The process of reinterpreting artworks in a variety of formats, using tangible materials and then editing those images in digital format can be a transformative process of narration that describes the many ways that art can be interpreted.
I specifically captured the first two images in a group art therapy course. The first image is part of two pieces I made for that particular class date. It is the shavings of crayons which are often considered ‘trash’. In recent years a variety of devices have become common place for remelting the wax in crayons back into blended formats. While this was certainly an option, most spaces have strict fire codes that prevent the use of flame. A heat gun could have been used. In many cases therapeutic environments discourage or prohibit the use of any tool that might be considered a hazard or a potential danger. It is important for me as an art therapist to not see institutional barriers or policies as that limit our creative abilities. In settings particularly geared toward severe and persistant cases, participants are navigating a variety of rules and protocols that do not have the flexibility to address individual people’s needs.
As a result of institutional template approaches which are not culturally or relationally helpful to participants, often I explicitly speak with participants about how policies limit us and choices they want to make in light of those policies. Placing participants in the driver seat in which they weight consequences of choices against personal desires, is often an experience that has occurred over and over again. In this way, art therapy mimics explicitly other decisions, this time in a space in which individuals are supported and have support of professionals. If we were to place this in a theoretical framework, it undoubtably would fall into a harm reduction lens. Harm reduction theories tell us that ideals are rarely achievable or reasonable responses to complex problems. It is important to takes steps toward minimizing risks and analyzing our choices in a way that makes it clear what we are risking and that elimination of risk is unlikely.
Zero tolerance environments pressurize therapeutic processes to a degree that can make individuals feel as if those goals and standards are impossible to execute. It creates a risk factor in which one mistake or one bad decision or one desperate choice means the end of assistance. this pressurization often leads to self-sabotage or extreme binary thinking that is directly unhelpful during cbt or dtb processes, both of which are used in a variety of settings. Harm reduction is often an approach of building tolerance and taking steps rather than epitomizing health.
In this way, through this art piece I’ve not only explored what various mediums can offer us in terms of function, but also how narrative theories of naming/defining, harm reduction theories, and cultural art therapy practices can work together in a seamless fashion to increase therapeutic affect. I’ve named my process of art therapy and my process of identifying how subsisting on minimums has affects my art process and thinking- a narrative process of naming, describing, and defining. I’ve chosen to work around limitations of institution rather than immediately abandoning the process as impossible or extreme- a harm reduction approach. I’ve weighed my desires, their potential conflicts and the best and worst cases possible in order to better understand the consequences and impact of my mindset on my behavior- a cbt and dbt approach. Art therapy is not a matter of single therapeutic framework or lens. Practitioners need to flexibly rely on several theories or practices to serve participants- a relational and cultural approach.