Tag Archives: Art Therapy

Mental Health and Art Therapy #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 15 in the #Write31Days challenge on mental health. I will resume writing about personality disorders soon, but today, I don’t have the energy to do my research. Instead, I will write about art therapy, which is a form of therapy that can be particularly helpful to people with mental health issues.

Art therapy is a creative method whereby art mediums are used in the therapeutic process. It obviously originated at the crossroads of art and psychotherapy. Sometimes art therapy is focused on the creative process itself. For example, today while in art therapy, I made polymer clay beads. Sometimes, art therapy focuses on analyzing the interaction between therapist and client while engaging in creative arts.

Many people use art therpay to express feelings they can’t express in words. For example, trauma survivors, especially children, may use art to express their feelings about their life and the trauma they endured. An example of this was mentioned to my high school class when we got an educational session on giftedness. (My school was a grammar school, where about 30% of pupils were gifted.) A gifted boy, when drawing the human face, always drew an angry face. Another example perhaps comes from myself. In high school, I often drew blue-eyed figures in cages. This was an expression of how I felt trapped by my blindness.

Art can also serve a symbolic step in the healing process. For example, sometime in 2014, I created a baby self out of clay. I put it in a box lined with soft textures to express that she was safe now.

Art therapy can also serve the purpose of having the client explore new creative media. In this way, it can be used to encourage people with anxiety or sensory issues to try out new things. For instance, I sometimes get to try new materials to explore the boundaries of my sensory and emotional tolerance.

The creative process can also be used to have patients step out of their comfort zones. For example, my art therapist and I have used a drawing exercise by which I’d draw a random pattern (I don’t have enough vision to draw anything meaningful anymore). My therapist would first stay at a safe distance with her felt tip, but would try to gradually move into my drawing space.

Lastly, art therapy can simply be a form of leisure or recreational therapy. The polymer clay bead making didn’t have much of a purpose, other than perhaps having me try to handle the feel of polymer clay. Then again, I came up with the idea of doing this. It is more just a way to learn new techniques to use in my free time.

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Word for the Year: Nurture

My word for 2014 was “self-care”. Didn’t do too well on that one. I meant to be saying goodbye to my self-destructive tendencies, including eating disorder issues. Didn’t work out. In fact, my binge eating spiraled even more out of control than it already was and I had some bad self-harming episodes. On the up side, however, I did start art therapy, which has been a good experience. Let’s hope for an even better one this year.

This year, I’m choosing a similar but broader theme for the year, which is “nurture”. It refers to both better self-care and nurturing my creativity. I do hope art therapy proves to be a good medium for this. My first art therapy session this year, yesterday, wasn’t too great, but my creative endeavors in recreational therapy have been fruitful. I plan on carrying one of the media I use there, polymer clay, over to art therapy next week. Below I finally show you the polymer clay frog I made a few weeks ago. I’ve made many more things out of polymer clay and hope to keep up the work.

Polymer Clay Frog

In addition, I hope the year will be one where I can nurture my relaltionship with God. I hope my faith will both be strengthened and strengthen me this year. I have made a good start by joining a Bible journaling community on Facebook, and plan on writing more faith-based posts here on the blog. Of course, I know some of my relatives and readers hold different beliefs to mine, and that’s okay.

Besides “nurture”, I have several other words spinning through my head that might be additional themes for the year. “Perspective” comes to mind, as I do hope to finally gain some perspective on where and how I’m going to live after leaving the psychiatric institution. It is, however, also important to keep having a perspective when nurturing myself. I didn’t have one back last year. Now, at least in the eating department, I have the goal of losing weight, and I have a target weight in mind. I am not too good with setting such targets in the creatvity department, but this goal is hope-motivated too.

“Hope” iis another possible theme. Most of my goals for this year are worded in a way to formulate what I want to reach, not what I want to avoid. This is much more positive than last year’s acrostic, which started out by naming all the negatives in which I wasn’t caring for myself. I truly hope to make this year a year with a positive outlook.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Week Starting September 22, 2014 #Thelist

I’m feeling a little tense and wanting to write, but at the same time lacking inspiration. I thought therefore that I’d participate in #Thelist (formerly #Mumslist) again and wrap up my week.

Therapy


  • Had my last meeting with my now former psychologist. Haven’t yet gotten an appointment with the new one. At this last meeting, we discussed the paperwork to be sent to Leo Kanner House, a national autism agency, for a consultation. My psychologist read me the referral letter and sent me my current treatment plan for review.

  • The treatment plan was okay, though I felt a little awkward about all the things I “can’t” or need help with. The one thing I disagreed with was the seclusion policy. It said that I could be asked to go into seclusion if I am a significant nuisance to others (eg. screaming, slamming doors, etc.). In reality, I usually ask for seclusion for my own safety when I’m having suicidal thoughts or self-harm issues. I asked my psychologist to bring policy in line with reality. Was at first stressed out because my named nurse said she’d asked my psychologist the same and then she’d refused. Thankfully, the psychologist sent me a nice E-mail saying more or less “sure, will do”.

