Unlike customary art expression, expressive art therapy focuses on the process of creation rather than the final product. For my senior practicum I choose to showcase the opportunities I have had as an Expressive Arts Facilitator, combined with what want to continue to grow and excel in for my future. I am very passionate about this path I have chosen, and would like to share with those who may not fully understand what it is, how to use it, who to reach out to, and that they are not alone.
Documenting my time with the children and adolescents through a website which shares some of the lessons and the Mindfulness exercises I have implemented through the school and treatment center. Children are very energy based; they can pick up on other’s energy, good or bad, and it affects them. With Mindfulness we focus on connecting with our own energy, doing activities that slow down our thoughts and help gain control of our bodies, breathing, and thoughts. We do guided meditations, mindful yoga, tai chi, mindful breathing, and so much more. This time also allows the children to ask questions about others and situations.
A therapeutic profession can be a hard trade to open up to the public with. It is something that is scrutinized by other therapists, families and outreach programs; because it is easier to point out flaws and state that one way is better than the other. The website includes a small blurb of myself, to make it more humble and humanized. Links to check out some of the interactions I have had in applying Expressive Arts and Mindfulness. Viewers will be able to follow me through my blog and being able to comment and open up a comfortable atmosphere. The website has a contact me page for people to ask me more questions about the lessons, and experiences that I have done, and being able to offer me advice. My main objective for this Capstone is to be able to feel connected with other people who may have had similar experiences that understand that this is a rising, universal field.
For this practicum I understood that I needed to assess the relative importance of the issues that I previously stated, and wished to work with. I was able to gauge my practicum through providing real, authentic experiences and lessons I have done. For example we introduced printmaking, Andy Warhol’s pop art, and created imagery of their thoughts. Leaving an open lesson will allow for an authentic outcome that the child can discuss thoughtfully. This also helps in providing the child with means to overcome obstacles and insecurities.
Through the website my followers will be able to discuss what they have learned through my website, and offer me guidance and advice. This project showcases the skills I have acquired and utilized in real-world experiences. With these critical-thinking skills I have a more developed view on the complex challenges I have ahead. Stakeholders such as educators, administrators, and families/ caregivers have had a huge impact on assessing my project. Having all these aspects and functions in my Capstone, I will track the progress of my work through the website. My hopes in creating the website is for it to allow for my growth (and others) by the interactions I will have with the public, through my blog and email.
My Interdisciplinary Studies background in Fine Arts as well as Art Education, Early Childhood Studies, and Psychology; have all shaped and broaden my understanding of what it means to develop and instrument activities. The confidence in showcasing them in an interactive website is directly correlated. Graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Expressive Arts with the experience in creating an interactive website, that can continuously grow and show my up-to-date work, will allow for a long lasting rewarding profession.
Although I came to the conclusion during my freshmen year that I wanted to somehow incorporate expressive arts with early childcare, I continued my education in Plymouth State University’s Early Childhood Studies program. Throughout the years I developed my own ways to apply expressive arts within projects and experiences. This project allowed me to utilize my knowledge I have developed through research I gathered in Early Childhood studies, as well as Psychology and Art disciplines. The following will show some of the research I have used in aiding me create the lessons for the website.
Judith Kieff’s book, Informed Advocacy in Early Childhood Care and Education taught me how to become a true advocate for children and families. I was able to join societies, and participate locally, sate, and nation-wide. I am part of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, connecting with people from all around the nation. I am part of Commercial Free Childhood, advocating for families to not allow their children to be connected to media so young. I am in a local charter for the National Association of Professional Women, where we discuss how to advocate for our communities.
“Advocates see the world as it could be and are not easily discouraged”. (Kieff 2008)
This is something that I reflect on when I am working with children, families, administrators, and other stakeholders that may be involved.
