order finasteride

Home                                                                                              Go to Arts & Art Therapy


A Deeper Well : Art Therapy and Depression
by Karen Adler, Dip. Transpersonal Art Therapy,
ATH Asst. Editor of Art and Art Therapy


Editor's Note from Karen Adler: I came to see Depression/Anxiety as a place - a town along the journey of my life, somewhere I used to live for a period of my life after my mother died. It's a place I refuse to take up residence in ever again. Art therapy and writing help me veer clear and take another road. Read Part 1: Giving Sorrow Words : Writing and Depression.

“Someone once asked me, 'Why do you always insist on taking the hard road?'

I replied, 'Why do you assume I see two roads?'”  

Author unknown.

The above quote sounds all very Alice-in-Wonderland’ish but it was taken from a website entitled ‘Depression, Suicide & Self-Injury Quotes’. And it startled me out of an assumption I have long held to be the truth. The basic assumption is that the person who continues to choose the hard road through life actually sees an alternative - that there are two roads, not just one.

In relation to depression or any maladaptive behaviour which continues to hold sway over a person’s life long past the time when that behaviour had value and relevance, I have come to believe there is choice involved. Sometimes the ability to choose is buried way down deep or hidden way back in the dim mists of our past. Over time we may come to believe we have lost the freedom to choose because a particular action or emotional state has become so much an integral part of our being.

Life continues to surprise me. For which I am eternally grateful, as there was a time when my mind was so totally closed against any notion of unexpectedness or unpredictability, any possibility of life-being-any-other-way, it both frightens and amuses me to look back on it now. But I also have a greater empathy and understanding for that long-ago depressed self than I had at the time. I now see shutting down and shutting off from the world as a natural response to the death of my mother, the person I loved most in the world, rather than an abnormal reaction.

The source of my surprise - a graph presented at a workshop on grief - in itself, surprises me. Having long since given up on the validity of statistics - as Mark Twain famously noted, ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics’ - it was enlightening to see the wave-like shape of grief over time. Anyone who has experienced grief will recognise that it comes in waves. We even speak of waves of emotion but to see something represented visually is always far more effective than having only the verbal description.

The presenter of the workshop stated that over the first 12-13 month period - that first year after someone we love has died in which we have birthdays, anniversaries, holidays without that person in our lives - we always experience grief at a 100% level. We may expect our grief to diminish after a set period of time and when it is still at the same level after 6 months or 12 months, when a song or a scent or a visual reminder sends us back to that initial high level of loss and sadness, we may begin to think there is something wrong with us.

Being able to see the shape of these waves - the peaks wide and close together at the beginning, narrower and further apart as time progresses - was an Aha! moment for me, an ‘of course, how could it be otherwise’ dawning of comprehension. It’s that deeper understanding that comes via images as opposed to words. It’s why I view the combination of image plus language as being so powerful. To draw a picture of something as ephemeral as an emotion gives us another tool with which to change an entrenched behaviour, to choose one road over another.

These days, I see Depression as a place. Literally. It’s a town I used to live in for a period of my life. And as a traveller for many years, I know that to get to any destination you have to travel a certain path, take steps along that road and there are signposts on the way that tell you where in your journey you now are. The more conscious I become, the more mindful of the connection between my internal world and my external reality, the more often I take responsibility for stayin’ the hell outta that town called Depression. The more images and metaphors I develop, the more concrete I make my internal world and its emotional territory, the more easily I navigate the tricky bits. All of this means that I am able to take back my life as mine and hold it as the precious possession it is.

When my father died almost four years ago, I had planned to start my studies in Transpersonal Art Therapy. Mum’s death and my ensuing depression meant that my  previous intended career as an Anthropologist was aborted before it began. Knowing my father would have been saddened if that happened again, I did everything within my power to embark upon my intended studies. An early art therapy exercise to access our own deep wisdom resulted in me sitting on the grass crying for my father. I focussed on what was under me and around me and I was able to do a drawing and make meaning from the smell of freshly-mown grass and to focus on my life. As my father would have wished for me. I called the drawing ‘Awakening to the Beauty of Small and Simple Things.’ It’s one of my favourites and it makes me happy to imagine my father saying, ‘I’m proud of you, sweet.’

Art therapist, Linda Jo Pfeiffer, states that ‘Art tells a story. Through pictures, images and symbols, the art maker communicates feelings and thoughts and creates pathways ... to understand what often lies just beyond the realm of verbal awareness.’

If we are making our way through grief or depression, trying to find another road or a new way of being or just trying to survive another day, utilising both sides of our brain via the combination of words and images, can be of immense benefit. It can help us see two roads ahead of us, not just the one.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2012


I Have Seen People Create …

I have seen people create
Joy out of Sorrow …

A beautiful young man,
quite unaware of his magnificence,
who created dance and unity
and a brief moment of delight in a busy city.
He created joy for others
from his own sorrow for his brother
who died only 3 weeks after being diagnosed
with leukaemia.

I have seen people create
Beauty out of Anger …

A young woman,
both loving  and hating
her alcoholic father.
She creates for the world a vision
of a wedding veil,
white and voluminous
and full of promise.
Hooked and snagged and caught in the veil
are tiny fishing lures, pretty and feathered
and full of colour
to represent the allure of the feminine.

I have seen people create
sweet nectar from their tears,
find prisms of light and colour
in the depths of their sadness,
in the shadows of their fear.

I have seen the most unlikely materials
made into Moments of Bright Life.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2009.



Please "Add a Comment" at the bottom of this page or blog in our Forum here
Please do not use apostrophes in your comments.



About the Author

Karen Adler, ATH Asst. Editor of Arts & Art Therapy, is a Transpersonal Art Therapist, an artist, writer and researcher. She is a firm believer in the inherent healing qualities of the Arts. She has run art therapy workshops for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, self-harming behaviour, eating disorders, for post-flood and cyclone trauma and for people seeking to bring about positive change in their lives. Karen also uses Art Therapy to help in the resolution of her own life difficulties and is continually surprised by the insight it brings. 
Contact Karen at karenadler222@gmail.com or karenadler@allthingshealing.com.







Depression, Suicide & Self-Injury Quotes - http://members.tripod.com/mi_ruka0/id18.html [The internet can be a generous place. The person who set up this website wrote: ‘I would like you to know that I myself am not a cutter, but my friend is. So a lot of these quotes have very personal meaning to me. I dedicate this page to her.’]

Silver, