Art Therapy Integration: Bringing Calm to Our Inner World
What is art therapy integration? Consider this story…
A man once visited a monk living in remote solitude. Curious about why somebody would choose to live so remotely, the man asked the monk for an explanation.
In response, the monk led him to consider an old fountain.
Stooping down to pick up a stone, the monk tossed the stone into the water before asking his visitor, “Look into the fountain. What do you see?”
“Nothing,” replied the visitor, “just water disturbed by the stone’s entrance.”
The monk paused and waited for the water in the fountain to settle before asking again, “Now, what do you see?”
The man looked into the calm water and replied, “Now I see myself. I can see my reflection in the water clearly.”
“You see,” said the monk, “this is what is experienced when retreating in remote solitude.”
Art Therapy Integration
In like manner, when we work with the unconscious through art, we encounter similar experiences.
Things that truly matter become visible. Important things that were pushed into the background or those that were crowded out for various reasons, come to the fore.
When people experience something disturbing, the unconscious keeps the experience even though, on a conscious level, we try to forget it. As we move on with life, the unconscious continues trying to ‘digest’ the event. As part of this process, the memory surfaces at times, often when we least want to ‘hear’ about it.
In this way, the disturbing memory continues to interfere with our life and will do so until we deal with it properly.
People who are trying to run away from those inner messages rather than dealing with them, experience ‘disturbed water’, as the man in the above story did. However, when we deal with the event adequately, a better term would be ‘integrated’ them, we can see our self the way we truly are and even like what we see.
Art therapy is a great tool for this purpose. It allows us to face our inner demons in a playful and less threatening way without necessarily needing to talk about them. Integration happens, if done skilfully, when inner resources heal and integrate that which disturbs us deeply.
Robert GrayDirector and Senior Lecturer at CECAT
Registered Art Therapist and Psychologist
MA A. Th., AThR; B. Soc. Sc. (Psych.) (Hons.), MAPS.; BA. Theol. (Hons), MA Theol.
A highly regarded art therapy lecturer from Germany, Robert Gray has become a much sought-after art therapy lecturer and practising art therapist in Australia. His unique approach spanning psychodynamic, humanistic, spiritual and cognitive behavioural frameworks has distinguished him as a thought leader who is frequently invited to present at conferences in Australia and abroad.
Trained overseas and multilingual, German-born Robert shares the benefits of his international affiliations and access to cutting-edge research published in various languages with his students and readers. Robert is a professional member of the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).