Working Creatively in Therapy

Mandy Jane Lynch

Your Therapy Godmother - Counsellor / Coach / Hypnotherapist




Working Creatively in Therapy

I can offer to work with you creatively through using Drawings, Paintings, Photos, Sand Trays, Dolls, Fairytails, Dreams, Singing, Books etc. This can help with you telling your story in a different and gentler way and by giving yourself permission to do it through the medium of creativity e.g. if, as a child, you were told: "never to talk to anyone about what happened to you". then by singing the story, drawing a scene or aspect from your story you are respecting the wounded inner child and part of you that is protecting you by not telling me anything verbally.

Sometimes you may come into the counselling room with your defences high as you may still be wary about what you might be in for, and you may not be very familiar with what counselling entails.  I will provide you with a safe space and then start to build up a therapeutic relationship with you during our sessions together by creating safety through non-judgemental acceptance and empathy.  I will go at your own pace and will understand when the time is right to discuss any creative interventions.  By using creative interventions I can help you access buried feelings and memories which can happen sometimes very quickly creatively and that is why I will work with you slowly as not to overwhelm and the intervention can be stopped at any point you wish to stop.  I will also ensure that I allow enough time at the end of your session to make sure that you are safely grounded before you go home.  

We know that if you are an extrovert you may like to talk to me as you engage with creative interventions, however more introverted you are you may need time for reflection and quiet space which I will offer to ensure that you are kept as safe, comfortable and secure as possible during your session.

Here are some examples of creative interventions I can use with you:

Artwork - this can involve asking you to draw a scene that gives an example of your relationship with a key figure in your life such as your mum or dad and asking you to explore your feelings about drawing your picture.  This is about highlighting how the relationship you had with your key figure has felt for you and how you may have internalised them and the event that you have drawn.

Working with Nesting Dolls - this is a simple but immensely powerful intervention to explore your different 'selves'. within you.  I will use a set of 5 plain nesting dolls or a piece of paper showing 5 different sized dolls and I will ask questions such as "What do people see when they meet you?", "What is the 'outer layer' of you that everyone can see?.  I will go through each layer (your different 'selves') and allow you time to explore how it feels for each layer.  The final layer will be your core self and you can decide whether you want to 'hide' her back inside or to leave all the nesting dolls separated.

The Core Needs and Roles Played in Families Cards - this will involve using sets of cards to see what needs (such as material needs and emotional needs) were or were not met in your childhood and in your current life.  To also look at how to identify which roles you and other members of your family played out in the drama of your childhood.  This helps to determine how it felt to live in your family and also how it now feels for you in your current life.  This will show patterns.

Art Work and Left-Right Hand Dialogue - this may involve drawing pictures of your inner child feeling happy either real or imagined and then asking you to have a conversation with your inner child using your left and handwriting into how it really felt. It may be that your inner child says something like "I felt happy but sad and a bit scared".  The idea of this exercise is not to change the past event or memory but to begin to see more clearly what made it painful and to generate compassion for your inner child so that she can be reparented lovingly to make choices that take into account the things she needs. 

Drawing a Scene from a Fairytail - this drawing is then explored as a metaphor for something you believe or have experienced. Such as Little Red Riding Hood - the wolf could stir up some feelings of a scheming wolf gains your trust by pretending to be a member of the family you can trust, someone you love.  Sometimes there is so much secrecy around sexual abuse and is usually tied up with terrifying threats.  Another way is to draw a scene from the first fairytale that comes to mind and to give it a title. To then explore the feelings around the drawing and each character within it, the focal points and whether you would change anything etc. 

Storyboards - allowing you to tell your story scene by scene through artwork.  What happened, what resources the child feels they needed at the time and to draw how as you were a child how you can help now in the moment of crisis to make themselves feel safe.  It's not about re-writing history it's about identifying what should have happened and to work with you to help you see that in the moment of crisis within the storyboard you had found within yourself a part who could reach out to a safe person to help.  To then look in the present day how you can now do that for yourself in a moment of crisis.  To draw a list of people to help you when you feel overwhelmed, such as Samaritans, as a replacement to turning to alcohol etc.

Safe Place Imagery - Sometimes even sitting in a chair can be difficult therefore we offer the option to be able to sit on a blanket on the floor to be able to have the courage to address painful life events which we call "the working mat".  This can provide a grounding effect for you.  Another way to allow you to go deeper is if you want to use safe place imagery, it can either be drawn first or it can just be imagined.  This is a place where you identify in your imagination a place to run to,  a place where nothing bad can happen to you, a shelter, a sanctuary, where you are in control.  You choose the location and decide how to keep yourself safe.

Gestalt Chair Work - This is one of the most effective and liberating interventions I have witnessed and experienced.  It's about asking who you would like to put in the chair so that you are able to have a conversation with them such as your inner child, a key person in your life, your abuser, your emotion e.g. anger, your angry teenage self etc and to then be able to hear back from them what you would have hoped they would have said to you at the time.  Gestalt requires us to take ownership of our own experience and to take responsibility for our choices and decisions, and their consequences, without getting stuck blaming others.

Working with Animals - This is about working with symbol and metaphor which can be very powerful.  Using animals allows you to explore aspect of self at different ages e.g. a baby self, a child self, a teenage self, and older self and who they are now as an example. Looking at their capabilities e.g. have strong defences, can be fierce, can be protective etc. Then to look at other key members from your childhood and choose animals for them.   To explore this and how it all looks e.g. anyone look similar.  Lastly to draw a Power Line, putting the most dominant person in the family (most powerful animal self) at the top of the line and the least powerful at the bottom of the line to look who influenced the atmosphere most in the home.  

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Embrace Counselling and Hypnotherapy with Mandy Jane - 40 Vale Road, Rhyl, Denbighshire LL18 2BU