In my current counselling practice, I use expressive arts therapy in the majority of my work. I find that it helps my clients to connect to their bodies and intuition while relieving anxiety; helping them to be more present, share on a deeper level and make connections more easily than they might have if we were just talking.
Some people are alarmed by this, thinking that they have to be artistic to be able to participate in my sessions - this is SO far from the truth! The way I use the arts in my sessions is to help with self-expression, and nothing more. (And if this isn't something you want to explore, then we can just talk!)
Working "creatively" is not something that has always come naturally to me; in fact, I used to frequently say:
"I DON'T HAVE A CREATIVE BONE IN MY BODY!"
I remember being in school during art classes when I was younger being blatantly aware that every other student was more creative than I was. Better artists. I frequently felt embarrassed of any work that I did, thinking it wasn't good enough or creative enough. I was often in awe of "creative" people.
When I thought of what being creative meant, my mind went to show-stopping drawings, paintings, sculptures, etc. that others would admire and be amazed by. You know, Artistic things that creative people did!
I never thought of creativity as our natural way of being.
I discovered that I was "creative" in my first year of university. I had spent my entire childhood and early adulthood thinking I didn't have even a shred of creativity within myself.
In one of my first classes in university, another student did a presentation on creativity. This woman is someone that I am grateful to still have in my life now as a dear friend that I continue to learn from and grow with many years later. (Look out for my upcoming post on the importance of having strong, supportive women in our lives).
What I learnt from my friend that day was that everyone is creative. We are all creating, all of the time. Each moment, each thought, each word, action. Each process that we engage in - we are creating all of these experiences with our uniqueness.
This can be when we are creating beautiful paintings, drawings, or doing any of those "artistic" things. And it can also be when we are experiencing life in any form. We express ourselves in so many ways in everything that we do. The clothes we wear, the way we do our hair, through cooking, gardening, moving our bodies, making music, writing, decorating our homes, arranging our belongings, the list is endless!
And it doesn't have to be in a certain way, there are no rights or wrongs. Just sinking into ourselves and allowing the opportunity for authentic expression is when creativity emerges.
After my friend's presentation I had the life-changing realisation that I was creative after all, and that I always had been.
I felt sorrow for that little girl who never thought she was good enough, and I also embraced and celebrated this new side of myself that emerged with an inner knowing and confidence that I, and the things that I did were - and continue to be - creative, and ENOUGH.
This was one of the major experiences that contributed to me finding myself and learning to express myself authentically without regret, in so many different ways.
Years later I did training in Expressive Arts Therapy and was reminded of my friend and what I had learnt from her about being creative. I had fallen back into thinking that I wasn't creative, and the training was very challenging for me, but I knew I needed something like this to add to my Counselling practice. This training not only added a lot of strength to my work as a therapist, but it also added so much to my personal journey of becoming myself. I found more ways of allowing new awareness and growth to emerge through different creative processes - art, story telling, creative writing, poetry, music, dance, movement, and more.
I noticed through these different forms of expression that things hidden by my subconscious began to emerge. Through these different forms of creative expression, I started making realisations that I don't think I would have otherwise. Both my personal and professional self-awareness grew exponentially and continues to grow as I continue my own healing and growth through Art Therapy, and I also take time to notice what is being expressed and unveiled through my creativity in "ordinary" tasks throughout the day.
These experiences are what led me to using the arts in my work as a therapist. I love encouraging my clients to engage in creative processes in my sessions and seeing the incredible awareness and realisations emerge! It never fails to fascinate me watching my clients make new discoveries and connections when they are "creating" in my sessions.
So it turns out that my body is full of creative "bones"! Have you struggled with embracing your creativity or is it something that you have always been able to connect with? How do you embrace your creativity in your life? Please share in the comments!
Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.