Understanding how to meet the unique needs of children from different language backgrounds are important for any person who intends to work with children and families from different cultures. Many Languages, One Classroom by Karen N. Nemeth provides information on different approaches to be able to connect with each child and family. I feel as though the most beneficial thing I was able to take away from the research was the ‘hands on’ experience that included meeting families and children from different cultures, as well as working with administrators, and outreach programs. A child that I most recently had the privilege to work with was from Korea. Although the child spoke English, he still carried his culture with him. One thing I had to adapt to was eye contact. This for him was something that his family did not do because of their culture. I will be able to share these experiences through my website with the lessons we have done about different cultures.
Abnormal Child and Adolescent Psychology by Robert Weis is the second edition revised to include the new DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) organization and diagnostic criteria. The book outlines five main goals that I use for developing my activities when working with children from different needs.
“1) introduce ‘developmental psychopathology’, this is described to be the development of psychological disorders; psychopathy, autism, schizophrenia and depression are psychological disorders. 2. Critical thinking is to be utilized throughout a variety of levels of analysis.” When I am working with children through expressive arts I will be individualized to maintain an appropriate outcome for each child. “3. To grow the interdependence (taking two or more groups and having a common ground) of psychological research and clinical practice. 4. being able to emphasize evidence-based treatment and connect the causes of disorders, as well as the methods used to treat them. 5. Lastly to show why understanding child psychopathology and its treatment will be important to them as future psychologists, social workers, educators, and parents.” (Weis 2014) Through my expressive arts and energy-mindfulness I will be able to touch each part of the outline, and share them with the public through the website, and gain more insight from others who may have had similar experiences. Possibly had outcomes that will be valuable to share with me as well.
I came across a book through the Lamson Library, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Child Trauma and Abuse. Just like the Abnormal Child Psychology book that I previously mentioned, this book was split up into different categories per chapter. The categories in this book are based upon sessions in therapy.
1. Psychosocial strengthening, which shared how a session would be formatted, as well as how to encourage caregiver involvement. This part provides you with the materials needed, goals, and how to develop a relationship with the child/ adolescent, as well as providing a hopeful outlook. 2. Coping Skills, is the therapy session where the therapist provides the caregivers with more information about the therapy. It is during this time the therapist discusses the child’s progress, and introduces the’ coping skills phase’, while encouraging an active involvement by the caregivers. 3. Trauma Processing allows for the caregivers and the therapist to discuss the progress with home and other environments the child/adolescent is exposed to. The caregivers have this opportunity for discussing concerns or questions about the trauma processing that the child/adolescent will be releasing. 4. Special Issues and Closure, 5.Worksheets, and 6. Resources for therapists. I will continue to reference this book throughout my career because of its structure, and how it provides such a concrete universal plan. (Feather & Ronan 2010) I look at each and try to apply it to my lessons that I do with the children, and share on my website.
David Edwards wrote a book, Art Therapy: Creative Therapies in Practice, that not only talks about how art therapy started, how it is used, but also the difficulties of how to appropriately implement art into therapy. “The difficulties art therapists face in this area cannot be overcome merely by gaining professional recognition. Neither can they be explained simply in terms of theoretical differences or confusion over roles. Since art therapy is concerned with the expression of emotion, it can be perceived as threatening the status quo. The natures of the organizations in which art therapist’s work will, therefore, influence their capacity to establish and maintain a credible therapeutic practice, no matter how committed or well-trained they may be.” (Edwards 2004, p. 72)
Edwards quoted Margaret Naumberg, who is the ‘founder’ of art therapy:
“Releasing the unconscious by means of spontaneous art expression; it has its roots in the transference relation between patient and therapist and on the encouragement of free association. It is closely allied to psychoanalytic theory … Treatment depends on the development of the transference relation and on a continuous effort to obtain the patient’s own interpretation of his symbolic designs … The images produced are a form of communication between patient and therapist; they constitute symbolic speech. (Naumberg in Ulman, 2001: 17 as cited in Edwards 2004)”
Edwards goes on in the book to describe art therapy to be developed along ‘two parallel strands: art as therapy and art psychotherapy’ (Waller, 1993: 8 as cited in Edwards 2004). Edwards’s shares that the first approach emphasizes on the ‘healing potential of art’, and that the second is on the ‘therapeutic relationship established between the art therapist, the client and the artwork.’ (Edwards 2004)
Art therapy, or Expressive arts is a field that is forever budding, like sunflowers following the light. When the darkness has deprived you of your sight, you hold on to what you believe. This is why I have been consistently researching new concepts, ideas and topics that can further my understanding. It has been a difficult rollercoaster ride in interdisciplinary studies. Good, bad, fear, trust; I have been searching for something that I felt like was impossible to find. I held on, and continued the fight for knowledge.
