inside art therapy

Putting art therapy ramblings to paper…

Dot Point Diva – Email at it’s most effective September 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — insidearttherapy @ 4:06 pm

This post is about one tiny aspect of self-care. It is about measuring and dealing with the day to day stressors that can add up and weigh us down. Today’s target: Email.

I am so over the huge time demand that workplace emails have brought into my life.  Typing is easier than writing, it’s easier than making a phone call. Relating a concept or a discussion that has been had with another person is now as easy as hitting the forward button.  And if I think a person is even vaguely interested, I can forward it ‘just in case’. I can send information and then be assured “I told them so”.  I can give them lots of information so that they don’t email me back with a long winded email with lots of questions! For the ‘speaker’ email has simplified our lives enormously. But what of the ‘listener’?

Because email is so easy, as the speaker we tend to over inform the listener. In an email we give the listener every last detail, and all too often in long drawn-out paragraphs that may, in fact, be more of a purging or cathartic missive, rather than an action plan, with only a few relevant points for the listener.

I aim to begin a revolution.  I aim to cut the ramblings and bless my listeners with dot point emails. Nothing more.  I aim to save my ramblings for my blog, (for when people have a choice to read it and usually the time!), and to cut to the point with my emails.

I plan on being the DOT POINT DIVA and I hope I can inspire you too.  Keep it simple and to the point. If we need to have a conversation, I’ll phone you. And if I still feel like I need to tell you my personal unresolved angst regarding some issue,  I’ll see an art therapist, paint a picture and get over it!


The 2013 Professional Carers Restorative Self Care Retreat August 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — insidearttherapy @ 5:19 pm

“Self Care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have,  the gift I was put on  earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self,  and  give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves, but for the many others  whose lives we touch.”    Parker Palmer, author of “Let Your Life Speak”

Come and join us for two and a half days of best practice in the helping and caring professions.  The retreat aims to take people on a journey through a reflective self assessment, along with self-nurturing elements to assist people back to the core of why they originally engaged in this type of work.  It builds progressively over the weekend, and you will be joined by other people from a variety of helping and caring professions, who will probably share some of the same challenges that you have had in regards to self-care.  I really see the key to longevity in such professions as the ability to engage in ongoing and nurturing self care practices.

The structure of the weekend will include arts based activities, (where no art skills are required at all), story-telling and creativity, along with sharing of experiences and some treats.  On top of this, you will be fed and nurtured, and you will be absolved from any dish-washing or cooking responsibilities for the whole weekend. Sound good?  Check out the webpage at

Passion or ‘Pop’? March 28, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,Glenda Needs — insidearttherapy @ 9:23 pm

I am in need of just one more check of the final editing fixes, and the book Art Therapy: Foundation and Form is ready for printing.  I am hoping in just two more weeks to have a few copies in the boot of my car.  I’m afraid I have been working far too hard over the past few weeks, teaching art therapy to many new students,  and this has left me little time for the things I love to do in my non-work time.  I’ve felt ready to pop.  Some of the frantic-ness, of course, has been self-inflicted. Like the time I invited the renowned Sitar and Tabla Player, Sandip Burman and his manager John, to stay with us, on my precious day off.  Sandip is doing a whirlwind world tour (well, New Zealand, 3 states in Australia, Singapore, and  Calcutta that I know of) and this is his bread and butter, as well as the bread and butter for his management team.   Wow, what a lovely experience it was to have the sounds of strings drifting through our home as I cooked dinner, and answered my emails.  Sandip is passionate about his art form, music, and he truly seemed to become one with the sitar as he played.   This begs the question, are we overworking ourselves when we are doing something we truly love, even if it is considered our ‘job’?  If we are passionate about our work, there is a temptation to blur the lines between leisure and a dogged pursuit of professional excellence.  How do we define those boundaries and practice appropriate self care under these circumstances?  I suspect the wisest measure is balance. Many things in life are delightful, the sun on your face, a beautiful wine, a sleep in. In excess however, all of these and many more are dangerous for us.  Even the great things we do for others can be self harming when done in excess.  It is up to you to decide where to draw the line between following your passion, and the point of ‘pop’!

Sandip and John were delightful guests and we are really hoping they pay us a visit during next year’s trip to Australia.  Thanks guys!


Swearing by MythBusters February 8, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,Glenda Needs,How art can heal — insidearttherapy @ 7:02 pm

MythBusters conducted an interesting test on whether swearing aloud increases tolerance to pain.

Although the sample size was extremely small (n=5), swearing aloud during a painful experience increased the participants’ ability to tolerate this pain by an average of 30%. Pretty impressive.  Although we can certainly question the methodology of this particular study, anecdotal evidence says people will report pain relief upon swearing.

