Nora Swan-Foster

DIPLOMATE JUNGIAN ANALYST

Art therapy is a profession that integrates the fields of art and psychotherapy into a specific approach and philosophy towards psychological issues and concerns. It is an integrated treatment approach that is clinically rooted and applicable for all populations. For further understanding of art therapy and the educational training, you can visit the American Art Therapy Association. My training and hours of experience allows me to work as a Registered and Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC)

Art psychotherapy uses art materials to access your feelings and imagination with intention, force, and a certain amount of spontaneity and abandonment. Art materials can be used within a therapy or analytic session to capture the nonverbal, inexpressible, and unknown aspects of the inner experience. Other times, art materials are used outside of a session, bringing the visual story back into therapy where further work takes place. Art therapy visually reveals, explores, documents and transforms the narrative of ones life as well as slowing ones process down enough to track the subtle feelings, thoughts, or memories within the moment or over time.

Now, you may be thinking that you can’t “draw a straight line” or you haven’t used art materials “since kindergarten” and you are not the creative type. If this has been going on for you while reading about art therapy, notice how your critic steps in before you even get a chance to explore the possibilities. Creating images is a courageous act. The results are not always pretty, perfect or socially acceptable. Not only might you feel some vulnerability during and after the process, the image is also revealed and made vulnerable when seen by you and others. Art therapy encourages and nourishes the creative instinct that lives in all of us; we all have the desire and need to play. There is no right way to use materials and you do not need to be a trained artist to participate in art therapy—in fact sometimes an “expertise” gets in the way—it is primarily about the willingness to try, to explore, and to engage in the spontaneously playful and imaginative parts of our psyche. Sometimes a simple line of a specific color can shift ones view. 

Certainly, it takes courage to allow for accidents, messes, or spontaneous marks all the while trusting that the emerging image has a life of its own and that it takes time to find the direction and meaning of a piece of work. Equally, it takes courage and determination to ward off the critic so other parts of our psyche can have the space and time to find expression. Giving birth to an image defines the space to develop a kind of relationship, an emotional interest of satisfaction, surprise or delight—you feel an appreciation for the process, the results and even for yourself. At other times, you may feel frustration, revulsion and disgust, with not only the image, but also parts of your self that remain as obstacles or worn out patterns. These disavowed feelings may be previously unknown or unseen, difficult to accept, or simply unwanted. All of this is the direct experience of the Jungian idea of confronting and integrating the shadow, which can only be done by becoming conscious of unconscious material as it pushes into our conscious realm. Art is a powerful way to do this. Every one of us is creative, whether we recognize this or not. The creative process facilitates healing for any age, condition, or emotional situation.

A Jungian approach to art psychotherapy is cognizant of content, placement, color, and materials while the approach also encourages an active engagement with the deeper hidden elements of an emerging image, resulting in a direct alchemical experience through the materials as well as the healing power of symbols. In addition, personal myths can be unearthed through in depth analytical work on complexes and archetypal themes, which are more easily experienced and known through images and symbols. Jung said, “Psyche is image” illustrating how art therapy is a natural fit with Jungian oriented psychotherapy.

I offer small art therapy groups or workshops focused around dreams, journaling, childbearing issues, fairy tales, reading groups and supervision and consultancy issues. 

1137 Pearl Street, Suite 205, Boulder, CO 80302 303-440-4000nora@swanfoster.com