Insect nests

Trusting the Moment in Art Therapy

Should you ever consider engaging in an art therapy session under the guidance of a qualified art therapist, it’s beneficial to have some expectations in mind.

During the course of an art therapy session, unforeseen insights often emerge. Unexpected moments of clarity and synchronicity, coupled with a heightened mind-body connection, tend to manifest spontaneously, particularly when participants approach the process with an open mind and trust in the therapeutic journey. Indeed, magic can unfold, and barriers or “issues” that previously impeded progress may seemingly dissipate. It’s a realisation that magic permeates our surroundings, awaiting those with the perceptiveness to recognise it.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that these insights or moments of magic might not immediately manifest, especially during an initial session. Patience and trust, whether in the therapist or in the therapeutic process itself, may be necessary prerequisites. Nevertheless, a commitment to remaining receptive often yields profound experiences.

I recently captured a moment from an art therapy session supervised by a mentor, which proved deeply impactful for me personally.

Having encountered challenging situations with young clients in my professional capacity, I found myself in need of self-reflection and release. I assumed the role of client rather than therapist during this session, under the guidance of my supervisor and therapist, Jill. She provided me with various art materials to commence the session, and I opted for oil pastels on paper as I engaged in conversation with her.

As the session progressed, I found myself revisiting stressful experiences from the preceding months, deliberately confronting and processing the associated emotions. In the safety of the present moment, amidst the therapeutic environment, I unearthed past instances of violence that had intruded upon our sanctuary at home, bringing them to light through my artwork.

The session unfolded in three distinct phases, a common occurrence in such therapeutic settings. Initially, I expressed myself through crayons on paper, fostering trust and allowing emotions to surface. Subsequently, I transitioned to a sand tray, utilising figurines and assorted objects to embody my narrative of stress and emotional turmoil.

Tears and uncertainty accompanied this phase as I grappled with feelings of victimisation, yet Jill’s empathy and guidance provided clarity. Through reflective questioning and mirroring of my experiences, she helped articulate emotions that had previously been unspoken.

Jill then proposed a change of scenery, suggesting a stroll in the garden to invite further reflection amidst nature’s tranquillity. Encouraged to seek out a natural element that resonated with me, I ventured into the garden, eventually discovering a peculiar piece of metal guttering adorned with intricate insect nests. This unexpected find, nestled within the untamed foliage, served as a metaphorical lens through which to view my therapeutic journey.

The sight of these delicately protected insect habitats within the confines of the guttering sparked a revelation. I drew parallels between the unsettling realities of my past experiences and the notion of finding sanctuary within seemingly unconventional spaces. Just as the insect nests remained shielded within the pipe, so too could I find solace and protection amidst adversity, guided by trusted companions and alternative perspectives.