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Reflection of Personal Art Therapy Experience as Facilitator

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 1229 words Published: 3rd Apr 2018

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  • Brett Cartwright




I have chosen to do my reflection on the Art Therapy Focusing model in which I facilitated a process for my client, who for the purpose of confidentiality we will call ‘Jemima’. This session was conducted at the Phoenix Institute of Australia as a part of the learning model presented by my lecturer within the Art Therapy Module. During the “setting up” (Malchiodi 1998) the space process I went about finding an appropriate area and making sure there were sufficient items conducive of an Art Therapy session, such as pastels, paper, and markers, as well as a cabinet in the corner filled with Art Therapy supplies, should Jemima wish to use something different. Upon the completion of the setting up process, I quickly checked in with myself to ensure I was capable of holding space for my client before walking into the waiting area to greet Jemima, inviting her to join me in the room. Once in the room I enquired about how she felt regarding the comfort of the space and offered her the opportunity to rearrange it in any way she saw fit, also pointing out that there were many more art supplies in the corner cabinet. Jemima nodded and said “I’m actually quite happy with this” making a bodily gesture toward the previously setup space. Now sitting, we began to talk about how her day was going so far and if there was anything specific she would like to focus on. Upon creating an intention for the session I suggested that we try an Art Therapy Focusing process and proceeded to explain what would be involved. We began by drawing her attention into her body, in search of a ‘Felt Sense’ (Gendlin 1996) eventually finding an image that had an ‘emotional quality’ fitting to the intention we had set for the session. I then extended an invite to open her eyes and bring the image to concretised form on the paper, inviting her to open up a dialogue with me about the process if she saw fit at any time, which she acknowledged but declined. The rest of the session was quite silent and required little more than my presence, “unconditional positive regard” (Rogers 1980) and holding of the space to facilitate. Jemima indicated when she had finished her image, at which time I asked her to close her eyes again, inviting her to bring her awareness back to the room and slowly drawing her out of the focusing process. At this point I asked her if she could share with me how the process was for her. I let Jemima know that the session was coming to a close, offering her the opportunity to express anything else that might have come up for her during the process, and we closed the session. I then invited Jemima to give reflection on my performance as a therapist, took some notes, and the entire process was complete.


I felt quite comfortable entering into this process as I am reasonably familiar and confident with the focusing process from both the ‘Focuser’ and ‘Companion’ perspectives. Also, I have worked with Jemima on a number of occasions and have developed a good amount of rapport with her, which makes for a productive and healthy therapeutic relationship. Having said that there were, and always are, a certain amount of nerves for me when stepping into the role of therapist, as I have recently discovered via an empty chair process that I have a dominant inner critic that has created really strong insecurities around professionalism. This was, however, coupled with intense feelings of excitement about acting out the entire process of a therapy session and the learning that comes from the experience. At the end of the session, as always, I found myself left with mixed feelings. I became highly stressed and critical about how I performed as the therapist, and some of the feedback I received from Jemima, again coupled with an element of excitement about having made it through the process without any major hiccups on my end.


At the time I felt things went reasonably well for both the client, and myself. It seemed that the client had really managed to embody the Art Therapy Focusing process. The “Coming in” process (Purton 2004) was smooth and seemed to flow quite well as we slowly drew Jemima’s awareness toward her inner-world, searching for a Felt Sense that eventually matched that of a ‘Protector’ (as referenced in the Analysis section below). Throughout the creation of the artwork I made a few observations about certain things, such as the way Jemima smiled when the image of her protector came to her; the movements and motions of her strokes on the paper which were reflected as being “helpful for meaning making” by the client; and the pressure she seemed to apply to different areas of the page. The end of this session felt a bit rigid and clunky upon reflection, as I always seem to have some amount of trouble tying things off without interrupting the client’s process.


Upon analysis of the session and the feedback given by the client, it would seem that it was a productively therapeutic session that helped the client in “clearing space” (Gendlin 1996) and creating a “safe space” using an image of a “protector” as tools created by Judith Herman and described by Rappaport (1998), which the client can now refer to in consecutive sessions to help return to that feeling of safety, if the client resonates strongly with that image. There was the possibility for a couple of intersubjective responses, as I had a couple of images with protective qualities come up for me when I was witnessing the client’s process unfold, which I held back due to some nervousness around projection and interpretation as I did not want to influence the client’s process in any way.


In Conclusion, upon reflection of the content of the session from both my perspective and the feedback given, I realise that there is a level of incongruence, and slight lack of unconditional positive regard in not sharing my intersubjective responses with the client. Thus putting distance between myself and the client, and in turn creating a lack of attunement. As a final note, there is very little I would change about the process apart from exercising more congruence and working on developing better skills around closing the session.


Malchiodi, C.A. (1998). Setting up: Drawing on Environment and Materials. The Art Therapy Sourcebook: Art Making for Personal Growth, Insight, and Transformation. (p.79 – 102)

Rappaport, L. (1998). Focusing And Art Therapy: Tools for Working Through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Focusing Folio, Vol. 17 (1), (p.2-3)

Gendlin, E.T. (1996). Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A Manual of the Experiential Method. New York: Guildford Press. (p.57-58)

Purton, C. (2004). Focusing as a Taught Procedure. Person-Centred Therapy: The Focusing-Oriented Approach. United Kingdom: Palgrave MacMillan. (p.90)

Rogers. C. R. (1980). Characteristics of the Person-Centred Approach. A Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. (p.115-116)



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