inside art therapy

Putting art therapy ramblings to paper…

Finishing touches January 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — insidearttherapy @ 11:22 pm

I am exhausted.  My brain is melting.  I can see the finish line, but those last few hurdles look huge.  The most rewarding activity of the last few days has been inserting images into the text.  I have a gorgeous and talented daughter who is a photographer, cook, blogger, crafter and all round wonderful gal.  She has taken all of the photographs for the book and had edited them and made them just right!

An art therapy book is good, but beautiful pictures make it even better!  Aren’t they wonderful?

Please be patient with me as I get through the next couple of days. Don’t give up on me though, I will continue to post, even after the book has left my hands.   I aim to then transfer my art therapy musings to this forum instead of the book.


Writing in the South of France (well… nearly!) January 26, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,Glenda Needs,How art can heal — insidearttherapy @ 4:29 pm

I finally get it.  I really do.  For ever I have believed that writers who would slip off to the south of France and sit in a high room overlooking the sea or some beautiful countryside, in order to write, were indeed being a wee bit self indulgent. One can surely write anywhere?  But no, apparently not.  I have spent the last 18 hours in beautiful Victor Harbor, in a hotel room, up high overlooking the sea.  And I am writing, waxing lyrically actually.  It just seems to flow.  Every time I look out on the world I feel omnipotent, all seeing, all wise (!).  Is nature balancing my overstimulated brain? Actually, I’m not sure why this works so well, but clearly it does.  I am powering through the final pages of my book. I feel like writing poetry.

  • Art Therapy allows a person to “step out of the frame of the prevailing ideology,” as Rank wrote in Art and Artist (Otto, 1989) In doing so, the art becomes a reflection of the artist’s assumptions and beliefs. This process of “stepping out” of the frame, of thorough externalisation, creates an unknown field, one with which the artist now has to be reconciled. “What do I see?”  The incongruity bellows loudly. What results is the opportunity for a new way of knowing, or a new way of being, never before known to the artist.  It is a creative act. A brave act of trial and error and great invention: the invention of a new self, one never seen before.

    Ok, back to the task at hand



Thank you and About Ikon Institute Australia January 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — insidearttherapy @ 12:27 pm

I also want to thank all of those wonderful people who offered suggestions for a portable and studio art therapy kit. I have duly added most of them. Of course we all know you can have endless supplies and mediums to work with, but for beginner art therapists it is handy to have some sort of a checklist to get you started.

I have referred to my teaching Art Therapy on a few occasions and thought you might like to know a bit more. Jump on this link to see the wonderful courses available at Ikon in QLD, SA and WA.

Have a wonderful week!


Telling good stories

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,Glenda Needs,How art can heal,The Unconscious — insidearttherapy @ 12:15 pm

First up, let me explain that the number on the side of this page, the countdown to the day I stop writing is freaking me out.  How can I stop? There is still a thousand pages rattling around in my head.  What if I miss something out that is really important?  What if I make a blanket statement without clarifying that this is not always the case? What if the reader thinks that this is all there is to art therapy?  So many unanswered questions.  So few days.

I have ritual and research paragraphs to write, and then it is back to the beginning to enter further reading and experiential exercises.  Then, after a final proof read myself, it is up to my trusty editors to pick up my spelling errors and strange writing quirks. I feel so indebted to them already!

I have a trip to Brisbane to teach in early March for Ikon Institute SA. I just keep thinking how great it will be to just walk along the river after a day of lecturing, just eating a leisurely dinner and to NOT BE THINKING I NEED TO WRITE ANOTHER FEW PAGES!

