By Amy Hautman Bates
So far my education at Southwestern College has been truly amazing. The mission of the college “Transforming Consciousness Through Education” has resonated with my beliefs and values and the teachings have come easily for me. But, learning about something and actually doing it can be very different. It is common for me to imagine things to be easier than they actually turn out to be. I was concerned that I was not being realistic about what being an Art Therapist might be like. What if I don’t like being a therapist? What if I am not good at it?
My biggest concern upon entering Practicum was that I might become swamped in other people’s stuff. If I let myself take on other’s emotions, I would not be able to function the way I wanted to. Would I be able to work with people and not bring their problems home with me and ruminate on them? Would I obsess about how I could help? Would I worry that I wasn’t doing enough? I was raised Catholic and often imagine I am carrying a giant burlap sack of guilt upon by back. Would working in the field of therapy just add to my burden? I wondered if, deep in my veins, I might have a hidden quest to be a martyr that would be fed by being in this helping profession.
With this concern in mind, I formed a serious intention to stay centered and grounded and clear in my own light and connection to “source.” “Source”, to me, is a concept of alignment and union with all things. I am not alone. I can access the strength of the universe through this conduit of energy. I remind myself repeatedly that the client too has his or her own “source” and with confidence in my own, I honor theirs.
I made a powerful shift away from co-dependency this year. It involved a long and complicated process of extracting myself from the emotional web of someone I love. I created a vivid visual representation of a direct line of light that connects me to the universe. My vision looks like a strong, powerful column of blue light. A dramatic release from my co-dependency finally came when I understood, she too, had a solid blue light of her own, connecting her to whatever her greater source might be. This time, I didn’t feel like I was selfishly abandoning her. I wasn’t severing the connection between us, leaving her dangling. I was stepping back into my own light and allowing her to have her own power and light. Putting this into words is too simplistic. But I want to stress how much my understanding my co-dependent nature has helped in my ability to do clean and effective work as a therapist.
In preparation for Practicum, we were told to decorate a candle to bring to our sessions. I chose a tall blue glass candleholder and decorated it with white tissue, a white feather, ivory ribbon and a silver lead fishing weight I found on the Atlantic beach. The blue columnar light represents my connection to “source.” The feather stands for my willingness to travel far and wide and trust the mystery of the unknown. And the fishing weight is my metaphor for remaining grounded and centered when I feel pulled away from my true self.
We have just completed our first phase of Practicum doing individual Art Therapy. Next month we begin working with groups. Allegra Borghese and I are going to lead a Women’s Creativity Group where we will explore issues like improving communication and lowering stress through creativity and mindfulness. We look forward to helping people create a vision that better serves them. I think that we sometimes, outside of awareness, get caught in patterns of behavior that are destructive or unwanted. Art making can be helpful in shifting perspective to see a way out and clarify what we really want out of life.