Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This is Not Art Therapy

Someone used to teach the Art Therapy class. They don't anymore. I am the intern and I had taken a few classes in Expressive Arts Therapies as an undergraduate so I said I would do it. I even have a bunch of art therapy books that have somehow survived the years for reference. I am not a therapist. I am an intern. So it's Process Group instead of Therapy.

I skimmed the texts again and found so many great ideas. For this group though, it would have to be pretty basic. Who knew who would show up, if anyone? I prepped the room with chairs around the table. I also supplied a stack of a handy mandala (circle) I found on the internet that is a wheel divided into pie pieces with words like this on it:

Health Care
Life Purpose
   Self Esteem   

The words are toward the outside of the wheel but still within the circle. The words Self Care are in the very center. Not for any other reason than that they inspired me to think about these aspects of my life.

On the table next to my black and white internet printouts were supplies. Nothing fancy, but the basics. Basics are all you need, if you ask me. My theory is simply that when you let it, the art will come. So it was crayons and pens and pastels and paper.

There is therapy in making art. The process of getting out of your busy little brain to make pretty shapes or disturbing shapes or whatever it is you're making can be a good diversion. 

Since I am not a therapist, I am not asking the people in the group to dialogue with their art to discover what it might be trying to say to them. I am not asking them about the shapes or the use of certain colors in certain places. 

Instead, I grabbed some crayons and paper and got busy coloring a mandala myself. I listened and helped direct the conversation to what was happening right now, helping frame attainable goals to larger dilemmas and simply enjoy the humanizing camaraderie of making art with other people.

It was a good day. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013


This image of plate tectonics is here not because I am going to write about what happens when one plate rubs against another creating an earthquake, tidal wave or volcanic eruption but to outline what can happen with absence of boundaries. Violent shaking, town-destroying waves, huge or small eruptions out of that which may have been placidly passing the time previously.

My parents have a big garden. When volunteer plants sprout up (the extras that sprout randomly, when not even planted) my parents move them to places where they have more room to grow, more access to sun and water, space so they don't get so entangled into another plant that both become stifled.

Without boundaries, lines blur and the capacity for friction as described above in the plate tectonic example above can manifest in all kinds of unhealthy ways, ways described in this blogpost more eloquently than I could convey them. 

I am a firm believer in the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries, perhaps in part because I did not always have them. Today though, I am comfortable saying no. The lines one has to maintain by professional mandate can get blurry in a small town but these guidelines have to be respected to protect all parties. In the context of personal lives, the importance of boundaries is probably pretty obvious. This goes back to my favorite example of not just social worker self care, but self care and personal boundaries in general: 

I cannot seem to shut up about this but it's so true that's why I can't stop. I don't want to forget. I have to put the oxygen mask on myself before I can put it on anyone else. I can't help anyone else if I don't have enough oxygen to breathe myself. This is a metaphor for everything else. Other smart people tell me I can't transmit what I do not have. Having healthy boundaries is a self-care practice and by practicing this method, I am more likely to be able to be of service to all the people in the life I am so grateful to be living.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Professional Use of Self

I missed class this week due to yet another sinus infection. While blessedly not cancer, is still a major hindrance to living my daily life. I am sorry to sound glib about huge issues. It is a flawed coping skill that helps me retain my sense of humor. I hope that is ok and if not you will say so. Then I can grow and learn and we can establish a rapport or whatever they call it.
While on the couch literally crying in pain with sinus pressure, my class was "happening" online with my fellow MSW students from all over CA and points beyond. The subject of the class was on the Professional Use of Self.

The Power Point slides were extensive and the conversation full. I know this because I watched "class" afterward as it had all been captured for me to go find when I was in less pain. So I did and what I found was a classroom full of great conversations about classmates experiences, professors perspectives and some great slides referencing specifically Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers is known as an influential American psychologist and is considered to be one of the founders of the humanistic approach (or client-centered approach) to psychology. For full analysis I encourage you to look to this website or even his Wikipedia site.

In addition to many other successes and contributions, Rogers is known for practicing "unconditional positive regard," which is understood as acceptance of a person, without negative judgement of that person's worth. 

Pretty revolutionary thinking for the 1950s and it was further developed into a client-centered therapeutic model (also translated to student-led educational models) as described in this interesting diagram that I certainly did not create.

Carl Rogers was only part of the discussion in "class." The other part was the title of this blog. What is and why would you want to use yourself professionally? This is in relation to self disclosure, acknowledging what barriers there are if that is part of where the client wants to go and remaining authentic while not bowling someone over with personal tale after personal tale. 

In my professional life as it is developing, it is tricky to remain available and authentically who I am while also remaining open to others with completely different worldviews and yet this is the role of a social worker. Not to be what everyone might want, but to be as accessible to the stories that need to be told so issues can be solved. 

I also feel that I cannot be any help to anyone if I do not acknowledge my own flaws. I may have had one set of experiences and read a few things but it does not make me an expert on anyone's life or their experience. Some people want to meet you. Others don't. I am learning to make myself available but not chase people around. I might not be the best fit for someone either. Other than that, lately THESE are what I try to keep in mind:

 Both in and out of work. 

Until next time. Cheers!