Ok.  On with the show.  Today’s snippet from the book (unedited …), is about story telling and book making. I like to tell a good story. I like to add emphasis at those very funny, sad, or amazing points.  I like to see my listener take the journey with me. There is something quite affirming about watching your listener take the emotional path you have led them down.  I also like to hear good stories. Ones that challenge my thinking, cause me to wonder how I’d manage such circumstances. Stories that make me laugh at the incongruity of it all.  Story telling is largely how we relate our experiences to others.  It’s not often we do a factual account with nothing more than dates, times and actions unless we are telling this to the tax consultant.  Usually we tell our stories with emotion, with something about our beliefs stamped on them.  We tell stories with humour, or with great sadness, and we like nothing better than to ‘see’ that we have been ‘heard’ by watching the listener experience something of the emotion we have expressed.  Story telling has a real place in therapy.

  • Story and Art Therapy

    So often the use of an externalised model of therapy, the construction of metaphor and the freedom to create, result in a great deal of storytelling. This often occurs naturally throughout the therapy sessions and noting details of the story may make it possible to construct an actual storybook as a celebration of the journey taken, the results achieved, or the hurdles overcome.  A method for such storytelling that has become increasingly popular in psychotherapy in recent years, is the Hero’s Journey.  This concept was documented and explored by anthropologists and mythologists such as Otto Rank,   in “Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden”   (Rank, 1922) .  (Recent English version “The Myth of the Birth of the Hero: A Psychological Exploration of Myth”).(Rank, Richter, & Lieberman, 2004)   and Joseph Campbell in  The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces 2nd Edition, 1949) who fully described the stages and universality of this model.

    This monomyth, as it is often referred to, is a universal story structure now used by writers and filmmakers the world over.  Not only does the model beautifully encapsulate the cyclic calls to adventure, the struggles, battles, desperation, successes and personal growth, but the structure of such stories has great appeal to humankind.  Our experience with an old washing machine has parallels with Luke Skywalker’s struggles in Star Wars. We might not have such huge life and death issues to deal with on a daily basis, but for many people, the supposedly small battles can be, at times, overwhelmingly big.  It is in our empathy for the character in the story, that we generate a sense of resonance and this resonance connects human beings.

    Story telling in therapy not only further enables externalisation, metaphoric expression and presentation of unconscious material, but it also allows the story teller the power to connect with the listener, the audience.  The old English proverb, ‘a troubled shared is a trouble halved’ somehow resonates with this ability we have to leave some of our pain with another in the form of empathy.  Even in celebration, we join together, advertise our success and take great joy from the ability of others to ‘feel’ our joy.  

    Thus a story telling and art based book making process can be extremely beneficial in therapy.  The book itself memorialises the experience, the challenges, the battles and the joys.  It is a trophy, a reminder of the journey- The Hero’s Journey!


Dreams and angry elephants continued… January 18, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,How art can heal,The Unconscious — insidearttherapy @ 2:17 pm

I seem to be jumping around a bit now in my writing. Filling in the gaps.  I am well aware of my tendency to just kept slogging on at something and trying to make it better and better, when frequently all I do is end up rearranging the mediocre!   I think I’ll finish up with dream work now and come back to it again with fresh eyes in a few days.  I think the heat here in South Australia is melting my brain!

  • Engaging art in the exploration of dreams can be facilitated in many ways.  A client can draw or paint the significant images and scenes from a dream.  Often the client will report that they do not have enough clarity or detail. In this instance, reassure the client that the dream came from within, and that allowing intuition to guide them in creating detail will perhaps access the same unconscious material that originally generated the dream.  Remember to again make the images that result, subject to a phenomenological investigation.  Make the art unknown, perhaps by rotation or distance, and ask the client, “What do you see now?”   “What does this mean to you?”  “Does this have some relevance in the (the goal for therapy generally or this activity)?”  “What feelings are generated when you view this image?” (Note the continued externalisation by not asking the client what his or her feelings are.)   Another useful exploration is to create the before and after images of a dream scene.

    Encourage the client to identify objects in the dream, and explain them. What do they mean or represent? How might this object represent part of themselves or experience?

    Ask the dreamer to imagine him or herself as any object or character within the dream. What feelings are generated? What resonance does the client feel with the object or character portrayed?  What dissonance does the client experience? Where are the feelings of power and powerlessness?

