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Open discussion on Art and Mental Health

Saturday 8th September 2.30-4pm at Todmorden counselling and psychotherapy room. White rose Mill, off Rise Lane, Todmorden. OL147AA

As an addition to the exhibition of Geoff Read’s collaborative portraits we will host an open discussion broadly around the theme of expressive arts and mental health. More specifically we are interested in how people use expressive activities to understand and tolerate difficulties in their lives.

This is part of the Todmorden Open Studios 2018 event where artists across the town open their studios and invite the public to see their work and workplaces. 

Geoff’s work opens up the traditional role of artist into one of collaborator – he involves his subject in decisions about their portrait – and in some ways, this brings him closer to my role as a counsellor. He offers his skills and experience to facilitate expression, as do I. Non-verbal expression can be as important as words, so I was intrigued to see how Geoff’s work opens up these possibilities to people who may not consider themselves artists, or even creative.

 

A self-portrait can be a statement of identity and a message to the world about the subject’s experience. A person experiencing difficulties may really appreciate some help or assistance in making such a statement and through the process they may also get new perspectives or acquire strength , self-confidence and resilience.

portrait of a father feeling pride and love for his two children.

We hope you can join us to share your ideas and experiences of how expression has helped you in your life, or how you might view your role as an artist, or how you use art and non-verbal mediums to understand your experiences, or how art can be used to impact or change society…

Geoff describes his approach and ethos very well here.

Feel free to contact me via the contact page for enquiries.

 

Transactional Analysis concepts

Transactional Analysis or TA is a great way of understanding yourself and how you relate to the rest of the world. It uses simple concepts to help you understand your personality. People use it in many ways, eg to work out why they keep getting into difficult relationships, or why relationships keep stalling. They find interpersonal issue that previously seemed unchangeable can become freer, less scary or less upsetting. Some people use it in work or schools, or even to change an entire organisation. It can go deep into childhood or you can stay in the here and now to analyse your own behaviour, thoughts and feelings.

My training was based in this model of understanding personality and human relationships developed by Eric Berne. Whilst I have added other models and approaches to my work, I still enjoy the simplicity and thoroughness of TA. There are 3 youtube videos by Theramin Trees which explain the basic concepts. Books on TA cover a huge range of topics, too numerous to mention.

Conversation with Pat Ogden on body posture

A conversation between Pat Ogden of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and Serge Prengel.   I like the way Pat speaks about the body and I feel like my way of working has some crossover with hers (although I have not trained at her Institute). I also run workshops on Body Language and non-verbal expression (see The Human Cry)

Pat Ogden: How body posture and movement can influence well-being

This is one of a series of interviews or conversations as Serge prefers to call them. I think he is an excellent interviewer who skilfully summarises what he is hearing and often helps the subject to open up and share what needs to be shared. See also https://somaticperspectives.com/

Find me

I work from 2 places in Calderdale – White Rose Mill, Rise Lane, Todmorden OL147AD a ground floor space, not currently wheelchair accessible (see map below). Very close to Todmorden Train Station.

and Hebden Therapy Center, Wragley House, Valley Road, Hebden Bridge HX7 7BN – an upstairs space with a lift and accessible toilet.

Both places are quiet and comfortable with plenty of space to move around work in other ways than a traditional talking therapy, if wanted.

 

Relational therapy

We all live continuously in relation; to others and to ourselves – we are created and shaped by our experiences of others and thus our complex and layered personality structure is formed. Therapy allows us to learn more about the workings of our unique structure and to work through problems – in relation. Relational therapy pays attention to our relationship (you and me, in the moment) as a way to observe in real time how we are reacting to being with another person. We can also then observe what is happening internally; our relationship(s) to ourself(selves).

We may look into the past or think about the future, but there are many clues in the here and now, in what happens between us. How you are in the world and what you want from life can be explored in the safe space we create each week, through openness, compassion and non-judgemental exploration.

Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

I have worked for many years with clients on the Autistic spectrum; firstly as a creative artist and then as a counsellor. I Currently work part-time with a Manchester based charity called Respect for all which provides free or low cost counselling for people on the spectrum and also for their siblings, carers, parents and partners.

It was through working as an artist with adults with learning disabilities that I realised that I wanted to train as a psychotherapist, thereby turning an aptitude into a qualified skill.

Many people, especially young people are receiving diagnoses of ASC with little or no understanding of how it might be affecting them. Counselling can be a good way of exploring these issues and gaining confidence and self-compassion.

Katherin Stauffer talks about sex and power

I want to share this article because I enjoyed it and also because I think the current debate about sexual harassment is an important one. Serge Prengle is an excellent moderator of discussions and his conversations series is a useful resource for those wishing to learn about body/somatic psychotherapies.

She says; “In cases of abuse the shame that should be with the perpetrator gets transferred to the person who has been abused.” It’s a simple but important thing, a helpful reminder that part of the abuse is this co-creating of shame. This involves or invests the vulnerable party in the creation of a protector for the abuser. It maintains and reinforces the power imbalance.

Then she goes on to say sometimes there is an attempt to return this shame – for the abused person to try to shame the abuser. Which, whilst understandable and perhaps important, rarely helps either party. My question as a therapist is often – what will be helpful?

Kathrin Stauffer reflects on sex & power

 

Creativity

Creative acts can be transformative and creativity can be key to problem solving.

People speak of feeling entirely changed by the arts. Books, music and culture help shape our thoughts and articulate our feelings, often because they can operate outside of our logical brain, closer to the subconscious. But as well as the obviously artistic activities, many of our  moment-by-moment behaviours, choices and responses require creativity. As we decide what to do, or how to respond, our subconscious works to keep us safe and avoid things it has learned to fear.  As babies we learned through play and experience. Some of those lessons may have served us ok as children, but may now be holding us back. Creative thinking and creative play can help us contact those deeply held beliefs and feelings in a way that rational discussion can sometimes simply cannot access.

