Something light. Erm… OK - materials for the art therapy space are getting messier, larger paper and more squidgy paints. Since ‘NEW’ exhibition, I’ve been wrapping and labelling a large body of work, and many paintings. The studio feels more clear, more ready for some painting mess.
It started getting cold, I have used a Japanese design idea for the work table, to make good use of the heat there is now a big blanket over the trestles, and under the tabletop, with a radiator under the table. This way the heat is concentrated around your feet - where you need it most, rather than attempting to heat the whole room. This is working well so far, as you can see:
I have been thinking a lot about secondary trauma lately, where someone can be impacted by events that they do not directly experience. Following recent attacks in Paris, news outlets and social media have been full of horrific images and texts; I expect many people will suffer from this regardless of personal and geographical proximity.
The London Underground has seemed more aggressive than I am used to, but other times calmer and with an unusual sense of togetherness. Yesterday someone used the handle of his umbrella against my back to push me forward and make more space for himself, and at one point I was pushed on both sides at the same time! It was not rush hour. Once out of the central area it became calmer, I sat down and glanced along the row in front of me, sitting in a line it appeared there were people of several nationalities. A curvy black woman talking and chuckling gently into her phone when the DLR went overground created a soothing atmosphere. As we trundled along in what felt like quite a convivial little carriage, I relished the sense of acceptance there was and the unusual warmth and calm. A young girl had looked radiant, smiling at me when she sat down opposite. We were clearly both glad of the seats. When she looked at her phone her face changed to sadness. She might have been Muslim from her look and dress, I wanted her to smile again.
In grief there is often anger, which can be hard to understand and manage with no clear prompt or outlet for it. I wonder if that is part of why much of the media typically scapegoats specific communities in response to loss, why France was overtly dropping bombs during the country's collective mourning, and why someone in the midst of this news digs his umbrella handle into a stranger’s back on the train. On that I can only ponder, but I know for sure tragedy can bring people together, and generate increased compassion.
Returning to some previous work:
My interest in writing about working therapeutically with people who hoard has been rekindled.
This month I attended a training for peer reviewing articles submitted to 'Inscape' Journal run by the British Association of Art Therapists, Bristol. The editors encourage and value article submissions, knowing it is not easy to send work for publication, particularly when writing is not your main thing. It is easy to imagine reviewers trashing the less academic works, but apparently not! They give feedback, which is very valuable and I think having to include research sources can be helpful in developing an idea.
In short, the way I have helped people who hoard in the past is by working verbally and using art making to identify traumatic events that occurred around the time that collecting is known to have begun, then working to help process the early wound. EMDR can be helpful for relieving particular traumatic memories, that can often be the root cause of hoarding behaviours.
This combined with input from social workers in clearing the spaces with the client, and developing wellbeing plans can provide a longterm solution. Hoarding frequently reaches the point that it is considered a safety hazard - for example due to fire risk, or ceiling collapses, and the fire brigade and / or police are called in. The site might be cleared without the client's consent or any therapeutic input, which can be disturbing in itself and result not only in the building being filled again, but the client generating debt through replacement purchases, hence the expensive cycle continues.
A project proposal I wrote for the public sector on this basis has been allocated a budget for further work using Art Psychotherapy & EMDR with people who hoard, from a social work base. I hope to deliver the sessions through SA&T in 2016, though the logistics of working with this hard to engage client group, through a large organisation but from outside of that, raises challenges for the clinical work. However, without such a partnership the joined up approach would be less possible to achieve, and I do want to provide services for people who cannot afford to pay.
If I do manage to deliver the sessional work, I will concentrate on the clinical method in any writing, rather than institutional dynamics. It is motivating to think that the methods could be used in a variety of contexts.
OK, enough for now. More in December.