Tree of Hope

Tree of Hope - Art Therpy Exercise

Tree of Hope – A reflective Art Therapy exercise using the visual metaphor in which a tree represents your life, the various elements that make it up and your hopes for the future.

It’s been a strange, challenging and unpredictable year. As we look forward to 2021, I am drawn to a reflective exercise to help shine a light on 2020 and the way we experienced it.

Throughout the world, at all times and in all places, humanity has pictured, in one form or another, the image of the tree. The tree of life symbol is ancient and is represented in Christianity, Judaism, Celtic culture, Ancient Egypt, African, Aboriginal Culture and Buddhism. The tree of life symbol is respected throughout the world for its vitality and strength, unity and connection and the life we are all living.

So, let us now sit back and visualize our own individual tree and see if it helps us relate to some of our 2020 experiences.

Gather some art materials, such as coloured pencils, pastels or paint.

  1. Find a comfortable place and take a few deep breaths, to ground yourself and be present.
  2. Start by picturing the background, and then continue to reflect on your surroundings.
  3. Visualize your roots. The roots of the tree represent your strengths and can be the foundation to build on and grow on.
  4. Move on to picture and draw the trunk and branches.

When drawing or painting the leaves reflect on the following:

  • One word to represent yourself this year
  • One, or a few feelings you’ve experienced this year
  • One thing you did for self-care
  • One person you relied on for support
  • One thing you look forward to in the future

This exercise will help you to take a look back and see what hopes and wishes, we can take from the year that’s gone by. As the new year begins, may this little exercise help you find joy and peace in being present.

And please share your experiences of the “tree of hope” activity with me.

References:

  • The Tristesse Grier Centre, “Tree of Hope Activity”.
  • “The Tree of Life Symbol of the centre”, Roger Cook. Thames and Hudson, London.(1974).
  • Colouruswell.com “The tree of many colours, A strong Symbol of Life”.

 

 

“Ten Thousand Flowers in Spring”

“Ten Thousand Flowers in Spring” by Wu-Men

 

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

 

This poem by Wu–Men (a classic Zen poet who lived from 1183-1260 in China) is a wonderful metaphor on how our mind can find some peace when we let go of the constant inner chatter. Throughout the last couple of years and especially through 2020 and the pandemic, I have found myself blending Mindfulness and Art Therapy more and more in my practice. Each counselling session starts with grounding, breathing exercises, followed by drawing images and presentations of thoughts and images that we see in our minds. I continue to support my clients to train the brain to focus on clarity, renewal, calm, resilience and joy, so they can live the more centred and compassionate life most of us want.

Mindfulness helps you to pay attention to the thoughts that are useful to you for living in accordance with your values and letting go of the focus on thoughts that are unhelpful.

Would you like to become more mindful?

Here are 3 things to consider about your thoughts:

  • Become aware of your thoughts; notice if they are healthy thoughts or if they are
    unhealthy. This process helps us to detach from the thought and also to see it as what it is, just a thought.
  • Be mindful of your thoughts. Being able to notice when we are lost in thoughts, and knowing how to come back to a focusing point which is your or anchor, is very important.
  • Observe and investigate your beliefs. You don’t have to believe your thoughts, they are just thoughts! But it’s important to enquire about the thought. Ask yourself: what is my core belief around this thought?

Practise these three steps and you’re on the way to a more mindful YOU!

And if you need help, I am here for you.

 

 

The Guest House: A Poem

The Guest House

Rumi’s poem: “The guesthouse” gets to the heart of mindful living in the most beautiful way.

Whilst Melbourne is half way through Stage 4 restrictions, we are continuously experiencing many different feelings and emotions now, but just like the guests in the poem they will eventually leave.

I hope this poem can be a reminder not to resist thoughts and emotions passing through you, but to meet them with acceptance and respect.

 

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi.

What’s in your circle of control?

Mindful Art Therapy activity to help us stop, reflect and be in the moment.