It’s not about artistic expression. It’s about engaging more than the cognitive imagination and helping the subconscious to merge into consciousness. Sometimes words and the rational mind need to sink into the background or soften their rational grip. This gives room for a more open perspective or relaxes the rigidity of thinking that may be needed for change to occur.

Sometimes we need to be creative in order to find a way to express or explore our thoughts, feelings or actions.

Sometimes clients and I make drawings or diagrams to represent or catch something elusive. We may come back to these scribbles and schema to help us remember the themes and layers of previous sessions. Patterns appear, symbols speak and feelings become more meaningful.

Sometimes we lay out objects to illustrate tangled relationships or a complex set of feelings. This enables a perspective, or multiple perspectives to be seen, to be layered…. and even to be challenged.

Sometimes we may need to stand tall, curl up, walk around the room or jump up and down. By changing ourselves physically we may allow different psychological perspectives to emerge.

I believe that we are all creative, through necessity. In times of distress, crisis or chaos our creativity can be soothing and so helpful.

And of course it can add humour, fun, relief or distraction where needed.

Body Psychotherapy

There are many different schools of Body (Somatic) Psychotherapy, from the Focussing work of Eugene Gendlin to the Sensorimotor school, bringing together the psychoanalytic experience of relational therapy and the discoveries of Neuroscience. There are also psychotherapists working with dance and movement who work with the body to bring about release, to unlock memory and to inform discussion from the unconscious. I draw inspiration from these highly effective approaches and share an interest in the body as a store of non-cognitive knowledge. By this I mean that we learn and remember through our experiences and these stay with us, sometimes out of awareness. But this “knowledge” can still be used. We often find that the body is trying to tell us something but we are resisting hearing it. We can take time to listen – I prefer the word attend as there may not be words or clear messages – and we may find out what is holding us back or causing a problem.

I have also studied how the voice changes and inflects in response to desires, defences and fears held in the body. Posture and body tensions can be observed in a detailed way to help our discussion reach carefully into the psyche. By slowing down and observing somatics I Zenegra find we can bypass some of the verbal knots and complexities that bind us to unhelpful ideas and behaviours.

We all know that worry can make us sick. It shows up in the body. Fear, trauma and loss can also have serious physical effects as can identity issues and low self-esteem. I find working with the body often helps to restore health and build up confidence.

Some body therapists use directive touching such as massage or joint manipulation, but I do not use these techniques. I would enquire and help you to notice and attend. Together we may discover or explore what is happening somatically and emotionally. This helps us to balance between thoughts, feelings and actions – the alternatives might include:

  • getting tied up in circular thoughts
  • obsessing on negative ideas
  • low moods or depressive energy making change impossible
  • fear of change
  • being a victim of a habit despite knowing it is bad
  • repeating patterns of behaviour we regret

My work in Music, Theatre, Dance and many other somatic practices have given me valuable insights and skills. It is a way of working that requires sensitivity and curiosity on the part of therapist and client alike. Compassion for ourselves and our bodies is also important.

The Human Cry

I use this phrase the human cry to evoke the wordless expression of emotions, through our voices and bodies.

I originally developed this workshop to explore how we manifest feelings (especially grief) in the body and the voice. However the same workshop often covers other feelings eg. joy, anger, jealousy, love etc.I use discussion and simple, reflective exercises to guide participants through body observations and safely witness their own somatic feelings – feelings held in the body and observable in the voice and the body. By doing this in a group we share our common experiences and hear a rich variety of views. I encourage safe sharing and supportive observation.

Many aspects of grief are natural but unresolved feelings can inhabit the body in an unhealthy way. In some cases they can make us ill, angry or depressed. They may even inhibit our grief and block opportunities to share these meaningful moments with others. We may have multiple or conflicting feelings which need to be respected.

Family fallouts are common after a loss and sometimes last for decades as unresolved grief may cement grievances into hard, intractable resentments.

This work aims to develop compassion for our own complicated emotions.

This work aims to bring lightness and ease of expression/communication.

I offer an enjoyable exploration of your own voice. This is not a singing workshop and I take care not to put anyone in a situation they will find uncomfortable – because I want to facilitate ease of expression, even if what we may express is difficult or painful. This is not therapy but it does require some self examination. I hope it may prove helpful or valuable in your own expressive life and self-development.

What lies behind our words of grief? When words are not enough or even possible…. the body finds a way to communicate our pain, or if it cannot, where does it go?

Like a face, etched with the history of its life,so  the voice is our personal instrument, developed over the history of its use. From the first cries for breath, it’s timbre is honed by daily use, in conversation, conflict and restraint. That which is hard to express may be felt in the body and heard in the voice. Its rises and falls often say more than the words alone. 

The last workshop was in Todmorden as part of the Pushing Up Daisies festival May 8th 2017 FREE

Part 1 (10am-12) focusses on the voice, it involves discussion and a low level of physical activity. The subject matter may evoke strong feelings and there will be some opportunities to share with others. No-one is required to disclose or reveal anything they do not wish to be known.

Part 2 (1.30p- 4pm) looks at the body and the body in motion, for those who want to explore this in more expressive ways. They may continue to look further inward and/or to physicalise through movement and vocalising. There will again be opportunities to share with others, though no-one is required to challenge themselves beyond what they feel OK with. As a therapist and workshop leader I am experienced at holding a group and I encourage people to go at their own pace.

This is not a therapy session but may prove helpful in helping yourself and others.