Initiatic Art Therapy

The name "initiatic" is derived from the term initiation, the awakening of inner perception.

Initiatic Art Therapy uses a wide variety of art making approaches such as working with paint, crayons, collage, sculpting and clay and incorperates Somatic Experiencing, Jungian Depth Psychology, Transpersonal Psychology, Gestalt Therapy, meditation and bodywork.  The name "initiatic" is derived from the term initiation, the awakening of inner perception.  Gradually one becomes aware of subtle body sensations, inner urges, impulses and ideas that begin to shape a more genuine source of identity than the conditioned "shoulds" of learned behaviour.  Initiatic Art Therapy has the potential to initiate this process that unfolds like a quest towards healing, creativity, meaning and love.

Sensorimotor Art Therapy

Both Guided Drawing and Work at the Clay Field are sensorimotor, body-focussed, trauma-informed art therapy approaches.

In recent years “sensorimotor” has emerged as a term to describe body focused psychotherapies that use a bottom-up approach. Instead of a cognitive top-down strategy, sensorimotor art therapy encourages the awareness of innate motor impulses in the muscles and viscera, also as heart-rate and breath. The expression of these motor impulses followed by their perception through the senses, allows the development of new neurological pathways that can bypass traumatic memories; such an approach is capable of restoring wholeness and wellbeing.

Both Guided Drawing and Work at the Clay Field are sensorimotor, body-focussed, trauma-informed art therapy approaches. They are not necessarily concerned with an image-making process, but support the awareness of body memories. While these memories are always biographical, the therapy itself is not symptom-oriented. Not the specific problem or crisis become the focal point, but the option to new answers and solutions as they are embedded in the body's felt sense. Such sensorimotor achievements are remembered similar to learning how to swim or ride a bike. They are lasting achievements that can transform even early infant developmental set-backs; they assist in finding an active response to traumatic experiences. They allow us to rewrite our biography towards a more authentic, alive sense of self.

Guided Drawing

The drawing is done with closed eyes and both hands, using chalk crayons or finger paints on large sheets of paper. Each movement is tested and tried through repetition with a heightened sense of awareness.

Guided Drawing is a body-focused drawing technique providing an archetypal structure that applies the philosophy of Jungian Depth Psychology to universal, formal elements such as  a line or a circle or a square. A crayon in each hand in a bilateral way, clients focus ion their internal body-sensations such as muscle tension, physical pain, or blockages, also the movement of emotions such as grief and anger or joy and feeling uplifted. Drawing rhythmically with both hands does not use Imagery, but the direct expression of one's Felt Sense. In a second step clients then draw what they need "if I had a massage now", in order to release inner tension or emotional charge. Such self-regulation is surprisingly simple and effective.

The aim of Guided Drawing is to discover one's inner movements and their messages of destruction or creation. All mental self-talk causes subtle muscular reactions, movements of contraction and tension, or of letting go and relaxation. They illustrate the self-image in relationship with one's body, others, the physical and spiritual world. The process of exploring the history of these tensions, postures and attitudes leads to an unfolding of one's personal and trans-personal life story.

A dialogue emerges between perception and expression, which creates increasing awareness of an inner guidance that knows the path towards transformation and healing.


Work at the Clay Field ®

The 'clay field' is a rather large, flat box filled with clay. With closed eyes one makes contact with the material and allows the hands to find their way through touching, scratching, digging, kneading, patting, beating...until shapes start to emerge. Scenes become created, destroyed, recreated....telling one's story. There will be no finished product to take home but the adventure of an intense inner journey.

The haptic sense of touch relates us to both the world and to our selves. Touch is the most fundamental of human experiences. Infants rely on sensorimotor feedback to feel safe and loved; to be rocked, held and soothed is communicated through touch. Love, sexuality as well as violence are primarily communicated through touch. Our skin boundary becomes invaded through inappropriate touching, through accidents and medical procedures. The majority of traumatic memories involve touch.

Touching smooth, non-gritty clay that is pliable, yet has weight, offers resistance, and is a mass that is much larger than the hands, offers a world, contained within the safety of a box that has permanence. The regressive quality of clay in a therapeutic context will allow a therapist to address early attachment issues, developmental setbacks and traumatic events in a primarily non-verbal way. The focus is not on the story of what-happened, but on what-do-I-need-to-do-now to find an adequate response.

Whoever touches something with the hands, is also being touched by it. Every movement of haptic grasping of the clay will move us reciprocally. Every gesture in which we express ourselves contains the personal, biographical and relational experience of the world. Clay has the unique ability to feedback every imprint we make. As I touch the clay, I am touched by it. In this way the encounter at the clay field also allows us to gradually rewrite our biography, to respond in a new way, to find a fuller more connected flow of our life force.