But what is going on here? Whether you say ‘ elbow’, or ‘f**k”, it’s just a word, a collection of sounds with relevance to English speakers only. Is it the extent of expression that matters, in other words, the intensity with which the word is expressed or is it that the more ‘naughty’ or shock value in the word, the more pain one can withstand?  Does this mean that a usually mouthy person gets less relief when he or she swears during a painful incident?

If we know that swearing helps pain, how come we have so much trouble accepting that ART can ease pain?

The action of scuffing the pastel across the page, blocking in slabs of colour, moving the body in arcs and extension, in and out, up and over can add a rhythm and movement.  I had the opportunity for some lovely soothing pastel work today.  I am currently nursing a badly bruised arm (from a trip over the weekend). My arm is sore ( just slight pain in the background) but as I worked today, I noticed the pain in my arm almost in rhythm with the art making.  Part of me was annoyed, but another part of me welcomed the intensifying of the pain on the pull motions, whilst it lessened on the push motions.  As I worked I realized that the art gave purpose to my pain, it was ok to hurt because it was achieving something, and secondly, it was as if I was in control of it. It some ways I was in control. I could bring the pain on and ease it off. It was much better than being a passive experiencer of the pain.  I felt a small sense of mastery over it.  I also felt some reassurance that the pain is almost cyclical, that it is not fixed. I thought about how often I flex a sore muscle, or press a bruise,  drawn to make and then stop the pain by my own actions.  Is this a small opportunity to prove control over it?

I don’t know.

But I would suggest, that among other things, Art has these innate healing properties:

1.  Blood pressure, heart rate and other physiological stress indicators are reduced during art making.

2.  Art can be the ‘swear’ for some people who put this extent or intensity of expression into the art making act rather than the word.

3.  The whole body movement and choice to engage in art making despite pain, can give the artist a sense of control, where pain is usually uncontrolled.


Sneezing at the therapeutic relationship February 7, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,Glenda Needs,How art can heal — insidearttherapy @ 9:12 pm

I have permission to share the following story with you.  It will be removed if this lovely person changes her mind, which she is perfectly entitled to do.

Before I was an art therapist, I was a counsellor who used art.

I was working with Kate (not her real name) who really wanted to do something about her obsessively rigid, black and white attitude to the world which was causing her considerable issues in relationships.  Kate was determined that everything should be just right, all the time.  She believed that she should justify her decisions and then be immovable.  She believed that weak people made mistakes, or sat on the fence, and that she wouldn’t be liked if she wasn’t always right, and decisive.   After some work in lovely soft chalky pastels, Kate wanted to soften the image off even further.  As part of this act, in which she smudged and blended, Kate grated chalk dust over the image through a seive.

Within less the a minute of this process beginning, I unexpectedly sneezed.  I apologized and started to wipe my hands with a wet wipe, when I sneezed again, and again, and again.  After about 20 sneezes, I excused myself and went outside.  I ran into the adjoining bathroom and grabbed a handful of toilet paper and I blew my nose, over and over to clean out the chalk dust and hopefully stop the sneezing.  I wiped my teary eyes (from the exertion of sneezing- not because I was emotionally overwhelmed!), and returned to the consult room.   I apologized again, and Kate launched back into her process, but less than a minute later I began to sneeze again.  I worked hard to draw attention away from my sneezing over the following 20 minutes.  We continued but went from laughing about it, to wondering if something was wrong.  I went from embarrassment, annoyance, and internal fury, some of which must have shown on my face, to resignation that I’d probably never see Kate again!

Toward the end of the session, once the sneezing had finally stopped, I summarized the session.  I asked Kate what her ‘take home’ message might be and she floored me with her answer.  Kate told me that she realized that even though I was sneezing, which was awful and embarrassing for both of us at times, that she still ‘liked’ me.  She said that she knew I was angry with myself and that we didn’t get through much in the session.  While Kate was watching me struggle with the situation, it occurred to her, that sometimes things just aren’t controllable. She decided that even if things go pear shaped and embarrassing, it is possible to still be liked and even admired for surrendering to an unmanageable situation.  She said that if a counsellor can really mess up a session and still be liked and successful, and even welcome the next client with confidence, (an assumption on her behalf!), then perhaps she could be a little gentler on herself.   Most of all, she liked that I said “Sorry”, but didn’t blabber on about excuses for why it happened, or try to make it up to her.  She said that she didn’t expect me to be perfect, so it was unrealistic and irrational to think she should be. Apparently, even though on her first impressions I looked like a second-rate counsellor, she really liked me!

I learnt something that day too.  The therapeutic relationship can provide some opportunities for healing that we might never imagine.