Creativity can help us during times of stress. You do not have to be artistic to benefit from engaging in a creative activity. To encourage you to have a go, use this activity to make a start.

As we are navigating stage 4 restrictions, it’s good to remind ourselves what is in our control, and what is outside our control. Take some time to think about, or journal about what is in your control and what is not.

Draw or trace a large circle on your page.

Fill the inside of the circle with images, symbols, colours and words to represent the things that are in your control right now.

Include things that help you cope and responde to problems and stressors. Outside of the circle, you can add images or words to represent things that are outside of your control.

Consider adjusting the border of your circle – thickening the line, adding shapes, writing words- to better visualise protecting yourself from the stress of that which is out of your control. 

Here are some helplines numbers:

Lifeline on 131114 (24/7) or via text nightly (6pm-midnight AEDT) on 0477 13 11 14

Coronavirus hotline Victoria 1800 675 398

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Suicide Line 1300 651 251

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

 

Looking after your inner child in these challenging times

Inner child healing

For some of us, the thought of coming out of isolation might raise some anxieties and unexpected challenges. It’s a time to reflect and to appreciate what’s important to us. I find that this can be an important time and we can all benefit from some inner child healing.

The concept of the inner child is not new. It has roots in many religions, psychology, mythology, and fairy tales. The inner child is the core of our being. It’s the part of ourselves, which was left behind as we grew into adulthood. When we meet our inner child we often discover that our childhood needs were not met, needs for love, safety, trust, respect and guidance. This absence of basic conditions can bring anxiety, shame and anger in the inner child.

Helping ourselves heal by telling our inner child she is safe now, she is seen and that she matters can help overcome uncertainty and anxiety.
How do we do this?
• Becoming aware of the ways in which we harm and betray ourselves
• Noticing our behavior and its impact on others
• Learning to self regulate when we are triggered
• Recognizing and responding to our needs
• Reaching out for support
• Acknowledging our strengths
• Giving kindness, compassion and acceptance to ourselves.

Let your inner child pave the way for a more positive future!.

On line art therapy – thinking outside the studio box

We are experiencing strange times at the moment. And we don’t really know when this situation is going to end, or what sort of a future we will find ourselves in. However, in the meantime, we can support each other by connecting through the wonders of technology. Things are different but we can embrace these changes as opportunities to learn and grow – new skills, new experiences, and unexpected outcomes.

Online Art Therapy can be really convenient, offering the benefit of establishing connections with others while staying at home. As I am reflecting on the last few weeks of March and April and my new experiences with virtual art therapy, I would like to share with you some of my observations.

As with traditional art therapy, participants do not need to be artistic, nor good at art to benefit from taking part in the art therapy sessions. However, the emphasis in art therapy online, or by distance, is not on the art making nor on the art materials, but rather on the feeling of connection with clients and their experiences. I have found that the art making can even take place between sessions, not necessarily within the session itself, and then the client can bring the artwork to the following session to share and reflect upon.

The most important thing for me as a therapist is to keep my client in my consciousness and for the client to know that I’m there for them. No matter what tool we are using to connect, where it is, if it’s in the studio or via the computer, the client needs to feel connected and supported.

I can continue to assure the client that I care about them and their experience, and that I am here to “meet” them in whichever way works for them.

The client can use the screen-share option on Zoom, for example, allowing us both to look at an image together in the session. This can be used for any image that the client can access on their computer, such as a painting or photograph he or she has made, or something created by another artist.

I recently came across a reading by the art therapist and author, Nona Orbach, about the importance of the number of art works we make when we engage in art therapy sessions and the use of the metronome as a metaphor…

Nona Orbach states that creating a number of drawings will support our wellbeing. We can think of it as the heart’s metronome. Like breathing. One breath at a time, and then it becomes a series of breaths. If you are able to create a series of artwork it’s like you manage to create your own inner metronome. The metronome will help the rhythm and maintenance of your heart and possibly healing.

