Saturday, June 5, 2010

Double Healing Power with MBAT (Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy)

An emerging therapeutic approach, Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy blends the two disciplines of mindfulness and art therapy. There is little research in the field to date, besides the controlled trial done by Caroline Peterson with cancer patients

What I know for sure, however, from years working as an art therapist with patients in partial hospitalization programs, is that art therapy is a powerful modality for many suffering from  a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, chronic illness, trauma, chronic pain, adjustments to life transitions, anger issues, personality disorders, psychotic states, etc . . . On a personal note, art has always been a part of my inner journey, whether in the form of paintings, sculptures, and more recently simple collages, and poems. Art therapy engages the creative, imaginative, soul-making part of ourselves. As such it helps with putting ourselves back as broken, and yet potentially whole people. It is both a process and a goal-oriented activity, that can be accomplished alone, or in the presence of an art therapist who then acts as witness, and also assistant of natural healing taking place during the person's art-making.

At San Jose State University Foundry
working on bronze sculpture - Spring 2005
(from San Jose State University Magazine)

Separately, I have also witnessed the potency of mindfulness as a therapeutic intervention, in my work with MBSR groups, hospice patients, and also individual clients. As with art therapy, I came to discover the transformative power of mindfulness, through the door of my own emotional and mental suffering. While mindfulness has taken the front seat in my journey towards self-healing, I have found expressive techniques to be a very useful adjunct during those times when strong emotions and difficult mental states arise.

Of course, in order for it to work, Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy requires that the therapist be deeply involved personally in both practices of mindfulness and art-making. 

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