Let’s be honest about what we lack so we can get what we deserve

Image of a child finger painting

If and when you think of art therapy, perhaps you think of play. If so, that is a good thing, but it’s only half the story. Traditional talk therapy or psychotherapy can sound daunting and unpleasant to many, which is why I enjoy using clay and paint as tools for expressing emotions when words won’t do. Perhaps therapy sounds good in theory but also like something that can be put off until the stars magically align and your baby learns to sleep through the night, or your teenager learns how to be a pleasant human being, or your spouse finally becomes supportive. And suddenly then “poof”, everything is resolved and there is no need for therapy any more.

And there is nothing wrong with this. I love to hear how people use grit, sheer determination, and brute force to dig themselves out of a hole with tools that amount to a plastic spork and a toothpick. As a therapist, I’m not disappointed when you chose not to work with me while you were in the hole. If we spoke for a consult or someone referred you to me and we never connected, but you made it through…I’m proud of you. I’m proud of the way that you harnessed all of your strengths and got through that rough patch, and I think you are amazing! You know what? I’ve been there too, with the spork and the toothpick just making things work, in spite of all the obstacles. So I get it. You are an independent self-made woman, much like myself.

Image of a woman doing a bicep curl

I could end here, but this is only half the story. We were just talking about one hole, one bought of depression or anxiety, one extended period of grief, struggle, or challenge. But life has a lot of holes, some little, some big, and some that seem like bottomless pits (where you are falling like Maui into the Realm of Monsters but with much less enthusiasm.) And the more holes you fall in and climb out, the more exhausted you get. Your spork is bent and your toothpick is---

Here’s the thing. One day you look at the tools in your hand and you realize “THIS IS A @%#$ING TOOTHPICK AND A %&#ING SPORK!” And you wonder where you even got the spork…is it leftover from the elementary school lunchroom?! Perhaps you ask yourself, “How did I get this far with crummy old half-assed tools,” and then you start to doubt their reliability in future holes.

Perhaps at this point you want to yell at me, and demand, “What are you talking about a spork and toothpick for, Rochelle?! Is this some kind of metaphor?” Why yes, yes it is! But I assure you I came up with it on the fly as I was writing.

Your spork and toothpick may be beliefs about who you are and what you are capable of that limit you. They may be coping skills that aren’t healthy and aren’t sustainable. They may be ways of being and doing things that are not in line with who you are authentically as a person.

And let’s be clear. I honor your plastic spork and your toothpick. They got you this far. They brought you through traumas and challenges big and small. They got you through the hard times. But once you notice that they are lacking, it is a fools errand to keep using them without taking the time to gain new tools that will serve you at this time in your life.

So when I offer you paint, or clay, I’m not only offering you play (—which is noble and worthy in and of itself). I’m offering access to your own personal metaphors, the meaning that you will make out of your experiences, and the new tools you will fashion from your bare hands. I am guiding you in a process of recognizing that you are the heroine in your own story, and I am supporting you in imagining and growing into the woman you want to be.

What starts with play can lead to fundamental change. It’s time that you are honest with yourself about what you lack, so that that you can get what you need and deserve. I invite you to schedule an individual session with me, and join the "Joyfully Sustainable Motherhood" member group so that we can start building up your tool box.

Original artwork of a woman standing in front of the moon made with tissues paper, glue, and glitter glue

#therapy #art #coping #trauma

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