Change, Transitions and art therapy

The experience of being-in-transition during a change that happens in your life is in itself life changing. Working with an art therapist during a season of change and transition provides an avenue of exploration into your own process. Art therapy sessions when one is encountering changes in your life, at work, in relationships and everything else, can add value, new insight and depth during the journey.

Making art to translate a transitional season into something more significant can provide a valuable ‘rite of passage’ ritual.

Grow sticks for my flowers

My sister recently told me that she planted some ‘grow sticks’ next to her flowers, with remarkable results.

It dawned on me how this metaphor can be likened to attending an art therapy session or two. Especially when we sense the need for personal growth in an area of our life which is already blooming, but could improve to become so much better when we add therapeutic input and creativity to the mix.

Transitions and art therapy

We have always been in transition.  Life causes us to encounter change after change.  These changes cause encounters with transitions that alters who we are.

I often wonder how the transitions that I have encountered impacted me.  What has shifted, and how am I now different than before? Recently I encountered a big change in my life, and I knew that I had to understand how this transition has affected me as a person. I decided to call upon the services of Fraservalley’s art therapist to walk alongside me.  I needed some deeper understanding of what was happening with me.

I am not in the least an artist, and was somewhat sceptical of my own ability to engage with the process.  Let’s face it, as an accountant,  making art is not my favourite past time.  To my surprise and delight I found the process not at all what I expected it to be.  After two months of art therapy, not only did I enlarge my own creativity, but I now  celebrate who I am.

The insight that I gained about myself, my own process and how I changed, during a very taxing time in my life leaves me very grateful for the experience. It was more than interesting. During art therapy I learned to value who I am, how I process life and how to address issues in a fresh and creative way.  I can’t wait for the new season in my life.

Did I do the right thing by ending my relationship?

I have recently broke up with my boyfriend. Although things were going ok, but I wasn’t sure if he was the “one”. Honestly, I thought that I couldn’t commit to the relationship if I wasn’t absolutely sure he was the best guy I could get. I didn’t want to get Mr. Right-now if the real Mr. Perfectly Right is still out there for me. Did I do the right thing? Was I just full of myself? My life is a mess right now and my heart hurts. Did I do the right thing and how would your type of therapy help me get out of this sadness?

                                                        – Uncertain


Dear Uncertain,

Relationships are complicated most of the time. In your e-mail I read hurt and confusion.

Usually, people will respond to your question in two ways. The first group will cheer you on for the doing the thing that was very best for your self interests. They will say that there are plenty of fish in the sea, plus you have time to live the dream life the way you want while you are finding the “one”. Others will tentatively ask whether you weighed out the pros and cons and whether you were being overwhelmed by emotions in your decision making.

I will tell you this: Deep despair and feelings of hopelessness are often the result after a special relationship ends on a disappointing note. The grief and loss relating to the disappointment after relationship break-up can continue for a long time: If not taken care of these feelings of sadness can deepen, possibly leading to clinical depression, if not treated the right way.

Talking to family or friends, or trying to work on your own through the pain might give a person some perspective. But most people know that they need more help than this. This is when they need to book a session with a counsellor to help them cope and regain equilibrium.

Cognitive and other behavioural therapies deal with the mental side of loss. However, this is seldom enough when one needs assistance reaching into the deep emotional hurt and pain of intense life discouragements. You want to work through the pain and regain yourself in this situation.

It is at these times when art therapy – as an added component to standard psychotherapies – can become the tool that one will need to apply when other methods fail. Remember, ‘art is a way of knowing the life of the soul’, as M.C. Richard said. Art is a way of non-intellectual knowing through emotion and body. It evokes in the soul and intuition of self-hood. M.C. said art-making carries us free of conscious thinking and judging. It accesses another part of oneself, where the mysteries of pain and release, grief and anger and despair, longing and hope are present.’

Making art in a safe space, with a therapist who is trained to ask the right questions, guiding us along the way, allowing us to discover more about our deep inner landscape. That landscape which is even hidden from our mental awareness, but which can change and control us beyond our understanding.

With the use of creative art making and through the guidance of a trained and qualified art therapist, people can begin to come to terms with their loss. In that inner landscape –  where our emotions are running wild and where hurt gnaws away at our core – we can get help. Through providing a sacred safe space of creativity, people can learn and discover how to manage the wild beast of emotional decay, and eventually move on towards a new and peaceful inner landscape.

Once you have achieved a state of peace then the answer which you are looking for can be answered out of true clarity.

Since you are already seeking counsel from other sources, I recommend that you book an appointment with an art therapist and invest in finding a better state of mind. Once you’ve answered the question of who you are, you can better answer whether he is the right one for you.