staging events and creating video works that featured President Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Ossie Davis, the Ye minority in the remote mountains of southern China, Bambara farmers in Mali, and teenagers in the ghettos of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  His productions have been garnered a Cine Golden Eagle, NY Festivals Silver World Medal, Silver Screen Award and many other honors.   Jay lives and creates art in Red Bank, New Jersey with his wife, two dogs, a cat and two horses.


www.jsullivanartist.com

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Art Therapy helps Wounded Warriors at NICoE Intrepid Spirit One at Ft. Belvoir

I'm very excited to see the art therapy that my colleague and ATR supervisee Jackie Biggs is pioneering at the Wounded Warrior TBI clinic at Ft. Belvoir's National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) Intrepid Spirit One.  She is doing a great job over there, and it's nice to see that art therapy is getting the attention it deserves, reaching people in ways that other therapies do not.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Farewell to art therapy-friendly psychiatrist Dr. Louis Tinnin

More sad news to report the passing of Dr. Louis Tinnin today, the same day that art therapy pioneer Edith Kramer passed away, at nearly 82 years of age.  Lou was the husband of art therapist Linda Gantt, and together they created the Intensive Trauma Therapy model and the Graphic Narrative, an art therapy technique to help process trauma.  Lou was a psychiatrist and dovetailed the art therapy trauma treatment with how it affects the neurological changes in the brain that has been affected by trauma.  I had the pleasure of attending trainings by them both in Morgantown, WV near their Trauma Recovery Institute in 2004 and at Ft. Belvoir, VA in 2012, where they trained most of the Behavioral Health department in this method.  He will be missed in the art therapy community.


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Farewell to Art Therapy Pioneer Edith Kramer

One of the founders of Art Therapy, Edith Kramer, died today after a long life of 97 years.  I remember when she taught during the summer when I attended GWU in the late 1990's, and she would train down from NYC to teach her psychoanalytic art therapy class, even then in her 80's.  I did not take the class because I took other topics instead, though I was tempted to take it anyway just because she taught it.  Her influence in the field of art therapy has been great and she will be missed.


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Monday, January 13, 2014

Elephants painting self-portraits

Here is a fun and heartwarming video of elephants who paint recognizable pictures for sale...not just the abstracts that I've most often seen.  See, anyone can do art!!  :)

 

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Art therapists use shoes as a basis for an art therapy project

Art therapists devise innovative project for addiction patients

 

December 31, 2013

From pairs of used shoes, Rosecrance Health Network recently hit on that rare idea that can turn into a meaningful experience for adult patients, adolescent patients, and program staff alike.

Patients at Rosecrance’s adult and adolescent campuses in Illinois used staff-donated shoes as blank canvases on which to tell their life stories or relate their future hopes through art. Patients then saw their work displayed in a gallery show that generated extreme pride for both the patients and the Rosecrance workforce.

“The patients were eager to explain why they did what they did,” says Jada Miller, art therapist at Rosecrance’s adult Harrison Campus. For staff, seeing patients’ stories depicted in this way reminded them, “This is why I do this [work],” Miller says.

Origin of idea

Jennifer Thammavong, an art therapist at Rosecrance’s adolescent Griffin Williamson campus, explains that the concept for the project called “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes” grew out of the desire to learn more about each patient in order to deliver better care. From that came a discussion of the patient’s “life path,” and thus the concept of a shoe project as a component of art therapy.

“We’re always doing crazy stuff,” adds Miller in reference to the activities in the art therapy groups at Rosecrance. “We tell the patients, ‘You’re going to be out of your comfort zone when you come into one of these groups.’”

Once the pair of art therapists collected donated shoes from staff members, they decided the footwear would be painted white so that it would serve as a blank canvas for each patient. “Even the painting of the shoes was a stress reliever,” says Miller. “Some of the guys in the program helped with it.”

Each patient then was able to select a style of shoe, whether it be tennis shoes, high heels, boots, or something else. They were instructed simply to use acrylic paint and mixed media (glitter, pipe cleaners, etc.) to share something about their life that they would want others to know.

Some patients traced their addiction history while others focused more on the here-and-now. A number of patients used the back of their shoes to depict the beginning of their story, moving forward to the toe to describe their life today. Of course, there is no right or wrong approach with such exercises, and the learning comes more from the message than the medium.

“They worked on the project for a week to a week-and-a-half,” says Miller. “We told them to focus on whatever they felt they needed for the day.”

Showcasing the work

The art therapists consider every creation by patients to be a clinical document and part of the recovery process. For these patients, an additional boost came from having these works displayed in an on-site gallery show that adhered to the traditions of such events in the art world.

“Many of the clients wrote artists’ statements to go with their work,” says Thammavong. “In reading some of the comments of their peers, in many cases it made them step back and appreciate what they had.” In addition, for the younger patients, seeing adults’ experiences helped them realize how difficult their lives could get if they stayed on a self-defeating path.

Rosecrance likely will try the shoe project again, Thammavong and Miller say, as it offers some variety from an art standpoint and also engages patients because they do not have to create art completely from scratch—the shoes already are an aesthetically pleasing item with which to work.

 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Creativity and Mental Illness: Is there a link?

Many people assume that there is a fine line between creativity and insanity, and some may cite examples to support their case, such as Van Gogh or possibly Beethoven.  But this article from Scientific American looks into this assumption much more closely.

The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness

     October 3, 2013           
“There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”          
—Salvador Dali
The romantic notion that mental illness and creativity are linked is so prominent in the public consciousness that it is rarely challenged. So before I continue, let me nip this in the bud: Mental illness is neither necessary nor sufficient for creativity.
The oft-cited studies by Kay Redfield Jamison, Nancy Andreasen, and Arnold Ludwig showing a link between mental illness and creativity have been criticized on the grounds that they involve small, highly specialized samples with weak and inconsistent methodologies and a strong dependence on subjective and anecdotal accounts.
To be sure, research does show that many eminent creators– particularly in the arts–had harsh early life experiences (such as social rejection, parental loss, or physical disability) and mental and emotional instability. However, this does not mean that mental illness was a contributing factor to their eminence. There are many eminent people without mental illness or harsh early life experiences, and there is very little evidence suggesting that clinical, debilitating mental illness is conducive to productivity and innovation.
What’s more, only a few of us ever reach eminence. Thankfully for the rest of us, there are different levels of creativity. James C. Kaufman and Ronald Beghetto argue that we can display creativity in many different ways, from the creativity inherent in the learning process (“mini-c”), to everyday forms of creativity (“little-c”) to professional-level expertise in any creative endeavor (“Pro-c”), to eminent creativity (“Big-C”).
Engagement in everyday forms of creativity– expressions of originality and meaningfulness in daily life– certainly do not require suffering. Quite the contrary, my colleague and friend Zorana Ivcevic Pringle found that people who engaged in everyday forms of creativity– such as making a collage, taking photographs, or publishing in a literary magazine– tended to be more open-minded, curious, persistent, positive, energetic, and intrinsically motivated by their activity. Those scoring high in everyday creativity also reported feeling a greater sense of well-being and personal growth compared to their classmates who engaged less in everyday creative behaviors. Creating can also be therapeutic for those who are already suffering. For instance, research shows that expressive writing increases immune system functioning, and the emerging field of posttraumatic growth is showing how people can turn adversity into creative growth.
 So is there any germ of truth to the link between creativity and mental illness? The latest research suggests there is something to the link, but the truth is much more interesting. Let’s dive in.
 The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness
In a recent report based on a 40-year study of roughly 1.2 million Swedish people, Simon Kyaga and colleagues found that with the exception of bi-polar disorder, those in scientific and artistic occupations were not more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders. So full-blown mental illness did not increase the probability of entering a creative profession (even the exception, bi-polar disorder, showed only a small effect of 8%).
What was striking, however, was that the siblings of patients with autism and the first-degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anorexia nervosa were significantly overrepresented in creative professions. Could it be that the relatives inherited a watered-down version of the mental illness conducive to creativity while avoiding the aspects that are debilitating?
Research supports the notion that psychologically healthy biological relatives of people with schizophrenia have unusually creative jobs and hobbies and tend to show higher levels of schizotypal personality traits compared to the general population. Note that schizotypy is not schizophrenia. Schizotypy consists of a constellation of personality traits that are evident in some degree in everyone.
Schizotypal traits can be broken down into two types. “Positive” schizotypy includes unusual perceptual experiences, thin mental boundaries between self and other, impulsive nonconformity, and magical beliefs. “Negative” schizotypal traits include cognitive disorganization and physical and social anhedonia (difficulty experiencing pleasure from social interactions and activities that are enjoyable for most people). Daniel Nettle found that people with schizotypy typically resemble schizophrenia patients much more along the positive schizotypal dimensions (such as unusual experiences) compared to the negative schizotypal dimensions (such as lack of affect and volition).
This has important implications for creativity. Mark Batey and Adrian Furnham found that the unusual experiences and impulsive nonconformity dimensions of schizotypy, but not the cognitive disorganization dimension, were significantly related to self-ratings of creativity, a creative personality (measured by a checklist of adjectives such as “confident,” “individualistic,” “insightful,” “wide interests,” “original,” “reflective,” “resourceful,” “unconventional,” and “sexy”), and everyday creative achievement among thirty-four activities (“written a short story,” “produced your own website,” “composed a piece of music,” and so forth).
Recent neuroscience findings support the link between schizotypy and creative cognition. Hikaru Takeuchi and colleagues investigated the functional brain characteristics of participants while they engaged in a difficult working memory task. Importantly, none of their subjects had a history of neurological or psychiatric illness, and all had intact working memory abilities. Participants were asked to display their creativity in a number of ways: generating unique ways of using typical objects, imagining desirable functions in ordinary objects and imagining the consequences of “unimaginable things” happening. 
The researchers found that the more creative the participant, the more they had difficulty suppressing the precuneus while engaging in an effortful working memory task. The precuneus is the area of the Default Mode Network that typically displays the highest levels of activation during rest (when a person is not focusing on an external task). The precuneus has been linked to self-consciousness, self-related mental representations, and the retrieval of personal memories. How is this conducive to creativity? According to the researchers, “Such an inability to suppress seemingly unnecessary cognitive activity may actually help creative subjects in associating two ideas represented in different networks.”
Prior research shows a similar inability to deactivate the precuneus among schizophrenic individuals and their relatives. Which raises the intriguing question: what  happens if we directly compare the brains of creative people against the brains of people with schizotypy?
Enter a hot-off-the-press study by Andreas Fink and colleagues. Consistent with the earlier study, they found an association between the ability to come up with original ideas and the inability to suppress activation of the precuneus during creative thinking. As the researchers note, these findings are consistent with the idea that more creative people include more events/stimuli in their mental processes than less creative people. But crucially, they found that those scoring high in schizotypy showed a similar pattern of brain activations during creative thinking as the highly creative participants, supporting the idea that overlapping mental processes are implicated in both creativity and psychosis proneness.
It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible. Because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas. Indeed, Shelley Carson and her colleagues found that the most eminent creative achievers among a sample of Harvard undergrads were seven times more likely to have reduced latent inhibition. In other research, they found that students with reduced latent inhibition scored higher in openness to experience, and in my own research I’ve found that reduced latent inhibition is associated with a faith in intuition.
 What is latent inhibition? Latent inhibition is a filtering mechanism that we share with other animals, and it is tied to the neurotransmitter dopamine. A reduced latent inhibition allows us to treat something as novel, no matter how may times we’ve seen it before and tagged it as irrelevant. Prior research shows a link  between reduced latent inhibition and schizophrenia. But as Shelley Carson points out in her “Shared Vulnerability Model,” vulnerable mental processes such as reduced latent inhibition, preference for novelty, hyperconnectivity, and perseveration can interact with protective factors, such as enhanced fluid reasoning, working memory, cognitive inhibition, and cognitive flexibility, to “enlarge the range and depth of stimuli available in conscious awareness to be manipulated and combined to form novel and original ideas.”
Which brings us to the real link between creativity and mental illness.
The latest research suggests that mental illness may be most conductive to creativity indirectly, by enabling the relatives of those inflicted to open their mental flood gates but maintain the protective factors necessary to steer the chaotic, potentially creative storm.
© 2013 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved
 Disclaimer: Portions of this post were taken from this post and this book.
Note: For much more on the real links between mental illness and creativity, I highly recommend the upcoming book “New ideas about an old topic: Creativity and mental illness,” edited by James C. Kaufman, due out next year! I also recommend the following paper by Andrea Kuszewski: “The Genetics of Creativity: A Serendipitous Assemblage of Madness.”
photo credit #1: creepypasta.wikia.com; photo credit #2: woman writing by valerie hardy; photo credit #3: searching for a baseline: functional imagining and the resting human brain; photo credit #4: istockphoto
About the Author: Scott Barry Kaufman is a cognitive psychologist interested in the development of intelligence and creativity. In his latest book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, he presents a new theory of human intelligence that he hopes will help all people realize their dreams. Follow on Twitter @sbkaufman.
The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
 

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Candid Conversation with Voice Actors Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, and Rob Paulsen on Autism

Though you may not recognize these names up front, you're highly likely to know the characters they have voiced.  Listen to this podcast that they recorded of a conversation with these men on the topic of autism.

Conversation with Rob Paulsen, Jim Cummings, and Jess Harnell about Autism

Jennifer Jordan
October 1, 2013      
   
Conversation with Rob Paulsen, Jim Cummings, and Jess Harnell about Autism

  Listen to the podcast here:



Winnie the Pooh and Yakko and Wakko Warner Discuss Autism at GraniteCon 2013

From GraniteCon 2013, we have an uncommon and memorable experience with some incredibly iconic people to share. Our friend, Gary Sohmers (CEO of IMAGE and pop culture expert), sits down with Rob Paulsen (“The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” “Animaniacs,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”), Jim Cummings (“Darkwing Duck,” “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” “Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers”), and Jess Harnell (“Drawn Together,” “Animaniacs,” “Wreck-It Ralph”). What starts as a candid conversation about Thomas and Jenni’s son, Lex, morphs into a round-table discussion from Rob, Jim, Jess, and Gary on personal experiences they’ve had within the autism community. What ensues is a touching, sincerely personal talk about the opportunities and changes that are developing for individuals and families living with autism. A big “thank you” to these fantastic men for taking the time to talk with us, Mary Dumas and Gary Sohmers for moderating, and to GraniteCon and Jeff Zannini for facilitating.

Show Notes:
The first couple minutes of the podcast were never meant to be published. The conversation, however, was so organic that we decided it needed to be included.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Artist Smurf!

Where I work, we have child and adolescent psychiatry fellows rotate through every three months.  So I have worked with many fellows over the years, but this is the first time I received something from one of them as a farewell gift.  Dr. Smith was very thoughtful and found Smurf figurines that represented each of us, and she gave me an artist Smurf!  It was very sweet and cute, and every time I look at it I will think about her. 


 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bidding farewell to another year of interns...

It always amazes me how fast the school years go by when I supervise interns, and their last day of interning is always bittersweet.  The last day always brings surprises along with the farewells.  This year, my interns gave me gifts of things I like and even to help me professionally.  It's always a privilege to be a supervisor to my interns.  Thank you Susan and Francesca!

Chocolate!

Mythological Creature miniatures for my sandtray
 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Art is Moving!

Not everyone gets involved with formal art therapy, but using art as a means of therapeutic or community expression for art's sake is a common outlet for people to get in touch with their expressive self.  Lauren Odell Usher, one of the co-founders of the NPO "Art is Moving!", brings art to the people in the community so they can discover its benefits, for free.  She shared some thoughts with me about art that I will pass on to you.  As an artist, you might also want to get involved!

I am an artist. I believe it is my job to serve my community. 


How do I serve that community? 

There are a number of different ways, from creating beauty to instigating positive change to creating inspiration. I choose to serve my community by providing them the opportunity to discover the positive impact art can have on their lives. My hope is that every person I interact with will bring more art into their lives in some way or another. 

 Why do I do this? 

Plain and simple. I believe in art. From my own experience, from stories I’ve heard from other people, and from observing the shift in people while they create art. Art does something to us. It opens us up to a whole new part of ourselves. It opens us up to our community. It gives us space to breath. 

How do I do this? 

 I started Art is Moving with my collaborator, Lisa Rasmussen, in 2008. Art is Moving was born because we wanted to create a “safe” place for everyone to engage with art. We both could recall several conversations with “non-artists” that involved the other person saying things like, “I just don’t understand art” or “I can’t do it, I’m not talented enough.” Both Lisa and myself believe that art is for everyone and so we started an open dialog through our blog to stop the stigma that art was just for a few and that it was only about talent. 

The Positive Impact 

 I’m happy to report that in the last 5 years through programs like Art Break Day, Art is Moving has served over 20,000 individuals in 7 different communities. We’ve spoken with hundreds of people who, after creating art at one of our tables, expressed interest in continuing art making as a daily practice. After one sitting participants can already feel the impact art can have on them. It’s relaxing, meditative, expressive, healing, and a great alternative way to communicate. 

Where do we go from here?

There are still 3.9 million children who have no access to art class in school (source). That’s a shameful number. As an artist it is up to me to serve my community and make sure art is a part of that community. I will keep on putting art opportunities into the public sphere until that number hits zero. 


 - Lauren Odell Usher 
Co-Founding Director, Art is Moving 
Make sure you take an ART BREAK on September 6th!

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Flower Art Set to Relaxation Music

I was very privileged to have some of my artwork be selected for videos set to composer Rebecca Tripp's relaxing music of several waltzes she has written for many different flowers.  I love the mixture of artwork and relaxation, something I use often together at work.  Thank you Rebecca!

Here, one of my watercolor pieces selected to be a part of original plumeria artwork set to music reflecting the beauty of the Frangipani in her 55th Flower Waltz.  My piece is featured at the 0:15 mark.

 
 
Here, one of my oil paintings was selected to help illustrate Rebecca's music of the "Waltzing Bird of Paradise."  
It is featured at the 0:30 mark. 
 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Classic Client Quote: Can you ever be *bad* at art?

Occasionally, I hear wonderful quotes from my clients at work, which I call Classic Client Quotes.  On this day, a client was graduating the program, and he felt that art therapy had helped him not only emotionally, but also technically and felt his art skills had improved (despite no emphasis on technique or product). On his last day, he stated his viewpoint on how people should not be concerned about their artistic skill level, as he experienced it in art therapy, and that the act of engaging in art is progress in and of itself:

"If you're actually bad at art, you're probably dead."  - Nick Dimira

(used with permission and pseudonym by the client)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Zentangle Workshop!


Some of you may be familiar with the Zentangle method, a meditative approach to drawing created by Rick and Maria.  The Potomac Art Therapy Association (PATA) hosted a workshop at the GW Art Therapy Department led by Certified Zentangle Teacher Chelsea Kennedy, MA, ATR.  She taught us 5 "tangles," or official patterns, which included the Hollibaugh, Paradox, Crescent Moon, Printemps, and Bales.  We had a great time drawing together, a mixture of students and professionals, and put our tiles together at the end for a collaborative mosaic picture of our zentangles (see above).  This is a great method to use with people who feel they cannot draw or don't know where to start, or even for yourself for small moments of refocusing or relaxing.
 
Here is my first official Zentangle Tile completed at the workshop:
 
 


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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Expressive Therapies Summit 2013


I had the privilege of going to the weekend conference of both the Expressive Arts Therapies as Medicine and the first Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Training Institute during April 12-14, 2013.  It was a wonderful mixture of not only art therapy, but also dance/movement, play, music, drama therapies as well.  The first day was a symposium where each modality was introduced to the attendees.  The second and third days had a wide variety of offerings, and the panels I attended were very helpful for my particular line of work.  Even better, this was a local conference for me, 15 minutes from home/work, though it was stated that people from 36 states and 6 countries were in attendance.  If you are an art therapist or in a creative arts therapy field, I would recommend this as a training to look into and to plan attending.  It was coordinated by Barry Cohen, ATR-BC and chaired/created by Judith Rubin, PhD, ATR-BC, HLM and Eliana Gil, PhD, APT-S, ATR, LMFT.  Next year's training is slated for April 4-6, 2014.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One way to approach art therapy....


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Art Therapists - What DO We Do?


My intern Francesca and I were talking about these memes at lunch and noted we hadn't seen any to reflect the occupation of Art Therapist.  We had talked about making one up on our own, but she found one already made that I wanted to share.  Not a bad rendition...

Does this one sum up your experience as an art therapist?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Power of Art: Can creativity cure the sick?

The BBC created a report featuring my art therapy colleague Tracy Councill, who heads up Tracy's Kids, an art therapy service to pediatric oncology at Georgetown Hospital.  Also interviewed or featured is my alma mater, the George Washington University Art Therapy Program as are my former classmates Dr. Donna Betts (now research professor of art therapy at GW) and Heidi Bardot (Director of the GW Art Therapy MA program).  Way to go guys!


Can unleashing inner creativity heal the sick? 

Nine-year-old leukaemia patient Ryan is in no doubt. "It makes you feel like you can do anything really," he says of the art therapy classes he enjoys, thanks to a US charity.

The American military has also long embraced art therapy, using it as a core treatment to help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. Now top brass are leading research to find out why this kind of treatment works.

As Jane O'Brien reports in the second part of our Power of Art series, mounting clinical evidence of art's medical benefits could bring new and exciting ways to harness its power.

Produced by the BBC's Matt Danzico

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Art: The Unspeakable Language

A couple of years ago, we had the pleasure of hosting some Danish visitors who were touring the US, and one of them was a psychology major at the University of Copenhagen, but was also interested in art therapy.  So we got to talk about it a little while they were here.  Yesterday, she posted a wonderful quote that I had to share with all of you (with her permission):

"Amazed how art (in this case: one gut feeling question concerning art) can work its way to a person´s soul in a way that a 1000 therapeutic words can't.  University didn't teach me things like how to invent language for the unspeakable. Art did."  

