Art therapy interventions and clinical hypnotherapy
Recently I worked and completed a project with world-renowned art therapist, Pamela Hayes. Based in Los Angeles, California, like me, Pamela is also a trained hypnotherapist and a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT).
With her background in hypnotherapy, I was eager to work together and complete this project in art therapy. I wanted to see how, together, we could incorporate and marry these two therapeutic disciplines together, without taking away any of the strengths of either therapy, whilst at the same time creating a superpower technique that incorporates the very best of both.
What is art therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of expression and communication. Within this context, art is not used as a diagnostic tool but as a medium to address emotional issues which may be confusing and distressing.
Art therapists work with children, young people, adults, and the elderly. Clients may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities, or diagnoses. These include emotional, behavioral or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, life-limiting conditions, neurological conditions, and physical illnesses.
Art therapy is a technique rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being.
People have been relying on the arts for communication, self-expression, and healing for thousands of years. But art therapy didn't start to become a formal program until the 1940s.
Different people will have different experiences of arts and creative therapies, but in general, they aim to:
- allow you to communicate thoughts and feelings that you find difficult to put into words
- help you make sense of things and understand yourself better
- give you a safe time and place with someone who won't judge you
- help you find new ways to look at problems or difficult situations
- help you to talk about complicated feelings or difficult experiences
- give you a chance to connect with other people
For thousands of years, cultures and religions around the world have incorporated the use of carved idols and charms, as well as sacred paintings and symbols, in the healing process. The establishment of art therapy as a unique and publicly accepted therapeutic approach only took place recently, in the mid-20th century. The emergence of art therapy as a profession arose independently and simultaneously in the United States and Europe.
The term “art therapy” was coined in 1942 by British artist Adrian Hill, who discovered the healthful benefits of painting and drawing while recovering from tuberculosis.
Margaret Naumburg, Hanna Kwaitkowska, Florence Cane, Edith Kramer, and Elinor Ulman were five influential writers of the 1940s who made significant contributions to the development of art therapy as a recognised field.
Margaret Naumberg (May 14, 1890 – February 26, 1983) was an American psychologist, educator, artist, author, and among the first major theoreticians of art therapy. Prior to working in art therapy, she founded the Walden School of New York City.
Hanna Kwaitkowska was a Polish ceramics sculptress, art therapist, and child and family psychiatrist. She was the first person to document and conduct research in family art therapy practices.
Florence Cane (September 28, 1882 – 1952) was a notable American art educator whose ideas influenced the field of art therapy.
Edith Kramer (1916–2014) was an Austrian social realist painter, a follower of psychoanalytic theory and an art therapy pioneer.
Elinor Ulman taught in the Art Therapy Program from 1971 to 1988 and was an honorary life member of the American Art Therapy Association. She was founder, editor, and publisher of 'The Bulletin of Art Therapy' (now The American Journal of Art Therapy).
Art therapy involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, colouring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art. Clients can 'decode' the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which should lead to a better understanding of their feelings and behaviour so they can move on to resolve deeper issues.
What is clinical hypnotherapy?
Clinical hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Hypnosis allows the subject to experience deep levels of relaxation and altered states. And so helps to reduce levels of stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD, eating disorders, addiction, chronic pain, self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
Combining clinical hypnotherapy with art therapy
Combining the two therapies is an exciting new project that I am working on, using art therapy interventions within clinical hypnotherapy sessions.
Working with Pamela, what soon became apparent was that both therapies, art therapy and clinical hypnotherapy, have intricate and delicate nuances and niches within them, separate from the other. And yet these differences lend themselves to spark and completely enhance the other.
For example, very often at the start of a hypnotherapy session, the client is taken to a safe place using hypnosis. They are guided by the hypnotherapist, under hypnosis, to their safe place, and then the client can return to this safe place at any moment during the session when they may feel the need to feel more secure, protected, and safe.
And, in art therapy, the client is asked to draw their safe place.
A perfect way to start a session using the best of both therapies is as follows:
- The client draws a safe place
- Guided visualisation of the safe place, based on the client’s drawing
- With the help of the hypnotherapist, the client visits their safe place during hypnosis
- The client can then use all of these three techniques themselves, after the session, at home.
Many of the techniques can only be used with the help of and under the guidance of a well-qualified and experienced art therapist and/or clinical hypnotherapist.
However, some of the techniques used in therapy sessions can be used safely and simply by the client once they return home.
The art therapy and clinical hypnotherapy project is ongoing and I will be excited to share more with you at a later date.
In the meantime, get your crayons, paints, and colouring pencils at the ready!
Have a go at drawing:
- your safe place
- your happy place
- your adventurous place