Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Art Therapy – A Creative Approach To Change

Art therapy is a healthcare profession that uses artistic creation as a tool to facilitate the expression and resolution of emotions and emotional or psychological conflicts. Art therapy is practised in individual sessions or in small groups under the guidance of an art therapist. 

Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to describe your emotions or how you are feeling.

Art has the potential to heal. The art-making process and creative therapies can be a reparative and a holistic approach for people to develop new ways of being and relating, while gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of yourself, and building on self-empowerment.

Art therapy may also be used to support - or as a precursor to - talking therapies, as it may be easier to express yourself visually before verbally. Art therapy combines visual art and psychotherapy in a creative process using the created image as a foundation for self-exploration and understanding. Thoughts and feelings often reach expression in images rather than in words. Through the use of art therapy, feelings and inner conflicts can be projected into visual form. In the creative act, conflict is re-experienced, resolved and integrated.

Art therapy is a profession with more than 70 years of history that fits within the care professions. Art therapy is practised following a strict methodology and under a defined therapeutic framework or setting. This therapeutic framework and the aforementioned methodology are mainly based on the theory of art therapy, analytic group psychotherapy, dynamic psychotherapies and contemporary art theory.

Art therapy is for everyone. It can be used with anyone of any age as long as there is the willingness in the person to start therapy in which they will be encouraged to undertake an artistic process.

The use of art media enables self-exploration and the expression of emotions in a non-verbal way. This non-verbal approach is particularly helpful for people who feel uncomfortable with more traditional “talking” therapies. 

The advantages of art therapy/art psychotherapy are that clients can be encouraged to:  

  • express feelings a client may find difficult to verbalise
  • explore their imagination and creativity
  • develop healthy coping skills and focus
  • improve self-esteem and confidence
  • identify and clarify issues and concerns
  • increase communication skills
  • share in a safe nurturing environment
  • identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth

The psychological value of art therapy explores how past relationships and experiences affect an individual’s current circumstances. In order for this to be facilitated, a trusting relationship is built between therapist and client, and “art making” provides a form of expression so that personal development or growth can occur in a safe and supportive environment.

Written by Eden O. Shoro  2018

Art Psychotherapist MA, HCPC, BAAT

Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Cannabis - Is It Wacky To Legalise It?

Psychiatrists are to reconsider their opposition to the legalisation of cannabis. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has decided on the move following the government’s decision to allow the use of cannabis for medicine purposes and on prescription.

Up until now, the college has opposed its legalisation and the College’s advice has been at the forefront of government decision making. Other medical bodies, however, are calling for reform and the RCP has decided to look at the matter again.

Dr Adrian James, Royal College of Psychiatrists’ registrar, told The Times the panel would start with an open mind. However, he said he was still concerned about the risks of psychosis.

Dr Robin Lawrence, founder and consultant psychiatrist at 96 Harley Street, believes the College is right to have concerns.

“Before, the government makes a decision about legalising cannabis, there are several pitfalls that need to be addressed. 

“First, it’s important to understand first of all that the cannabis plant contains more than one active ingredient: THC and CBD. 

“The cannabis smoked by students in the 1970s contained a high proportion of CBD, a relaxant that actually expresses anti-psychotic properties.  

“THC, on the other hand, causes hallucinations and leads to a short-lived psychosis in many, a few of whom may go on to suffer schizophrenia for the rest of their lives.

 “Skunk, which is what is now available on the streets of the UK has a very high proportion of THC – the ingredient connected with psychosis. 

“What is worse, is it is now very difficult to buy the earlier form of cannabis because the growers – by selective breeding – have actually changed the nature of the wild plant so that it contains higher quantities of THC.

“The THC gives the cannabis a much greater ‘kick’, making it much more dangerous from the psychotic perspective.”

Dr Lawrence believes legalisation, as long as it’s licensed in the same way as alcohol so that the strength of the cannabis can be measured, could improve safety concerns.

Even so, he suggests, it is highly likely that there would be a black market for the “strong stuff”, whatever legislation is passed.

The psychiatrist has another concern about permitting teenagers or young adults to take the drug.

Dr Lawrence says: “There is a risk is the long-term use of cannabis, usually from a young age, which can result in the user (normally a male) spending hours and days in his room smoking rather than going for a job interview or taking on any responsibility. This can mutate into an entirely wasted life. 

“The importance here, is that the adolescent brain should never be exposed to cannabis unless there is a pressing medical need (as in some cases of epilepsy where cannabis oil is the only available treatment). 

