Art therapy asks us to be a learner

Many of us know from personal experience that adult learners feel often cautious and vulnerable stepping into new territory. Being a learner is hard when we are are accustomed to the role of being experienced, wise, skilled or an expert. We have to step back into  a state of wonder and curiosity rather than a state of knowing.

Art therapy invites people to step out into the unknown in 4 major ways:

  • To go into their subconscious – expressing symbols and images that they may not even understand themselves we invite clients to learn from the parts of themselves that are not yet known to their conscious minds
  • Trust their instincts – which colour shall I choose? Which image describes me today? Art therapy challenges clients to flex their ‘choosing’ muscles, and allow their senses and ‘gut’ to guide them rather than their intellect
  • To express themselves using tools that might feel awkward and that sit closely to their centre of self criticism and risk – many people are stuck with feelings of inadequacy around creative expression. ‘I can’t draw – not even a stick figure!’ they say, getting in quick before anyone else can criticise them. Asking them to take tentative first steps into making a mark asks them to move forward into risky territory.
  • To share that with another person (or people) that they don’t yet know – not only do we ask that people share their artworks, and treat them with kindness and respect, we ask them to speak about their feelings and insights. The first week of a group in particular, before people create bonds of connection and develop feelings of trust by experiencing kindness and clear boundaries, can be very scary for people. They can arrive full of uncertainty and wondering what to expect.

How courageous are the people willing to go on this journey as individual clients and also as participants in groups!

And like all great adventures that begin with a courageous first step, what amazing wonders they may find on the journey.

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