Unfortunately, I made a little boo boo on the way out, when I offered a free session because this one had been such a disaster!  She refused saying that perhaps she should pay me double seeing as I went to such lengths for her.  I realized by offering a free session, I actually potentially diminished the value she’d gained, by sneezing at the power of the therapeutic relationship.

Thankfully Kate returned for several more sessions and I have not had anything like that sneezing attack since!





Brains and caterpillar Art February 1, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,The Neuroscience of Art and Therapy,Uncategorized — insidearttherapy @ 5:20 pm

One of the most amazing things that our bodies do, is move.  Think about it like this.  We take fuel, or nutrients, convert it into chemicals and then use it to create a mechanical movement. No need to plug in or turn it on or even think about it. We want to move, and we just do it.  What is even more amazing is how we regulate movement.  We go to grab a mug of coffee that we expect to be full but it’s not, and, as we pick it up, we nearly throw it over our shoulder because it’s so light.  On the other hand, we pick up a mug we expect to be empty and it’s not, it’s so heavy for a millisecond that we almost drop it. Somehow, our brain had determined that as this cup is full and will weigh (how much more?) that we will need to engage just a few more muscle fibres in the task of picking it up.  Just those few extra fibres that weren’t necessary make for a mighty forceful lift.  Or the full cup, bum, we didn’t engage enough, so on initial pickup the mug tilts wildly as our muscle and brain recalculates and gets enough lifting bits into action to lift it evenly.  And then we manage to carry a full cup, without it spilling, up a flight of stairs in the semi darkness. All fine, and we don’t spill a drop, until you think about it. Then the wobbles set in.

In my very first muscle physiology lecture, whilst I was listening to talk of myosin, actin and myofibrils and  I drew this:

Muscles it seems,contain millions of tiny critters, nibbling at the actin molecule with a tasty binding site to which the myosin cross-bridges (hereinafter referred to as caterpillars) can attach thus forming a contraction of the muscle as the darling things nibble and let go, nibble and let go.  The strength of the muscle pull just depends on how many caterpillars are recruited for the job.  The caterpillars are of course, clever creatures, and very obedient. If the brain says stop. the caterpillars, or just those instructed, stop immediately. Not like your average household pooch that can take 3 good yells and a schmako to make it stop.

I guess I want to make two points here.

ONE:  Every single movement, every single breath we take is truly a miraculous event.  Making art is wow, just so wow.

TWO:  This silly sketch, and a wonderful metaphor has helped me remember more about muscle physiology than I will ever have use for.

Finally, I’d like to point out that this highly automated system sometimes works too well.  I had my glass behind me on the bedhead and managed to pick it up, with my little finger to the rim of the glass instead of the usual pointer and thumb (try it behind your head!). Of course my brain decided once the glass made it almost over the top of my head, that something was terribly wrong and my hand did an auto correction, bringing my pointer and thumb to the upper position and pouring the entire contents over my head.  Mid-way through this spectacle, I attempted a reverse correction, but just slowed the pour enough for my husband to look up. Seeing me gently pouring iced tea over my head, he thought I’d finally flipped my lid.   At the conclusion of the incident, and my pithy explanation,  he fell out of bed laughing!


slowww coffee, chiropractor and a proof read January 30, 2012

Filed under: Glenda Needs — insidearttherapy @ 1:26 pm

I made it… I made it… I made it!

Last night I printed off my copy of the book.  Well, the ‘unedited except by me’ copy of my book.  I am done. I might need to do some more adjusting and so on once my real critics have a read, but it’s out there. The first and last pages and the reference list is done, I think most of the pages in between are done.  The relief last night was amazing. This morning I had a coffee OUTSIDE, in the SUN.  (Not at my computer). This morning I went to the chiropractor who somehow managed to get my neck and shoulder and arm all back in the right spots after sitting way way way too many hours at the computer over the past month, (it feels SOOO good), and I am about to sit down with a good book (well, I sincerely hope it’s going to be good), and proof-read my first hard copy (as opposed to sitting at the computer and reading it for the 100th time!).  I expect the editing and preparation process will take a while. But I do hope the printing will be done by the end of March.

Of course, the book might be written, but now I have to sell it! I am going to do a short youtube video, organise some $4 mini interactive web-seminars in line with the book content, hopefully get a piece in the local paper and ‘innerself”, organise a website with a ‘buy it with paypal now’ button and generally just make a nuisance of myself.

If any one has any other amazing marketing ideas, I would very much appreciate your comments.

Thank you all so much for your patience. Your support has meant a lot to meant and really inspired me to keep going.

A new art therapy based post will be coming your way shortly.