- Elli Gørtz Kappelgaard

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Follow Me on Twitter!

I have now finally joined the Twitter-verse.  

You can follow me @Art_Tx

(Click on the icon below)




Saturday, January 19, 2013

How Music Helps to Heal the Injured Brain

I know this is a blog about art therapy, but as some of you know, I post occasionally about music therapy also.  Being a musician, I particularly appreciate this sister creative arts therapy.  An article published in "Cerebrum" from the DANA Foundation in 2010 explores how music helps neurologically with injured brains, calling the approach neurologic music therapy.  It is a lengthy article, so I will post the editor's note below, as well as links to the PDF and online articles.  Many thanks to my oboe teacher who shared this with me!

Editor’s note: The use of music in therapy for the brain has evolved rapidly as brain-imaging techniques have revealed the brain’s plasticity—its ability to change—and have identified networks that music activates. Armed with this growing knowledge, doctors and researchers are employing music to retrain the injured brain. Studies by the authors and other researchers have revealed that because music and motor control share circuits, music can improve movement in patients who have suffered a stroke or who have Parkinson’s disease. Research has shown that neurologic music therapy can also help patients with language or cognitive difficulties, and the authors suggest that these techniques should become part of rehabilitative care. Future findings may well indicate that music should be included on the list of therapies for a host of other disorders as well.


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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just do it!


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Notre Dame de Namur University to Offer Nation's First Ph.D. in Art Therapy

There aren't too many doctorate programs that incorporate art therapy, and the ones that have been in existence are PhD's in Education with a specialty in Art Therapy (like at Florida State University) or in Expressive Therapies or Creative Arts Therapies (to include art therapy, such as at Drexel University or Lesley University).  This is the first to be a PhD degree specifically in Art Therapy, now offered at Notre Dame de Namur University.  The field is progressing!


BELMONT, Calif., Jan. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A small Catholic university in California has become the first in the nation to offer a Ph.D. in art therapy. Beginning in fall 2013, Notre Dame de Namur University will admit its first class for the three-year program leading to a Doctor of Philosophy in Art Therapy. With 133 students, NDNU's master's program in art therapy is the largest in the United States and is recognized internationally as one of the leading art therapy programs in the world. This will be NDNU's first doctoral program.

"Art therapy, as a discipline, has been practiced since the 1940s and has grown rapidly in recent years," said Dr. Richard Carolan , chair of the NDNU Department of Art Therapy, "The need for a rigorous program designed to produce art therapists with a high level of skill in both research and clinical work has been clear for several years. As a recognized leader in the field of art therapy it was logical for NDNU to offer the first Ph.D. in this discipline." He added that in recent years, positions for art therapists have been growing rapidly in hospitals, K-12 school programs, community agencies, military family and veteran's health services and services for the elderly.

According to the Art Therapy Association (ATA), art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. Research in the field confirms that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

The three-year NDNU Ph.D. program is designed for working art therapy professionals with master's degrees in art therapy or a related field and emphasizes scholarly research as well as clinical expertise. NDNU, long a pioneer in the field of art therapy, has offered a master of arts in art therapy for more than 30 years and was one of the first schools in the west to offer the degree. Mount Mary College in Milwaukee is the only other institution offering a post-master's degree in art therapy, a doctorate in art therapy (DAT). According to the Art Therapy Association, two other schools offer art therapy as a concentration within other disciplines and two others offer doctorates in creative/expressive art therapies.

About NDNU

Notre Dame de Namur University is an independent Catholic, coeducational institution serving more than 2000 students. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, Belgium in 1851 and chartered by the state in 1868, NDNU offers 21 liberal arts and career preparation undergraduate programs, and 13 graduate degrees and four credentials. The 50-acre campus is located in Belmont, just south of San Francisco. For more information visit www.ndnu.edu.

SOURCE Notre Dame de Namur University

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Classic Client Quote: Encouraging words...

Sometimes in my line of work it can be a thankless job. We often have success stories, but don't always get feedback or at least anything in tangible form. From a recent graduate of the program where I work, some poignant words left behind that definitely make this our efforts worth it:

“I can’t imagine the amount of self-control and strength it must take to have to hear some of the horrible stories that have happened to the kids here. You all are changing lives and sometimes saving them. THANK YOU. Now read that 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. That should amount to at least half of what I owe you all.”

