Part 2 of this is about art therapy, art as therapy, and art as healing.
I had a lengthy discussion on FB about this subject. it was in reference to Oprah’s new art journaling class. Which I won’t link to here but you can find it easily. The class is $80 and on OprahTV. This will be hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. I don’t know Brene Brown nor have I read her book. Some of my reaction is not about her class but to other groupings of classes available in person and on the internet. These classes are portrayed as ways to heal yourself, fix what ails you, and as therapeutic. I’ll get into why I dislike art journaling teachers throwing around therapeutic as a label for their classes.
I dislike people fiddling around with “my” art form and possibly polluting it with an interpretation that I find to be false, or watering down the art journal. My interpretation of art journaling is not the only interpretation, there are many, and I'm open to those, but I'm not open to seeing the corporate interpretation. Art journaling, like scrapbooking before it, has reached a point where it’s even more likely to be noticed by bigger and bigger corporations. I predict that some of the scrapping aisles in the box craft stores will give way to art journal aisles and we’ll see more specific art journal products. Art journaling is the next BIG thing.
I am extremely wary of teachers throwing around the term therapeutic. When someone uses the word therapeutic it implies that therapy and healing will be part of the course. It also implies that they are trained in either therapy or counseling. People don’t think enough about their words and the implied meanings. Therapeutic implies therapy implies therapist.
I’m wary of people suggesting they can magically tell you what your painting or journal page means. I’m wary of people offering a cure for what ails you. Frankly I’m very afraid of the people online who are offering healing classes or that you should go DEEP when they do not have training to help you once you go deep.
What happens when you go deep in a class, you pull something out of the sticky darkness of your subconscious and you melt. Suddenly, you are a ball of raw exposed nerves. Is the teacher holding this class qualified to help you in this moment? Will she brush you away telling you that your hurt is, “Old news” and follow that up with a chaser of, “get over it.”?
Here’s the thing, art is powerful medicine when it’s used properly. In the hands of a skilled and trained person it can put you onto a path of healing. Art deals with hurt on a level that is deep inside, it’s rooted in the subconscious. It allows you to explore the stuff you can’t talk about. It allows you to make sense of the stuff in the deep of your head.
That person needs to be able to understand what is going on when a person exposes those raw nerves. They need to know what to do when that person shares the source of her raw nerves. The instructor can’t be squeamish when this happens, rather they must deal with it. they must help the person to heal.
Frankly, many online instructors are not able to do this. I can say that I, as a teacher (fancy degree and everything) was not qualified to handle this sort of mental emergency. This is why I focused on ONLY the art aspect of art journaling, not the healing aspect. I was not qualified to heal nor did I have the skills to help someone who had gone into the deep and had raw exposed nerves. Now that I'm learning more about what can happen to people in the hands of an unskilled person, I know that was the right decision.
This is directed to all online art instructors: I think that if you are not a trained therapist you should not offer a therapeutic course. You can offer a healing or spiritual course but must be aware if you ask your students to dig into the deep they need a safety net. Make sure you suggest a therapist. Be aware that if they don’t deal with their issues that they will get worse. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and yes, even death.
If someone is taking a course to heal old wounds do the right thing and make sure they are seeing a therapist in real life. It is not okay to open up their old wounds and not know what to do, invalidate their pain, or to leave them hanging without a safety net. As teachers of something that is powerful we walk a fine line between art as art and art as therapy and healing tool. I don’t think that therapists need to corner the market on art as a healing tool, but I do think that art journaling instructors need to be aware of the power of their words and their implied meaning.
Therapeutic implies therapy implies therapist.
Part 3 to come tomorrow. I'll explore some ideas about how the art journaler can find a good fit for online classes, and what questions to ask.