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Deborah Shaer Child, Adolescent and Family Therapy

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Therapy and the Arts


The process of art in a therapeutic space allows for a fresh dialogue that draws from the elemental blend of water with the energy of colour. Giving shape to what is occurring within the child and adolescent is a process which requires a skilful therapist to witness, observe and respect. We do not step over the boundaries of the paper, nor interfere with the process. We do not interpret the art or in any way contaminate this sacred space.

Comments which are more likely to come from adolescents such as, “I can’t draw or I can’t paint” are some common themes that often arise in sessions. There are any number of reasons for such reactions. For example, when a child or adolescent has not been taught how to draw in school or paint in a school where the primary focus is theory. Or if so, have not been given appropriate attention and encouragement. Yet, whatever is inhibiting and stifling a person’s creative expression can be addressed through reparative therapy. In this respect, some of my therapeutic work is underpinned by Gestalt.


Therapeutic Arts. Therapeutic-Arts

Experiential elements in Gestalt include cycles with a view to crating wholeness as a complete cycle, and looking at where the client has become stuck. Through exploration steeped in a nurturing yet dynamic approach which fosters self-esteem, tactile as well as kinaesthetic movement helps to mobilise and bring alive what has become dead. One example of bringing in a dynamic element can be seen when the young person selects a colour and dips a paintbrush in a water pot. And then, when a splattering of paint eventually meets the paper, the first mark is made. From this seed stage, new possibilities are brought into the forefront and Flow emerges. The dynamic action reflects the way I work, according to the client’s needs.

Creativity, imagination and play which allows for self-expression is a vital developmental need as it relates to the brain and the emotional wellbeing of the child. Some children have never been given the space to fully express the range of their emotions such as anger and frustration. And as a consequence, what becomes repressed is likely to spill out into negative behaviours as they grow older. Yet, with the therapist’s attunement and presence, psychological bridges can be built or re-built through the brain’s neuro-plasticity.

And, as the eminent Child Psychotherapist D. W. Winnicott puts it:

“... even in the most extreme case of compliance and the establishment of a false personality, hidden away somewhere there exists a secret life that is satisfactory, because of its being creative or original to that human being.”
Winnicott, 1971, Playing and Reality



Creating art through a tactile and kinaesthetic means, translates into sensory touch and movement which brings vitality into the body. We want the body to be able to dance, run, jump, and to walk in balance. The body is the only vehicle we have, and how we move through life and what we create in our life’s journey is intricately connected to it.


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