Last day of orientation

Today was the last day of orientation at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital. The three of us (interns) met so many different people; all of them are an integral part of the Child Life team there. There is so much information to just absorb that I found my head spinning at the end of the days during orientation. I cannot get over how well run this program is, and how many different facets there are – so many unique services offered to child patients and their families.

Next week I will be shadowing and observing my supervisor as she does individual and group art therapy sessions. I am really looking forward to this piece, particularly since this was not really a component at my last internship.

And now, the weekend! Time to relax, enjoy my time with Adam, and rest up a lot for the coming week!

First Day of Internship

Today was my first day of orientation at my 2nd year internship at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital. The Child Life & Art Therapy Internship program at Mount Sinai is an amazing program, that addresses the needs of hospitalized children and their families through a large array of services, therapies, and creative programming. Here is a link to their website – I suggest visiting it if you’re interested in learning more!

Mount Sinai really invests a great amount of time, energy, and education in their interns, as is already clear by my first day there. In return, the program requires a lot of the interns and includes supplemental seminars and reading/writing assignments and presentations in addition to the regular internship work. Although I might be working my butt off for the next year, I know this will be an invaluable and enriching learning experience, and this is one of the main reasons that I was drawn to this site.

Over the next few days we will be getting a tour of the hospital – the different Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU), the libraries, the Zone, floor play areas, and the hospital in general. During the internship we will be rotating through placements on different floors and working with children and adolescents with varied medical conditions.

I am so pleased to be there, and look forward to a challenging but very rich year or learning and experience!

Countertransference and art making

Creating art has always helped me to process my feelings and experiences. For me, painting is a dialogue between my unconscious and the surface and materials that I am working with. Since beginning my internship at Housing Works, I have been utilizing the art process as a way to gain greater insight into my clients: my countertransference with them, and as a way to become more creative in how I work with them within the individual and group art therapy session.

Countertransference refers to the different types of emotions that a therapist may experience while working with an individual client. More specifically, countertransference is about the therapist’s unique personal history and how that may consciously or unconsciously impact how they react to or feel about a particular client. Countertransference used to be seen as an impediment or obstacle in therapeutic work, but over the years many therapists have come to see countertransference as a valuable tool that can bring heightened awareness to the therapetutic dynamic. For this to occur though, the therapist must first be aware of their countertransference and then decide how best to use it in a therapeutic capacity.

My clients struggle with many challenges – all of them are living with HIV or AIDS, and in addition, many have mental illness, chemical addictions, and past incarcerations. Working with these clients brings up many strong feelings for me, and this is where the art process has been so powerful in helping me to explore these feelings on a deeper level.

I have been creating portraits of my clients for the past few months now as part of this exploration. Obviously, the client’s names are not included and I am sharing portraits that are very abstracted and stylized in nature. I do not feel that any of these images would infringe on the privacy of my clients due to their non-representational nature.

I have included a few of my portraits of clients in this post. Each one has been a transformative tool for me and has helped me to better understand some of my countertransference with each indiviudal client.

Mandala with clients

I created this mandala in a group that I was leading called “Meditative Art Therapy.” During this group we listen to relaxing (usually instrumental) music and create art in response. I usually encourage my clients to work with more fluid materials such as watercolor, to free them up and allow them to become more spontaneous in their creating. I usually do not make art with my clients, (I can post on this topic later!) but for this session it seemed appropriate to do so. It was a small and intimate group, and I felt that it would be more therapeutic to join my clients in their silent process. There was a high level of resonance within the group, both artistically and verbally at the end when we processed the experience. This group has been a much needed reprieve for many of my clients, as the daily rhythym at Housing Works can be very fast-paced. Later I will share some of my thoughts on working to create a safe environment for groups….

The Caretaker

I created this mandala for the purpose of taking a much needed break from my school work. I began with a silver pen and created a weaving line pattern. Later I went in with light washes of acrylic, and the overall effect reminds me of stained glass. The blues and greens are associated with caregiver qualities and the ability to nurture. In this case, I was nurtured by the creation of the mandala!

I feel that it is also a self-portrait of me as an art therapist in training, and learning to balance between caring for my patients and caring for myself.

Tree of LIfe Mandala

When I work with a mandala form, it is very common for nature imagery to come up. This is a pen and ink mandala that I enjoyed creating. The detail work and repetitive quality of the designs was very meditative to create and had a way of “drawing itself” as it progressed.

Black and white mandalas have a very different feel than colored ones of course…Color introduces the language of emotion. However, black and white work has a way of simplifying and drawing attention to the rhythm of the line work.