Sanctuary Counseling, LLC.
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Fantasy and Dreams Don’t Die After Childhood: the Nature of Expressive Arts

When people ask me to explain how play therapy for children is supposed to be similar to talk therapy for adults, I find myself drawn to explain how intuition develops with age. Do you remember nostalgic days of recess playgrounds and backyard pretend? When kids are roleplaying superheroes or re-enacting scenes from their favorite movies, it’s easy to say as an adult “wow my kid really wants to be like Elsa”, when it’s more accurate to say “right now, they are Elsa”. If you’ve ever acted in a theater class or have watched a play, you probably already know about suspension of disbelief. It’s the point where we can “turn off” being analytical to just stay in the present and bear witness to something very human. That state of mind is what I’m confident is to say is a human need, if not the beating heart of the humanities.

Kids live in that world. The purpose of play therapy is to basically give fresh canvases to people who are basically spinning engines (sometimes literally) of art and creativity. My role as a therapist here, is to step more into being the narrator or the audience beholding some new work, and to reflect back what we see from the young artist in the room. And yes, this also totally happens during board games. Sometimes, I bear witness to kids sabotaging a board game so they don’t win, because they don’t want the game to end (“I want everything to be fair! All the time! Forever!”). Sometimes, I bear witness to a tea party where the poor host is getting burnt out trying to serve tea to someone who snubs them ruthlessly (“If I do this for her, then maybe she’ll notice me, someday…”). Sometimes, I witness royalty build the castle walls higher and higher, hoping to both fortify a tower so mighty only to recognize if they move slightly the pillows they’ve used will cause their fortress to crumble (“I need to be safe! It’s too uncomfortable out there!!”). Each of these is a conversation, and sometimes my role is to bear witness to it in enough ways that we can notice more of the story happening live, together.

This process is identical when I work with adults who are creative. I’m always eager to see people’s sketchbooks if they are willing to invite me into bearing witness to it. Sometimes, motifs and patterns emerge visually. Someone who draws the mysterious character whose left eye can never be seen. Someone who finds themselves drawn to always include red-violet somewhere in their work. Someone who would punch clay to make a mold of their fist to then fire it and then adorn it with floral patterns. The goal is the same. We live in this world to make meaning, somewhere. Some meanings are more obvious than others, but the journey of having the conversation together as artist and audience is what makes these forms of art expressive art.

All of this I believe pays greater service to how we nurture intuition. I can only speak to this rooted in the context of the time of this writing, but culturally the more we value what is directly measureable, the more we feel drawn to “prove”. I think this grinds against some of the deeper value of the work. Therapeutically when we have to access intuition, the purpose isn’t to immediately “fix” something. What is there to fix? The art and expression above already exist in the world. In these moments, it’s more about bearing witness or companioning the work to honor it, or being the keeper of a story.

Whether as an adult or child, the way we express ourselves deserves to be honored and heard. Ultimately, it’s a human need that, when met, allows us to reflect and become something more. And to be candid, takes a big leap of trust! That’s why a lot of our most important depth thoughts about ourselves, or works-in-progress, are rightfully worth protecting while they sleep.

I also don’t think the conversation necessarily stops here! If this resonated, I’d love to hear what came up for you. I can be reached at timothy@sanctuarycounseling.com.

Book Review Series: Why reading should still be important to you

So you’ve just finished reading the last chapter of your scary huge textbook, you have to collect and read a pile of research articles, and you have to find time to proof read your 15 page research paper before tomorrow. Academic reading has consumed your life? As a graduate student with year-round school, please trust me when I say ME TOO. When I get home from class at night the LAST thing on my mind is reading a nice book for my mental and emotional health. To be completely frank, I’m so sick of reading that I’ve completely lost touch with how much books used to take care of me. I always feel so conflicted when I pick up a book, thinking “if I have time to read this, that means I have time to catch up on readings for school.” I get in such a weird headspace that I end up putting the book down and doing something else, whether it’s productive or not. I feel like I’m cheating my grades if I start reading for “fun.” This continual pressure is taking away my time to care for myself and I need to make a change. Recently I’ve made a deal with myself that I am going to let books start to take care of me again.

I want to see myself in their characters, I want their stories to make me think about the world, and I want their messages to comfort and ease my soul.

Books are such a magical way to find connection with people and stories without having to leave the comfort of your own thoughts. I love books. I’ve lost touch with what they used to mean to me, and that troubles me beyond words. They are the ultimate daydream. When I want to find a little solitude and enter a new reality where my stresses don’t exist, I read a book. Books have become the enemy and I am not okay with that. I want to renew my relationships with books and let them ease my stresses and soothe my soul.

I will be reading a new book every month and writing a short review about what the book has meant to me, how the book has impacted me, and how it might impact you in some way. Books are for learning. Books are also a form of rejuvenation for your mind and soul. I will be reading the soul hugging kind and recommending some of my favorites to the folks out there like me who have taken an accidental leave of absence from books and want to find enjoyment and fulfillment in them once again. I want to let books take care of me in the way that they used to. If you find yourself making these same remarks or these same excuses, please let me validate for you that you are not the only one. If you’ve recognized your relationships with books needs some attention, I invite you to join me in this new promise of self-care.

If you find some connection between my thoughts and your own experience, let’s meet back here and start a dialogue on the books I have chosen. The first book I am going to read (actually revisit) is a classic comfort read of mine that I just recently re-read as I renewed my commitment to reading: The Giver, by Lois Lowry. I love this book. Meet me here and let me tell you why you would too.

Digital Scribeworks