FEATURING: CAROL FERRANTE SMUCKLER The Use Of Art And Psychodrama In Therapy

by Carol Ferrante-Smuckler, CSW

Artist and Psychotherapist

I became intrigued by the use of the creative arts in therapies through my own self discoveries while artmaking. I found that through looking at the paintings I made, I “saw” that there was more to my experiences, to life than I had thought.

That is one of the mainstays of the creative arts therapies, concretizing our experiences, fears, joys, pain, conflicts, and offering the possibilities of new awareness, new ways of being in an animated way. It is an action based, sensory- based mode of therapy approach that offers a very enlivening, interactive aspect to the therapy session. Sometimes the body knows what’s inside us before words can speak of them, or at least knows sooner and possibly with more truth. And as we all know, that which is held or hidden can harm us internally or is acted out in our relationships, or acted on ouselves through substance use or abuse.

Art can be used in and of itself or combined with other expressions, such as psychodrama, movement and writing or music. I am most familiar with art and psychodrama, which this article will mostly concern itself with.

To begin, the client is given an array of materials to choose from. The exercise can be very structured (draw a picture of your family of origin doing something) or free form (draw what you are feeling today). For a preliminary,the client can scribble, move his or her body, listen to music and more. If one were to combine psychodrama with the art exercise of “draw a picture of your family of origin doing something,” the possibilities are interesting. One thing would be to use an empty chair and have the client speak to one of the family members and then reverse roles. The therapist can interview each family member through the client. The client can use clay to form a sculpture of the family and move it around, or the client can write a sentence or two about each family member and then give voice to each person.

Another exercise can be to draw the way you feel inside, and on the other side, the face you show to the world. The therapist can then interview each part in a different chair, or the client may form a body sculpture of the images.

In a group or with an individual, the therapist can offer a pool of various animals which the client picks from. The client can act like that animal, or write what message that animal is sending to him or her.

Through the use of arts, we can expand our behavioural repertoire, experiment with novel ways of being, make use of our innate creativity, and say to others what may not be possible outside the therapy office. All this is done in the safety of the therapist’s office, with the therapist as witness, or in a group situation, where the group becomes witness to our emerging selves which now finds new modes of expression in a social context.

Carol Ferrante-Smuckler, CSW, is a psychotherapist who has been in private practice for over 15 years. She is a certified social worker working in an empathetic, supportive capacity to help people grow and develop and deal with stress, depression and relationship problems. As an artist, she knows the value of aestetics in healing and has training in art therapy and psychodrama. Contact her or visit her ByRegion Healers webdisplay and her ByRegion Artists webdisplay.

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