Let’s try and do some more artwork! and let’s keep the connection.

Please feel free to just email me a photo of something you like around your home, it doesn’t have to be a drawing or a painting. This can open a new conversation. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll feel a sense of comfort and connection.

Engaging with children who have experienced trauma.

Children who have experienced trauma need help to build a collection of successes, rather than a list of failures.

Trauma by definition, is unbearable and intolerable. Feelings of intense fear, helplessness, loss of control and threat of death characterize it. Trauma can overwhelm a person mentally, emotionally and physically.

However, trauma is not limited to surviving life-threatening experiences. For a young child, trauma may be experienced in the form of separation from parents, looking into the eyes of a depressed mother, or being in a household with a high level of marital tension. For an adolescent, chronic stress and trauma may come from the incessant teasing of peers or taking care of the needs of an alcoholic parent. For an adult, chronic loneliness, the loss of a pet, or a constant sense of shame or failure may have the same impact.

If we are lucky, we have had good healthy, loving, and nurturing carers when we were infants. These good carers would have been consistently available to us and helped us to lay the foundation for the optimal development of our brain and nervous system. They would also have helped us to develop a healthy view of ourselves, how to relate to other people, and how to cope with the world. Unfortunately, many maltreated, abused and/or traumatised children have not experienced such secure attachment to their parents. 

While we all want to move beyond trauma, the part of our brain that is controlled by trauma and helps us to survive, is not good in denial. A Child’s brain who underwent trauma is always looking for danger. When children act out their pain, rather than suppressing it, they are often diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attachment Disorder, or Conduct Disorder. However, it is important to remember that these labels are just parts of the whole person’s self-protective mechanism. Nevertheless, we cannot change the behavior without treating the underlying issues – the trauma.

To help children develop good attachment and to reconnect, carers/parents need to be in tune with the child or the young person. According to Dan Hughes, a clinical psychologist, being playful, accepting and empathic are the keys to reconnecting and becoming “in tune” with the child or the young person. Home should be the place where children and parents can relax, feel safe, laugh and cry, hope and dream. When home is functioning well, it has the characteristics of PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy).

When we engage respectfully and genuinely in this way, we aim to increase the emotional bond between the child and the carer and provide alternatives to the child’s previous experiences.

 

We use PACE to:

help the child feel connected.

help you and the child feel understood.

build trust between you.

build security between you.

 

An open, warm attitude of unconditional love and joy is the basis on which an infant’s positive development will flourish. As children grow up, however, this attitude seems to decrease, but if we continue to keep the PACE attitude throughout childhood it will enhance the child parent relationship.

 

 

 

Reading List

Bessel. V. D. K (2014). The body keeps the scores. Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma. UK:  Penguin books.

Hughes D. A (2009)  Attachment Focused Parenting. Effective Strategies to Care for children. New York, London: W.W.Norton & Company.

Disabled And a New Parent? Some Tips on Making It Work

I was recently contacted by someone to  publish their writing on my website. I decided to go ahead an help out this stranger as I am passionate about equality, people with disabilities and mental health.

So here it is, an article by Ashley Taylor. I hope you will find it helpful!

Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

Planning for a new baby is exciting, but also a little scary. And, if you have a disability, it may be even scarier. With careful planning, however, you will make a wonderful parent. Read on for some resources as well as tips on how to modify your home for your safety and that of your baby.

Resources

There are many resources that offer information, support, and the experiences of others. Here’s a quick list of some of the most useful websites:

  • com is an inspirational site that explains how parents with serious disabilities manage seemingly difficult tasks. One video, for instance, shows a paraplegic mother taking her baby to the car and strapping him into the car seat.
  • The good people at com have put together the top financial resources available to people with disabilities.
  • The Americans with Disabilities organization has put together a thorough document on the rights of disabled parents and what constitutes discrimination.

