Expectations & art therapy

School is out for summer in New Zealand, for us that means a change in our work hours and therefore the times we see Liz.  During semester time, we work one evening so that we can have a morning off to go to therapy and try to recover before heading into work; while during the semester breaks, we have late afternoon appointments so that we minimise our time off work.  I’m not sure which is better – the afternoon sessions mean that I arrive wound up from work, and the morning sessions mean I have to quickly recover from therapy so that I’m ready for work.  Yesterday was our first afternoon session, and it was challenging for several reasons:

  1. Our summers are humid and the building isn’t air conditioned, so her office smelt like previous clients.
  2. We’d had a bad day at work, with lots of in-fighting amongst the staff about a staff member who isn’t doing their fair share of the work.
  3. We were worried how Liz would interpret a piece of writing we’d sent her that one of us had done.
  4. We had self-injured recently and were worried how Liz would react to that.

It was the piece of writing that worried us the most, possibly because it was the first time we’d shared something like that with Liz.  To us, this piece was a clear warning to the daily functional ones that we are hated and will be destroyed if we continue down the path we have taken.  We went in with the expectation that Liz would see it in a similar way… but, she didn’t.  She saw the piece of writing as a warning to her from some young ones.  This threw us.  We didn’t see Liz within the writing at all, but I wonder if that is because we don’t really consider Liz part of our healing…  Sometimes it seems as if she is part of the “healing hoop” we have to jump through in order to heal, rather than a real person who can help us along the way.

Leading on from this, Liz asked us to play a game where we took turns drawing a line on a piece of paper.  We’re deeply suspicious of Liz and her art therapy abilities, so we were worried about what this would show her about our state of mind, but went along with it.  It was terrifying… absolutely and utterly terrifying… Liz was drawing on the same piece of paper as us… we couldn’t control where she put her lines, we couldn’t keep her to one corner of the paper while we had the opposite corner…  At several points we froze in total panic.  Having just read about the technique, it’s often used in Gestalt and art therapy with difficult clients, where the “typical therapist-client interaction can often be distant, demanding, and frustrating”.  Great, I’m a difficult client…  Sometimes I really shouldn’t research!  I know that I should take from the technique that Liz is trying to find new ways to build a relationship and interact with me… but all I see are the words “difficult clients”.

One thing that got stuck in my mind from the session, is Liz saying “it concerns me what you are doing with all of these repressed emotions”.  I know what I’m doing with them… I’m systematically sabotaging and destroying myself.


7 thoughts on “Expectations & art therapy

  1. I don’t know Liz, obviously, but I do think it’s good she’s trying to find better ways to relate to you – even if that’s freaky as hell right now. Please try to focus on that part rather than the stupid label of “difficult”.

    Please take care. ((CG))

  2. But, you are accessing these repressed emotions. This is good. The emotions are overwhelming for you. So, sabotaging and destroying yourself is the old way you had to cope. But that is changing. Give yourself a break.

    • I know what you mean Paul… I never used to shake with anger, now I do sometimes. I know those emotions are there, they have to be, but I’m terrified of them and what they mean.

      Take care,

  3. With the kind of mood I’m in (wanting to self-injure) I would say listen to what you wrote in the very beginning: You didn’t see Liz in that piece of writing. Follow your first instinct. There are therapists out there who would create problems for their clients so they can be the savior. Sort of munchausen’s by proxy from the therapist. Did she go over the writing with you and explain why she believes it is about her? If not, ask her to.

    • Yes, I agree with Ivory. Of course, there may be a component of the writing that has to do with Liz. And obviously you have strong feelings about Liz. It’s more a piece about you. But I am not sure if Liz thought the whole thing was about her (which it obviously isn’t) or made a side comment about maybe some of it having to do with her. Liz is challenging things inside, so I can see why she would say that.

    • I’m still not quite sure what to make of the writing Ivory. I know that in the past we have been confused by the words that Liz has used, so I can see why she would think that she is the target for some of the writing – also it was scornful of healing, and Liz is a very tangible target for any scorn. So, I agree with you Paul, I can see why Liz would see some of it as being aimed at her…

      Ivory, the sort of transference you are talking about is one of my greatest fears. I’ve experienced it with a former therapist and so I’ve become paranoid about it in many respects – I look for the signs in what Liz is saying and doing.

      I hope you managed to stay safe Ivory – please remember that there are people who care for you and want to help you if they can.

      Take care,

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