I was stumped about what to write this month, when my office partner inadvertently gave me an idea by posting a flyer for his upcoming workshop on his door. Sam Waldner is both an outstanding therapist as well as a talented amateur photographer. His walls are adorned with beautifully sensitive works of art that immediately give the visitor a sense of peace, calm and reassurance. And this month he is offering a one–day workshop that will combine his two loves. Participants will meet in Toronto’s magnificent Edwards Gardens for a day of therapy and creativity through photography.
When asked how he uses photography in a therapeutic way, Sam responded that clients could benefit on several levels. Photography can readily create a bond between therapist and client. Photography can be a transcendental experience that helps the individual move beyond the pain or fear or sadness to a greater state of calm and equilibrium. It can literally help the individual focus better by blocking out the extraneous and zeroing in on what is relevant (i.e. what is captured in the viewfinder). In so doing, it can assist the individual in becoming fully present in the here and now. Seeing the world through a lens can help the individual understand things from a different perspective. And in tapping into one’s creativity, the individual can usually find creative solutions to problems.
I became curious about how long therapists have combined the creative arts in their work and discovered that it is a fairly recent phenomenon. It was in the 1960’s when therapies such as art, dance and movement, music, poetry and drama began to emerge. Initially, it was used as an “antidote to habitual or automatic thinking,” something that Jacob Moreno, the father of psychodrama and group therapy, had identified as a source of much psychopathology. Then it was used as a way to analyze symbolic information that the patient would create or interpret from drawings or photographs. Eventually, it began to be recognized as an end in itself - a way to develop the patient’s own creativity to promote the healing process. According to psychiatrist Adam Blatner, “Playfulness, imagination, dialogue, skill-building, narrative, inspiration and integration…create an environment where spontaneity can arise, anxiety is reduced and patients are more receptive to their own intuition.”
I thought about the power that these creative art forms can have on the individual to move, to gladden, to motivate, to inspire and wondered why they hadn’t entered the psychotherapeutic world years earlier. I have seen first-hand how therapeutic stream-of-consciousness or journal writing has been for many of my clients in bringing problems to light and clarity. I have seen how clients have developed their ability to “think out of the box” when using ideas borrowed from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” I have been amazed at the connections that clients can make when creating life maps from Vance Peavy or recording memories and role models as suggested by Mark Savikas.
If you used to have a creative hobby that you have long ago abandoned, you may want to consider taking it up again as a way to heal and help yourself when problems arise. Meanwhile, if you are interested in attending Sam’s workshop on Saturday, June 16th from 9:00 – 3:30, please call 416 630-0818 or e-mail at email@example.com to register.
Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”
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