Therapists can learn much from artists.
They could learn to utilize more nonlinear forms of thinking, expression, and processing. Artists aim to translate invisible felt senses into tangible forms of art. They might do this with sounds, words, movements, shapes, or colors. They may do it by putting themselves in others’ shoes.
Artists, through their artform, aim to make the invisible visible in a way that creates beauty. The artwork can connect the viewer or listener to a deeper internal and external awareness.
Art inspires its audience. It is also capable of offering a space for transformation to those who regularly engage in the creative process. Such transformation arises from the process of self-inquiry and the intention to heal. Artists are capable of being with intense, difficult emotional material. They are able to bring empathy, a felt sense, and intuition to the human experience without diagnosing. Artists are capable of offering total presence to a difficult experience by engaging a heart-felt space.
Therapists can learn from artists how to trust the intuitive use of metaphors and symbols as a language of the soul. The creative arts therapies engage the medicinal power of creativity through using various forms of art-making.
Artists can learn from therapists, too. One thing artists can learn from therapists is an approach to expression that includes titration and integration. Titration is a method used in chemistry—adding one solution into another very slowly, one drop at a time.It is like having one slice of bread at a time rather than trying to eat the whole loaf.
In current trauma therapy, using a titrated approach to work with intense emotional material has proven to foster integrated change far better than the intensive cathartic approaches that were common decades ago.
Often artistic expression can be oriented to overcoming constraints and being as dramatic and impactful as possible. This parallels the 1970’s era of humanistic psychotherapy where catharsis and dramatic expression were prevalent.
Through a conscious engagement in the creative process, artists can intentionally use the arts as a form of healing. Rather than focusing on the success or big impact of the art piece, one can spend time to slowly digest the materials that are emerging through metaphors and symbols. Such titration allows for ingesting the potentially traumatic material in small quantities and giving lots of space and time for it to reveal its meaning, story, and medicine.
Therapy can offer a safe space where the art piece and the artist/client can converse away from the limelight and the pressure of success. Whether you are an artist or not, the combination of art and therapy provides an enhanced space for expression where nothing is relevant other than your truth.