Home modifications

 There are home modifications you can make that will make it safer for you and for your baby. You will need to feed, bathe, and move your baby from one room to another, so it is vital that you’re able to move around the house unimpeded. Be sure to move furniture and clutter out of your home’s passageways. If you are in danger of falling, make sure your floors are skid-proof. This might involve laying textured vinyl tile or non-skid carpets.

Throw rugs or area rugs that are a tripping hazard should be thrown out or refurbished by applying lines of acrylic calk the length of the rug. When it’s dry, this is an effective way to turn a rug into a non-slip one. You can do the same thing with a bathmat.

Alternatively, you can paint the underside of the rug with a substance called “Fiber-Lok Non-Skid Rug Backing,” which is somewhat like rubber cement. If you can’t find it in local stores, you will be able to find it online. Also make sure you don’t have any stray staples or nails popping out of your floor.

Many parents have found that the easiest way to bathe a baby is to take him into the bathtub or shower with them. Put a bouncer in the bathtub for your baby or another device that keeps the baby’s head elevated. Depending on your disability, you may also benefit from installing grab bars in the shower and bathtub area.

The good people at BabyCenter.com say you can take a baby in the shower as soon as she’s shed her umbilical cord. They recommend introducing your baby to the shower experience slowly and carefully. Make sure your baby’s eyes don’t get the full blast of the water.

Feeding your baby

 Make sure you have a station for feeding your baby that is the right height and does not put undue stress on your back or arms. Some parents have found that cutting a table to fit around the mother or father and to fit around the baby chair makes the feeding process much easier.

If you have difficulty seeing, you will want to have someone label baby food containers with textured tape or braille labels so that you can tell the apples from the pears.

In conclusion, raising a baby is a challenge for anyone, and a disabled mother or father is no exception. But if you know what resources are available, the job will be a lot easier. Think about your needs and those of your new baby, and make accommodations accordingly.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Workshop- Art and Expression

Thank you to all the children who stopped by on Saturday at my art therapy table at the Pottery Barn store in Chadstone Shopping Centre. The workshop provided opportunity for children and adults to explore their creative side. I was surprised to see how many parents were willing to leave their children with two friendly strangers – me, and my delightful daughter. Some parents stayed and watched and that was good too.

In our modern day, where we hear so many stories about lack of trust in the world, I wondered what it was about the art that made everyone feel relaxed and that they could trust the people and the environment. I’m sure a table covered in paints and pastels and pencils and coloured material is very welcoming, and that was certainly our intention.


Children naturally gravitate towards art. It is a simple way for them to connect with themselves and the world around them, which can so often be overwhelming and confusing. We saw how kids who presented in a shy way when they started, opened up with each progressive brush stroke on the paper. The art was like a conversation starter. It helped the children to examine their world and they were able to talk about what they were doing. One girl discovered watercolours for the first time while she created an imaginative story. She left the art therapy table very happy with the new story she had created.

I feel very grateful as an art therapist to be able to witness these emerging expressions of their inner worlds and to just ‘be there’ accompanying children in their journeys.

״Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when you grow up!״ Picasso.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt.

At times, such as life transitions, when children are leaving the nest, changing career in your 50’s, looking for a new job or perhaps a breakdown of a relationship, staying positive and not comparing yourself to others can be very difficult.

How does one overcome the natural human reaction of comparing yourself to your friend, your sibling, or your colleague? Staying focused, meditation and practicing mindfulness can help you connect to your inner self and help you find the strength you need in a difficult time.

But sometimes we need help doing this. Discussing your situation with a counsellor can help you find your inner strength, resilience and self esteem. When art therapy is also used in the counselling process it helps people to tap into their own creative resources and find their uniqueness. Sometimes we loose sight of that. It reminds us that we are worthy no matter how successful we appear to be, how smart our kids are or how big our house is.

If you can relate to some of these issues, please call me to discuss how I can help you paddle your boat through your life changing currents.

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M: 0412 396 644