My research continued towards a medical background, which brought me to Medical Art Therapy with Children. The author, Cathy Malchiodi, describes that there is a growing need in being able to understand art expression. When I first came across the term ‘medical art therapy’, I did not know any specific information. Malchiodi defines ‘medical art therapy as a “term which had been applied to ‘the use of art expression and imagery with individuals who are physically ill, experiencing trauma to the body, or who are undergoing aggressive medical treatment” (Malchiodi 1993, p. 13)
At the treatment center I work at I do expressive arts with adolescents who have an anxiety disorder. During this time the art is a trigger in itself and the adolescent is to work through their anxiety with their scaling. At times the topic may simply be fear, which in fact is not simple at all. The adolescents focus on what triggers they have, and what they fear, or what fear means to them. The treatment center also focuses on Exposure therapy, where I am able to incorporate things such as music and drama therapy.
David Johnson and Renee Emunah wrote a book about Drama Therapy that I have referenced and continue to use for my research in creating lessons. Current Approaches in Drama Therapy describes drama therapy as ‘a form of psychological therapy in which all of the performance arts are utilized within the therapeutic relationship’. When I am doing drama therapy, or psychodrama with children/adolescence I understand that there needs to be methods that engage the child/adolescent in ‘psychological, emotional and social change for their life’ in a positive and hopeful way. “The main focus of drama therapy, therefore, lies in the intentional use of the healing aspects of drama and theatre as applied in the therapeutic process.” (Johnson & Emunah 2009, p.25) I have used drama therapy in many different settings, and find it is very beneficial when we do it, then make an art piece on our experiences. I will be showing different ways to do this through the website.
Expressive arts therapy is a holistic and sustainable psychotherapy. I am able to empower people and help them explore themselves, and come to terms with their life experiences. Having to break through emotional boundaries together develops a sturdy emotionally engaged relationship with myself and the child, adolescent, and caregivers. I will continue to develop, and work on my expressive arts therapy throughout my career with the help of many practices and techniques including, Mneme Therapy (art without boundaries, includes all aspects of music, painting, theatre, etc. working with children on the Autism spectrum, or possibly adults with Alzheimer’s), Art Therapy, Drama Therapy (Psychodrama), and Music Therapy.
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Feather, J., & Ronan, K. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy for child trauma and abuse a step-by step approach. London: Jessica Kingsley.
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Johnson, D.. & Emunah, R. (2009). Current approaches in drama therapy (2nd ed.). Springfield: Charles C. Thomas.
Kieff, J. (2009). Informed advocacy in early childhood care and education: making a difference for young children and families. Upper Saddle River: Merrill.
Malchiodi, C. (1999). Medical art therapy with children. London: Jessica Kingsley
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Oldfield, A. (2006). Interactive music therapy a positive approach: music therapy at a child development centre. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Smith, R., & Patey, H. (2003). Music therapy. London: Sage.
Weis, R. (2013). Introduction to abnormal child and adolescent psychology (2nd ed.). London: Sage.
The art without boundaries association. Retrieved April 7, 2015. http://artwithoutboundaries.net