Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nurture New Beginnings

"Nurture New Beginnings" Collage by Lani

Another great thing I learned at the American Art Therapy Association Conference in Dallas was from a great panel on making mistakes. "Transforming Past Mistakes into Future Lessons..." by Nicole Brandstrup, Gretchen Miller, and Jordan Potash, in which each presenter talked about a mistake they had made, and how when they were willing to examine and learn from this mistake they discovered a gold mine of learning. Although each presentation had so much to offer, what my mind jumped on in particular was from Gretchen's piece. I think it explains so much of why art making can be so helpful, in a very basic level which I may loose sight of at times.

Gretchen said that she believed the main reason for her "failure" with a particular art intervention was...

... because I was focusing too much on “the thinking brain” and relying on assumption of need connected to this, rather than staying with the needs of “the emotional brain” related to trauma.

I needed to become more equipped to not only treat trauma, but become a voice for trauma informed care in future milieus I would work in and to advocate for youth facing these issues. As a result, I have spent the last few years working on trauma certification and becoming a Certified Trauma Consultant through the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children. This specialized training has provided me with the tools and knowledge to approach my art therapy work from the brain stem up and to be more thoughtful in understanding how to implement sensory-based art interventions before jumping right into cognitive processing.

How perfect, working from the brain stem up, giving that most primitive aspect of the brain its due. I think this is excellent advice for all of us, whether we are working with others of working alone in our studios, we can always provide our brain stems with positive experiences as we work. I suspect this is why my favorite spa is so popular, they know how to provide our brain stems with very positive experiences. Now to build more of these experiences into my life and art! Thanks Gretchen!

One of the many mistakes I made as an art therapist was one of omission. I had been working for many years with a dissociative patient, using clay, paint, cloth, fibers, dolls and puppets, and she had given me some hints about how her work might have become more ethnically and culturally syntonic. I wasn't paying attention at the time, but when I thought more carefully about this mistake, it actually informed the happy direction that much of my work has taken, so in some sense I was also able to transform and learn from the mistake. More from Dallas and on the multicultural possibilities of art therapy soon. Stay tuned.

Altered antique photo by Lani

6 comments:

Bea said...

What an interesting conference you have gone to. We always hear the refrain, "you can learn from your mistakes" but so often we are just emotionally bogged down in THE MISTAKE. And, it really is true that there are lessons in everything for us if we are willing to bend our mind around that. :)Bea

Seth said...

Your collage is really stunning. And the information you shared from the conference and about mistakes is really fascinating. Thank you for that.

Lani Gerity said...

Thank you Bea and Seth!

Bill C. said...

I love your "New Beginnings" collage! Zetti characters make me happy.

Lila said...

Thank YOU! Lani. I will have to sit with this for a while before I move forward. That was a lot to chew on.

Lani Gerity said...

Thank you Bill and Lila!