Q: Will you tell me what is going on in my head when you look at my art?
A: No, I don't know what is going on in your head, but you will soon discover your own story once you engage with art.
As a registered psychologist, I am able to provide approved Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS) under Medicare. FPS are a range of acceptable strategies, such as psycho-education, Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, Relaxation strategies and Skills training amongst others.
In my practice I apply an integrative approach, drawing from different therapeutic approaches which I integrate with the strategies outlined above. I believe that there is no single approach that works for an individual in all situations. Therapeutic interventions and counselling techniques are best utilised when they are tailored to individual needs and circumstances. In the following I have written a brief overview of the major therapeutic approaches that I draw from in my practice.
Therapeutic approaches that I use are:
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an evidenced-based psychological therapy which identifies that the way we think (cognition) and act (behaviour) will affect the way that we feel. CBT involves becoming aware of unhealthy thought and behaviour patterns and replacing them with more realistic ones in order to reduce difficult feelings and develop coping skills. Interventions may involve psycho-education, behaviour modification, exposure techniques, activity scheduling, challenging and restructuring unhelpful cognitions, attention regulation, relaxation training and social and problem-solving skills training.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based behaviour therapy. This therapy assumes that humans can reach their potential and live a full and meaningful life by: learning to accept the things that are not in their control; clarify what is truly important and meaningful to them and developing skills to deal with painful thoughts and feelings so that they will have less influence over their life.
- Attachment-based Approach
Attachment theory acknowledges that all humans need to form meaningful interpersonal relationships with others in order to thrive. For children, this requires a secure relationship with at least one primary caregiver to enable them to experience healthy social and emotional development. In my practice, I use attachment theory to understand how the developmental and interpersonal history of a child or young person might be related to the difficulties they experience in the present. This assists in identifying the interventions that will be the most beneficial for the child.
- Family/Systemic Therapy
Family therapy (or systemic therapy) is an approach that fosters positive change in families and between those who are in close relationships. The underlying principle is that family relationships are a key factor contributing to the emotional health of each individual in the family. Family work may involve one-to-one sessions as well as family sessions. The aim of this therapy is to assist families to find ways to work collaboratively through the challenges that affect their relationships.
- Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt therapy focuses on the individual’s experience in the here and now and developing awareness of these experiences. The underlying principle is that people need to be viewed as a whole (mind, body and soul) and that they are best understood in light of how they are experiencing their present situation. Self-awareness is viewed as a key factor enabling an individual to experience personal growth and to reach their potential. This self-awareness can be limited by unhelpful thought and behaviour patterns. In therapy, the aim is to foster non-judgemental self-awareness in order to develop a healthy perspective on their life. Gaining insight into current experiences can assist an individual to know what strategies are best suited to work through their present challenges.
- Strength-Based Approach
The strength-based approach emphasises that individuals have existing strengths and skills that can assist them to overcome life challenges. This approach focuses on the positives that already exist in the person’s life rather than problems and what is considered to be lacking. The emphasis is on how the ‘positives’ can be utilised to work through challenges. The individual is not defined by what is wrong with them or their life, but rather by their potential for growth and change. This approach might involve assisting an individual to re-frame their perception of a situation, which may enable them to develop and to achieve their goals.
Arts therapy utilises creative modalities, including visual art-making, drama, and movement to assist an individual to work through challenges. This approach emphasises that much knowing and meaning making is beyond thinking and verbal dialogue and is experienced visually, kinaesthetically (through our body), emotionally and acoustically (hearing). Utilising the Arts in therapy can provide ways of expressing these experiences before the individual can find the words to explain them. Arts therapy focuses on the process of creating and meaning-making using the arts, rather than on the artistic end product. Arts therapy can assist individuals to: express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise, explore their imagination and creativity, improve self-esteem and confidence, increase communication skills, develop healthy coping skills and improve motor skills and physical co-ordination.
Common Myths about Arts Therapy:
Myth 1 – I need to be artistic to do arts therapy.
You don’t need to be an artist to do arts therapy. You only need to be open to engage with art materials as a way to explore your experiences.
Myth 2 – The therapist interprets my art work
It is not my role to interpret your art work. My role is to work collaboratively with you to discover your own meaning of your experiences and art making.
Play therapy assists children to work through emotional, psychological, developmental and behavioural difficulties by utilising play. The emphasis is on the unique development of each child and their innate potential for growth. The therapist seeks to engage with the child’s world from the child’s perspective and meets the child at their level in order to develop a safe and trusting relationship. Children often find it difficult to express themselves verbally, but play comes naturally and can assist the child to communicate their experiences and needs. Through the use of play materials such as: toys, sand tray and art materials, children are enabled to express their thoughts and feelings, to explore relationships, to share about their experiences, to explore challenges and make meaning. The process of play can assist the child to develop a stronger and clearer sense of self, to experiment with new ways of being in the world and to learn strategies that assist them to seek to have their needs met in more appropriate ways.
Focusing is a body-oriented process that fosters awareness of subtle levels of sensation felt in the body. Bodily sensations hold meaning in relation to our experiences which we have not yet been able to verbalise. Focusing was initially developed by Eugene Gendlin and from the Philosophy of the Implicit, which emphasises that we can apply attention to something that is directly experienced but is not experienced in words as our body knows more about our situation than we are explicitly aware of (The International Focusing Institute, 2017). In therapy, focusing involves assisting an individual to hold an open and non-judging attention to their internally felt sensations, which may enable them to come to new insight and clarity about their feelings and needs.