I wanted to share this with you, and hopefully give you encouragement as well that whether you know it or not, your efforts in helping people's lives get better doesn't always go unnoticed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Adventures in Art Therapy" selected as Top 100 Counseling Resource

What exciting news I got today!  This blog has been selected in the Top 100 Counseling Resources, specifically in the section of "Art and Music Therapy."  Aside from having that honor, I recommend that you should check out this site with many resources located in one place.  If you are in the mental health profession, please check it out.  You might find several of the sites they list to be very helpful. :)


Thursday, August 16, 2012

A little art humor for today...


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Current-day technology helps those with autism communicate

This segment features the use of tablet computers for those diagnosed on the autistic spectrum who cannot speak, but can use them to communicate with others. This is quickly becoming a new trend using something visual to communicate language.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Artists for Autism

I was made aware of the organization, Artists for Autism, via Candi Spitz, who in her own right is an advocate for those diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders as a spokesperson for Autism Speaks as well as a newly appointed ambassador for Project Lifesaver.  This organization welcomes the use of all forms of the arts - art, music, writing, etc. - as ways to connect with or use as therapy with individuals diagnosed with autism.  They also have a Facebook page where you can also find more information about this organization.  Check it out and help support the arts and creative arts therapies as they improve the lives of those with PDD and ASD.  Since these modalities are nonverbal (other than writing), they are often able to reach this population in a different way than traditional therapies to help them to communicate and to express themselves, to calm themselves, or to help them connect with others.  Art Therapy and Music Therapy seems particularly helpful in this regard.  Many thanks to Artists for Autism for bringing awareness of the importance of the arts in the use of autism treatment!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Digital art therapy used with gambling addiction treatment

Virginia center makes further inroads with art therapy

                                                                                            
June 6, 2012
Gambling treatment facility now uses digital formats along with traditional tools    
                 
Already engaging its patients more in art therapy than what can be found at most addiction treatment centers, Virginia-based Williamsville Wellness recently began supplementing its art sessions with digital art therapy using tablet PCs and the iPad. Regardless of the medium, administrators at the center that specializes in residential treatment for gambling addiction believe art therapy facilitates the process of understanding feelings—both for the patient and the treatment team.
 
“Art therapy draws out things that often can’t be drawn out in other forms of therapy,” says Williamsville Wellness founder Bob Cabaniss. When a patient draws something to be interpreted later by a therapist working with the patient, “You can’t hide. You can’t lie,” Cabaniss says.
 
Adds Laurie McArthur, Williamsville Wellness’s art therapist for the past year and a half, “Art therapy gives a person a good way of looking at themselves. It also slows them down—you can’t draw fast.”
 
And the latter is especially true because most patients lament when first introduced to art therapy that they have no art skills and haven’t drawn or painted since middle school, McArthur says. She tries to put patients at ease by reminding them that they have strengths in other areas, and she emphasizes that this therapeutic work is about gaining information, not judging the quality of one’s art.
 
With art therapy now moving into digital formats along with the traditional methods, patients can see their work in more vivid colors, edit their work on an ongoing basis, and be readily reminded of past works when doing so is useful to the treatment experience. “The therapist can now e-mail a drawing to the patient and say, ‘Remember this drawing?’” Cabaniss says.
 
McArthur says she conducts mostly individual art therapy sessions with patients, in an organization that emphasizes individual therapy overall. She does conduct one group art therapy session per week. Patients typically receive two to four hours of art therapy a week while in Williamsville Wellness’s art therapy program.
 
McArthur collaborates with the rest of the center’s treatment team daily, which allows the art therapy to function as an integrated element of the treatment experience as opposed to a stand-alone exercise.
 
“Without it, it would take a little longer to get information about the patient,” McArthur says. “Patients don’t always want to report things upfront.”


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Creativity and Depression: Is There a Link?

I came across this article recently and thought it was particularly poignant since I often come across very creative and intelligent individuals who are dealing with mental health problems, and since I provide art therapy, creativity is inherent in the type of treatment.  An interesting article that I thought would be good food for thought here.

Creativity and Depression: Is There a Link?

Posted by Writing Staff on May 2, 2011 10:59 AM

The mad genius, the tormented artist, the melancholy poet. History is filled with writers, poets, artists, musicians, composers, and other creative people who wrestled with mood disorders. A list of just a few of them would include Dickinson, Poe, Emerson, Dickens, Faulkner, Hemingway, Melville, Tolstoy, O'Keefe, Gaugin, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky. But is this portrayal just a stereotype, or is there really a link between creativity and depression?