    Have the client create an answer to the questions posed by the dream.  For example, the client may decide that the question posed is “What big elephant experience or belief am I inclined to dress up or enhance by adding a feather boa?” and “If the elephant is angry, is this exaggerating approach that I take, going to blow up in my face?”  The client can draw a single dream scene in answer, or perhaps a sequence.


What’s in your art therapy kit? January 17, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,Glenda Needs — insidearttherapy @ 10:30 pm

What do you keep in a portable kit?  What extras do you have in your consulting studio?

Please comment with suggestions!

Basic Portable kit

Paper A3 80gsm plain paper

A4 quality cartridge paper

A4 thin cardboard

Assorted origami paper

Chalky soft pastels

Oil pastels

Watercolour pencils

Watercolour wheel and 4 brushes

Felt tip markers

Fine liners (fine tip markers)


Cutting knife and board

Pencil sharpener

Glue stick

Masking tape

Glue gun and glue sticks

Aluminium foil

Pop sticks

Crafting wire

plastic cups

sandwich bag of dry casting plaster

lunch box of small craft objects, found and purchased, including beads, sequins, nuts and bolts, feathers, gumnuts, stones, shells

Marbling inks and tray (the lid of the box can sometimes be used for a tray)

White modelling air dry clay, plasticine or play-dough

Basic clay tools

Avocado stones

Lino carving tools

Paper towel


Tissues and hand wipes


Basic Studio consulting kit

All of the above and

Sand tray

Small objects for sand tray work

Paints –acrylic

Assortment of brushes and sponges

Old magazines, pictures, wrapping papers for collage

Wallpaper glue

Old telephone books

Clay and silt bucket

Sponges and clay tools

Small aerated concrete blocks  (approx. 20 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm)

Carving tools

Face masks

Linoleum tiles for print making

Blender, frames and tubs for paper making

Large construction wire and pliers

Rolls of brown paper

Scrap booking materials

Fabric scraps


Angry elephants in Feather boas January 15, 2012

Filed under: Art Therapy,Creativity,The Neuroscience of Art and Therapy,The Unconscious — insidearttherapy @ 1:39 pm

Ok. So it is now 1.45pm and it is time to wash the coffee mugs and pack away the laptop ready for our family photo shoot.  What did I achieve today?

I got through a lot of information about Mandala.  Mmm. Not something I am terribly enthralled by and that makes it hard work. Not because I don’t like Mandala as such, but because so much is already written about it.

Then came the fun bit.  Dreams.

  • Dream Work

    Dreams lend themselves beautifully to art therapy processes.  Once we fully accept that a dream is of our own making, then we can find value in examining how it came to be.  Whether the dream is a divine intervention, a message from the cosmos or an invention of an overactive imagination is irrelevant in this approach.  A dream has taken just some of the millions of possible storylines floating around in our unconscious, connected the dots (perhaps in a very haphazard way) and created a story. It’s out story.  We authored it ourselves. There may not be a predetermined meaning for this dream, but our efforts to understand it, will be insightful.  Just what we believe the feather boa wearing elephant to represent in our lives will say something about you and your world.  And it will probably be different to someone else.  Freud and Jung certainly postulated many sexual and archetypal meanings for the material in our dreams. (Freud, 2010) We may or may not find this information useful, but the searching will be. The testing of hypothesis: Could this feather boa wearing elephant’s trunk have some sexual relevance according to Freud’s theories?  Does the elephant speak of some Indian mystical  knowledge?  Or perhaps the feathers are representative of a tribal headdress? Actually, listening to a hilarious rendition of the song ‘Ellie the Elephant’ has probably gotten snagged in my dream state!  A dream has a foot in both worlds and may well reflect some of the action of our day.


    So there we are. I did it.  Several more pages and numerous cups of coffee down.

    Another update tomorrow!   Smile for the camera now.  Glenda