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  • Art and Creativity for Healing: A Depth Psychology Approach

    For a good number of people, the idea of using art and creativity for healing in psychotherapy might seem quite odd. After all, don’t we call psychotherapy “the talking cure”, the idea being that if we talk through the things are are going on in our lives and the things that trouble us, we’ll find solutions? What does art and creating things have to do with that?  

    Photo by Pixabay 

    Well, Jung thought that our creative side had a lot to do with healing and growing in depth psychotherapy. Jung’s initial mentor was Freud, the inventor of the “talking cure”. However, over time, Jung came to see that using creative means involving more than just discursive talk could be of great benefit in depth psychotherapeutic work. Jung personally experienced this reality during the crisis he encountered after parting with Freud. The creative work that came out of that took the form of what we now call The Red Book.

    People can sometimes feel quite inhibited about using creative or “making” approaches as a way of expressing or encountered the deeper self in therapy. Often this inhibition comes from the ways in which people have felt shamed or put down for attempts at creativity, quite possibly in their early family or school life. Yet the goal here is not to attain some artificially imposed standard of “good art” for someone else. It’s to find and look at what’s going on in the depths of ourselves. Within the safe container of a supportive depth psychotherapy relationship, this kind of work can be enormously powerful for the individual.

    The Power of Art and Creativity

    There are a huge range of ways that people can express themselves creatively in depth psychotherapy. These include:

    • drawing;
    • painting;
    • working with clay;
    • paper mache;
    • collage of pictures from newspapers;
    • photographs;
    • poetry; and
    • many other options

    Our goal here is not to create artistic excellence. It’s to find and express what’s inside of ourselves. And sometimes, we are surprised and amazed by the presence of unconscious and symbolic elements in what we create. These can be of particular importance in our ongoing work with anxiety, depression and a very wide range of other issues in the individuation process.

    Misgivings about Creativity

    A lot of people may be unsure about this kind of an approach, and for people who are, there are plenty of other approaches to take and techniques to use. However, there can be a great deal of value in seeking to open up the creative aspects of ourselves. It can be amazing to discover how much clarity, insight and wisdom there is in our unconscious self when we really listen and give it a chance to speak.

    What really troubles many people about exploring their creativity is “it’s not rational”.  That’s completely true, and our collective social order has conditioned us to think that the only kind of truth is what we can arrive at through logic. However, there are other kinds of truth and ways of knowing that are important for our lives, including our intuition and our feeling. When life has brought us to a longjam that we can’t get through with logical thought, these other approaches may be incredibly valuable, even life saving.

    Inner Images and Our Unique Individuality: Art and Creativity for Healing

    Finding ways to genuinely express our deepest feelings, and to access the undiscovered self is often crucial to meeting the most challenging issues in our lives. Often people enter depth psychotherapy because life has handed them a seemingly insoluble problem. Often these are problems that simply cannot be solved with the perspective or outlook that prevails in the individual’s conscious mind. At such times, it’s essential to connect with the parts of the self with which the ego is not yet in contact. Art and creativity are one of small group of powerful techniques that enable this to occur, along with dream work and active imagination.

    Working in a safe, supportive and affirming relationship with a skilled depth psychotherapist can enable art and creativity to be a genuine and powerful form of healing. It is also a wonderful way to deepen the individuation journey, and to develop connection with the undiscovered self.

    With very best wishes for your continuing personal journey

    Brian Collinson 

    Registered Psychotherapist and 

    Certified Jungian Analyst (IAAP) 

    Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

    © Brian Collinson, 2024