Prevalence of Mood Disorders in Creative People

This question haunted Arnold M. Ludwig, a researcher at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He embarked on a 10-year study of 1004 men and women who were prominent in a variety of professions, including art, music, science, business, politics, and sports. Ludwig found that between 59 and 77 percent of the artists, writers, and musicians suffered mental illness (particularly mood disorders) compared to just 18 to 29 percent in the less artistic professionals.

Most studies on this subject have consistently shown higher rates of mood disorders in creative people, differing only in the magnitude of the results. Are creative people destined to experience depression or bipolar disorder ? Or does having a mental illness make people more creative? Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, addresses these questions in her book, Touched with Fire, and notes that most creative people do not suffer from recurring mood swings. In fact, the majority of people suffering from depression and bipolar disorder do not have extraordinary imaginations. "To assume that such diseases usually promote artistic talent wrongly reinforces simplistic notions of the 'mad genius," she writes.

Unraveling the Mystery

Why is it, then, that such a high percentage of creative people suffer from depression and bipolar disorder? Do these diseases enhance creativity in certain people or do characteristics of the creative mind render one more vulnerable to these diseases? The answers to these questions are uncertain, but a number of theories have been proposed.

Mania and the Creative Process

The manic phase of bipolar disorder is characterized by emotions and behaviors that parallel the creative process. These include:
  • Original thinking
  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Increased drive and productivity
  • Increased fluency, fluidity, and frequency of thoughts
  • Tendency to use rhymes, idiosyncratics, and alliteration
  • Sharp focus
  • Intensity
  • Ability to function on limited sleep
  • Increased quality and quantity of word usage
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Psychosis
In certain people with bipolar disorder, these manic characteristics will enhance creativity. In contrast, the depressive phase of bipolar disorder is characterized by introspection, rumination, lack of interest in one's surroundings, and intense psychological pain, all of which can add depth and meaning to creative work. This may partially explain the profound creativity seen in many people with bipolar disorder.

The Social Challenges of Being Creative

One theory suggests that many creatively gifted individuals may suffer from depression as a result of being in environments that don't support their creativity. In her book, The Woman's Book of Creativity, C. Diane Ealy, PhD, writes, "Many studies have shown us that a young girl's ideas are frequently discounted by her peers and teachers. In response, she stifles her creativity. Other experts agree that suppressed and misunderstood creativity can lead to severe neurotic and psychotic behavior, addictions, unhealthy relationships, concealment of abilities, hopelessness, and depression.

Gifted and talented people are often divergent thinkers who have unusual, original, and creative perception and elaborate fantasies. They may disagree with authority, invest in their own interests, and express unpopular views. This can present social challenges, particularly for girls and women, as a result of a cultural expectation to conform. Gifted and talented people generally receive little acceptance for their unique selves, and may have poor self-esteem and difficulty trusting people. This situation can lead to feelings of isolation and frequent bouts of depression.

Gifted and talented adults are driven to express their inner creativity but may be hindered by self-criticism, self-doubt, and feelings of inferiority, says Mary Rocamora, who heads a school in Los Angeles for gifted and talented adults. When this happens, frustration can turn into hopelessness and depression.

Finally, creative individuals, such as writers and artists, often spend long hours working in solitude. When faced with various stressors they may not have as much social support as those who work among other people. This may result in increased stress, feelings of isolation, and depression. For this reason, it's helpful for creative people to develop outside interests that involve socializing, especially if their work is solitary.

Treatment Concerns for Creative People

According to Jamison, creative people with mood disorders are often reluctant to comply with drug therapies. These treatments may hinder their creativity by dampening mental processes, perception, and range of emotion. While it is still unclear if a true link between creativity and depression exists, creative people with mental illness require treatments that alleviate their symptoms and prevent serious complications, but preserve their ability to perceive vital human emotions.



RESOURCES:
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Foundation for Depressive Illness

Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted

References:
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Ealy, C. Diane. The Woman's Book of Creativity . Beyond Words Publishing Co, May 1996.

Jamison, Kay Redfield. Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament . Touchstone Books, October 1996.

National Foundation for Depressive Illness
Last reviewed May 2006 by Jill Landis, MD

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Happy Graduation!



BIG congratulations to the George Washington University Art Therapy Class of 2012 - 
especially my 3 graduating interns from last year and this year - Sara, Rebecca, and Shaina!