By Sibel Ozer
In the art therapy stories I've shared thus far, I have explored various themes of change. The need/want for it, on the one hand, and the mechanism/process toward it, on the other.
Despite the numerous psychological intervention methods that claim/guarantee change and improvement, the mechanism of healing appears to remain somewhat of a mystery. There continues to exist a discrepancy between what therapists report as pertinent to therapy and what clients say helped them. I like how Sally Denham-Vaughan’s puts it: “Change seems to be a slippery, unpredictable, and somewhat feral beastie.”
Gestalt therapy contributed “The Paradoxical Theory of Change” to psychology, which postulates that change happens: when we become more of who and what we are rather than attempting to move toward or try to become what we are not. So, Gestalt therapies encourage us to seek awareness, as opposed to change, based on the assumption that the former leads to the latter.
So what is one way art therapy helps increase our awareness through being more of who we are?
I wrote about the role of materials in my first article, how different materials call up different responses for each of us, based on their unique and varied qualities. Because I am committed to exploring and deepening my own personal awareness, I like to periodically look into the materials I happen to be using at that time. So, one way to increase our awareness is to be curious about what our hands are choosing. Of course, given we are allowing them to do the choosing.
Sometime around the beginning of this past fall, I started doing mosaics for the first time, and have yet to fully decipher what this material is doing for me at this time in my life.
My primary medium is acrylics. I will have periods of exploration with different materials and keep on coming back to painting.
Sometime after I started working at hospice, I began getting interested in wood burning. Initially, I wasn't even thinking about it; it seemed to be merely a new and exciting discovery. It turns out there was more to it. When painting, I do a lot of layering which allows me to change colors and texture dramatically during the creation of a single piece. Sometimes I’ll photograph the stages of a painting that’ll reveal this process. It is lovely to see how a painting that was mainly blues and greens in the initial phases reaches completion only after I've let the colors of fire take over.
With wood burning, the marks you make are much more permanent. The integrity of the material is changed forever upon application and you cannot just gesso over it and start over.
So the material my hands were choosing was allowing me to better process, reflect, hold, and help express the reality of working with death and dying on a daily basis.
Another time I got a burning desire to explore quilting. Again, initially, I wasn't thinking which material should I choose that’ll best express what I am currently dealing with, but I just followed this desire to work with the material of fabric. It was much later upon the reflection of how the materials could inform me about what was going on inside, that I saw a connection. We were in the process of moving from one state where we had lived for seven years. A big transition given our kids were older and would definitely be deeply impacted. I noticed that sewing is very grounding and is associated with preparing for the future, home, and nesting. One of my quilts had the flying geese and the other the log home design, again not chosen particularly consciously… The material of fabric and the process of sewing were offering a sense of stability in the midst of change that proved to be very balancing.
So what is it about mosaics that is attracting me at this time? Little broken pieces of different sizes and shapes coming together to create a unique whole / final image…
Last Thursday we went to the courthouse in Detroit for our citizenship ceremony. The presiding judge talked about how American culture had repeatedly been defined as a melting pot. Indeed there were people from all the corners of the world, from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East who stepped forward to receive their certificates. The Judge said that Jimmy Carter had a different metaphor to define the diversity that is a cornerstone of American culture. “We become not a melting pot, but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” Issues of identity, belonging, the review of hopes and dreams, and our individual journey has naturally been up for me recently. Mosaics turned out to be an excellent material to hold these explorations. The varied little pieces that don’t seem to look like anything (or make sense) initially eventually find their place in the overall picture and reveal their meaning…
What are the pieces that make up the mosaic of your life?
What materials are your hands going towards these days?
Sibel Ozer is a licensed professional counselor and board-certified art therapist currently doing private practice at The Parkway Center in Ann Arbor. She started her career as a clinical psychologist working with earthquake survivors in Turkey. She continued her work in the United States in hospice, hospital, and private practice settings further specializing in grief, loss, and trauma. She is a certified EMDR practitioner and a graduate of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. She gives experiential workshops nationally and in her country of origin (Turkey) on different art therapy topics. Visit www.sibelozer.com, call (303) 905-1109, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.