  • Had art therapy yesterday and finished making an art doll for a mixed media swap. It’s made out of mostly “useless” materials. I have to send it out one of these days as the deadline for getting it in my partner’s hands is October 1. No picture yet as my art therapist can’t access her E-mail.


Healthy Living

I saw the dietician for the last time today. I’ve been trying to lose weight for months, but unsuccessfully so. Our agreement was that I’d stop going if I’d gained weight since the last appointment. Though I’d lost 1.2kg (not much for a three-week period), we decided to call it quits anyway. Our agreements are:


  • Focus more on exercise rather than mostly on eating, since I can’t seem to control my overeating.

  • Ask the nurses for help more when I’m stressed instead of going on a food haul. Someone need to accompany me to the store anyway so I may be able to switch my request to go to the store and buy candy over to a request for help regulating my stress.

  • Get weighed by the nurses once a month to make sure I’m keeping my weight stable. I’ll be weighed every first of the month so we have a base weight on Wednesday.

Reading, Writing, Blogging


  • Haven’t been blogging much and haven’t been content with my posts.

  • Did read and write a review of Working the Double Shift by Christine Motokane. Am somewhat content with my review and as I said then, loved the book.

  • Found out about the Typed Words, Loud Voices book project today and submitted a contribution. I’ve been asked either directly or indirectly to write for anthologies two other times, but this is the first time I actually submitted something. Fingers crossed that it’ll be accepted

The List

First Step in Healing the Inner Baby

When I still had the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, my inner children came out relatively often to people I know. This is not common with DID I’m told, and was probably one reason for people not to believe me. I now have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and, while the inner children are still there, I keep them in hiding. I tend to believe that only the adult me is allowed to be out in the body.

This belief, however, is counterproductive to healing. When we want to heal, we need to acknowledge all parts of ourselves. We also need to validate our experiences. I strongly disagree with the idea, which is how my therapist used to word her inner child theory, that only the abandoned inner child should be allowed to come out because the rest are there to mask her. I consider my angry innenr child as important, and I for one don’t have a critical parent insider – all insiders are part of me.

Trust is the first step in healing your inner child(ren). They need to know that you will be there for them. In this step, I achieved something important in art therapy last Thursday. One of my inner children is the “mini baby”, a preemie in an incubator. She isn’t really active in the outside world, but I sense her. For clarity’s sake, while some people with DID have baby alters who hold traumatic memories, I don’t believe the mini baby is like this; she seems to be more a symbol for my early experiences.

Anyway, in art therapy, I created a baby out of clay and made a crib for her out of a cardboard box with fabric and fake fur bedding. Like I said, the inner baby isn’t a typical alter, so the symbolism was enough. It was more of a gesture to myself and my actual inner child alters to let them know I can be trusted and they will be cared for.

The second step is validation. I’m not sure I really need to validate the inner baby, since like I said she’s not a real alter. I mean, some people with DID give their inner babies pacifiers. I won’t do this. What I do feel that I need to acknowledge, is the fact that I was wounded from the beginning on. I don’t mean this to pass judgment on my family or the hospital staff. I was probably well cared for and had more interaction with my parents than many preemies from earlier generations or whose parents lived farther from the hospital. What I want to say is that, as much as families and hospitals try to prevent this, a NICU stay can entail a form of attachment loss and can, depending on the baby’s temperament, be traumatic. For now, the symbolism of the ceramic baby in the crib helped all of me.

The Importance of Day Activities

Over the past week, I’ve been having a hard time of it at my ward. I decided on Sunday that I wanted to leave and go backt o my old city institution. Then over the week, I participated in some day activities on my ward, in the activity building and in the multipurpose room at another adult long-term care ward. This made me realize that at least day activities are much better here than they were in my old institution, and I softened up a bit. I had a talk with my therapist on Thursday, and this made me decide I don’t want to leave for now. This talk contributed to that decision, but the good experience I’d had going to day activities did more.

I’ve heard on some institution wards day activities are not provided, because the clients need to learn to occupy themselves. This, in my opinioon, is the biggest horse manure around. Currently mentally healthy people have a job, too, so why shouldn’t those who are too disabled or ill to have a regular job? Most people here go to some kind of industrial arts type of day activities, so it’s actually real labor. For some, like me, this is not suitable, and they end up doing arts and crafts. This may seem more like a replacement of leisure rather than work, but don’t mentally healthy people have a variety of jobs, too? For some mentally ill people, just getting out of bed is hard work, and simple day activities can provide them with the structure that a job does, too.

There are many benefits of day activites. Some of them, like a daily structure, are applicable to real jobs too. Others, like distraction from one’s mental health problems, are not, but that doesn’t make them any less useful. Becoming mentally healthy, after all, involves more than being able to do a regular job.

I for one find that day activities provide me with meaning to my days, structure, as in a reason to get out of bed, social interaction, distraction, and enjoyment. Day activities are in my opinion more beneficial to my mental health than the psychotherapy I get. This is one reason I’m willing to put up with somewhat unsuitable psychotherapy in exchange for much more suitable day activities.