“I do not believe cannabis should be legalised for anyone whose character has yet to form.

“Currently that legal cut off is 18, but many would regard character as still developing right up until the age of 29.”

Written by Lulu Sinclair 

Photo by Roberto Valdivia on Unsplash

Monday, 1 October 2018

The Power of Hypnotherapy

To keep this blog simple, I need to explain how our minds work.  Our minds drive our behaviour.

You may have heard of the conscious, subconscious and the unconscious minds.

Your conscious mind is reading this article right now.  It is capable of handling between five and seven bits of information at any one time.  If you think of your mind as being like an iceberg, the conscious is the piece you can see.  It is also the part of your mind that is least responsible for your behaviour.

The subconscious is the part of your mind that is beneath your awareness but is, right now, aware of the feeling in the little toe on your right foot.  Now that I have mentioned it, the subconscious will bring that sensation to your consciousness so you can attend to it. The subconscious can handle, depending on whom you read, between two and 11 million bits of information at any one time!  The subconscious will inform the conscious mind on how to behave and respond to a given situation based on information stored in the unconscious.

The unconscious is where all of our experiences are stored.  According to neurologist Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, the unconscious holds those experiences that our conscious mind finds so difficult to deal with. Most importantly, I believe, the unconscious also stores the meanings we attach to those experiences.  And it is the meaning we attach to our experiences that determine how they will subsequently affect our behaviour.

The subconscious and the unconscious account for 90% or more of our behaviour. Or, put another way, you have not been in charge of you for 90% of your day so far! 

For example, if you suffer from social anxiety, your conscious mind may accept an invitation to a dinner party. However, the discomfort and trepidation you feel when you’re getting ready to go or when you’re sitting at the dinner table thinking you have nothing useful to say and really should leave, is coming from your subconscious based on information gleaned from past experiences. This past experience information is stored in your unconscious and you are probably not even aware of it.

And, because of this, it is the unconscious with which hypnotherapy concerns itself.

Why Hypnosis?

Unfortunately, most people’s perception of hypnosis comes from stage and screen. This leaves many people believing that hypnosis is a strange parallel universe to which they have never been.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

In hypnosis, we induce a trance state in our clients.  The important thing to remember is that trance is an everyday phenomenon.  Take your commute to or from work – how much of it can you remember?

Or, say you don’t like spiders and “find yourself” running away from a giant spider without even realising it.  You are in trance – acting unconsciously –because, as I said above, the unconscious is in charge 90% of the time and instructs the conscious part of the mind on how to respond.

The premise of hypnotherapy and any other therapy that believes the unconscious is responsible for most of our behaviour is that, in order to effect change, we need to change what the subconscious mind feeds into the conscious mind. To do this, we need to understand and change what the unconscious mind believes about the experiences and beliefs stored within.

The easiest way to access the unconscious is through relaxation.

When relaxed, the client can access memories, feelings and experiences that are normally beneath their awareness.  A skilled hypnotherapist will then understand how these experiences are shaping behaviour and can use hypnotic language to change the meaning of those experiences.

Hypnotic language is not from another universe either.  It is simple every day language, normal words but put together to help a client change their behaviour.

I always say to my clients that I cannot change the past but I can help them to change the meaning of their past which then changes the nature and framing of the information divined from the unconscious by the subconscious.  This “reframing” of previous experiences, in turn, changes the information the conscious mind is presented with when faced with triggers that had previously produced unwanted behaviour.

The Buddha described the mind as being like a man riding an elephant.  Although he wouldn’t have used these terms, nowadays we could say the man is the conscious mind and the elephant represents the subconscious and unconscious. 

So, returning to the Buddha analogy and in simplest terms, hypnotherapy is relaxing the client sufficiently so that the rider is persuaded to get off the elephant and go and have a cup of tea so that we can talk to the elephant.

In order to understand the rider better, I believe it is vitally important to understand exactly what the elephant believes.  When did it acquire a particular belief that a particular response is appropriate to social situations, for example, and what was happening at the time?

Then by getting to know the client – and their elephant – I can tailor the hypnotic language towards their particular elephant so that beliefs, meaning, responses and behaviours change. I do this by understanding what the problem means to them, what this past experience means to them, the context of their issue, the language the client uses to describe the issue and other important information.

Theoretically, anyone can hypnotise someone else because, at its base, it is simply relaxation.

What takes skill and experience is the understanding of the complexity of the behaviour of each individual, to find out what is underpinning it and what to say to the client and their elephant that will help bring about change.

Written by Bert Stemarthe

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash