Internal Family Systems Theory
One of the ways I approach therapy is by utilizing the Internal Family Systems theory, which was developed by Richard Schwartz. This model suggests that we all have a core SELF that we can learn to access, and in doing so; we create an “internal relationship” with this SELF.
This leads to a better sense of balance and integrates the part of ourselves that offer leadership and wisdom with the parts of ourselves that are out of balance and dysfunctional. The parts of yourself that sabotage connection to Self-leadership were developed to help you cope with life’s stressful challenges. While these parts might have helped you at one time to manage and survive, they may be sabotaging your best interests in the here and now.
Knowing The Self And Knowing The Story
I believe that as we uncover our “Inner-child,” our “Inner-teenager,” and develop a stronger “Divine Mother” and “Divine Father” archetype within us, we succeed in walking in our true nature. Knowing that we ARE Soul, rather than thinking that we HAVE a Soul, brings us face to face with the true nature within us.
We are a whole person containing many archetypical characters within the nature of the Soul. The “Knowing of the Self” is perhaps one of the single most important drives within us. This also occurs within the experience of our “Life Story.”
We are the creator of our own Narrative. What we have experienced can be altered, transformed, embellished, tweaked, and brought into a world of balance. The idea of knowing your Soul’s Story by developing a relationship with the characters, gives us control and power to create successful patterns and outcomes for one’s Life Journey. Externalizing this Story and the major characters, i.e.: the shadow, the hero, the critic, the victim, the advocate, the inner mother or father etc., will aid one in actualizing the Self and bring an awareness to the integrated Soul.
Often we find ourselves in conflict with others or with our own inner “parts” that sabotage our goals and needs. By developing a greater relationship with this understanding and by increasing our conscious connection to these underlying motives and patterns, we will free ourselves from their destructive influences and move ourselves into wholeness.
Expressive Arts Therapies
The Creative interventions of Art therapy, Guided Imagery Through Music, Psychodrama, Creative Writing, Play Therapy, and Sandtray Therapy have been utilized for more than 70 years. These are referred to as “creative arts therapies” because of their roots in the arts and theories of creativity. Expressive arts therapies are defined as the use of art, music, drama, dance/movement, poetry/creative writing, bibliotherapy, play, and sandplay within the context of psychotherapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or medicine. Additionally, expressive therapies are sometimes referred to as “integrative” when various arts are purposively used in combination in treatment.
Integrative approaches involve two or more expressive therapies to foster awareness, encourage emotional growth, and enhance relationships with others. This approach distinguishes itself through combining modalities within a therapy session. Integrative approaches are based on a variety of orientations, including arts as therapy, arts psychotherapy, and the use of arts for traditional healing (Estrella, 2005; Knill, Levine, & Levine, 2005).
Why Relaxation & Mindfulness?
In addition to the disciplines and approaches mentioned above, many therapists integrate activities that enhance relaxation as part of trauma intervention. Relaxation techniques often include creative components such as music, movement, or art making. For example, guided imagery or visualization, meditation, and other methods of stress reduction are also used with individuals who have experienced trauma or loss.
Finally, art, music, drama and play have sometimes been incorrectly labeled as “nonverbal” therapies. They are both verbal and nonverbal because verbal communication of thoughts and feelings is a central part of therapy in most situations. In fact, most therapists who use these methods integrate them within a psychotherapy approach. In all cases, these approaches are "brain-wise" interventions that stimulate whole-brain responses to help individuals of all ages experience reparation, recovery and well-being.
Sand Tray Worlds
Sandplay Therapy is a creative form of psychotherapy that uses a sandbox and a large collection of miniatures to enable a client to explore the deeper layers of his or her psyche in a totally new format; by constructing a series of “sand pictures,” a client is helped to illustrate and integrate his or her psychological state.
The use of sand either black volcanic, orange Sedona, purple garnet or white crystal, creates a ground for the waiting story to inhabit. Into this world we project our own story. This experience allows each creator to play out fantasies and to externalize the workings of the psyche, making concrete in three dimensions the inner world, free from the interpretations of others. The "Soul" knows its own story and reveals its meaning to the creator of each unique world. This then is the land of the psyche.
Through play, a child develops self-confidence, a positive self-image and learns to express feelings, make decisions and cope with real-life situations.
Play Therapy is a method of establishing a relationship and utilizing the field of “play” as a catalyst to support prevention or resolutions of psychosocial difficulties while achieving optimal growth and development. (Crenshaw & Stewart 2014).
Play therapy offers a child a safe place to play with and express (instead of talking about) their thoughts, feelings and problems. I choose objects that encourage “fantasy play,” such as clay, sand, water, drawing materials and puppets, as well as toys that enable a child to act out real-life scenarios. This promotes a supportive relationship with the child, which encourages the child to open up through the symbolic language of play. The child is given complete freedom to control his play and actions. In such a protective, yet empowering environment, the child generally leads the therapist to the source of his emotional disturbance through his activity and behavior. (Jane Framingham, Ph.D)
Many years as an Art Teacher and a Waldorf Teacher, has provided me experience with various materials when utilizing Art Therapy. Mask making, mandala, drawing, painting, collage, light-table black/white silhouette drawing, dream-jars, and visual journals, altered books, clay or bead art are just a few ways art therapy can apply art activities within a therapeutic setting.
Art therapists use Carl Jung’s practice of active imagination as a way of accessing and consulting with one's inner wisdom. Essentially, this is a process of consciously dialoguing with your unconscious. Art as the narrative, allows us to translate experiences into a concrete form.
Creating an externalized object, provides a way of detaching from intrusive thoughts, feelings, and memories in order to transform them. “Rather than remaining a disturbing mixture of free-floating emotions, experiences are placed in an objective, historical context.” (Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC) This can take the format of a "dialogue with the image," free association with the artwork's contents, spontaneous journaling about an artwork or dream, witnessing one's drawing or painting, or even an invitation to write a "rant" in the tradition of free-form poetry or prose about an image or series of images.
It is not surprising that as I create or support the process of my client, we experience a connection and in that relationship, a dance of insight awakens the journey. This is similar to neuroscience physician, Dan Siegel’s concept of “mindsight” or the capacity for insight and empathy. Trauma expert Bruce Perry uses the terms “attunement” as a way to read the nonverbal communication of others.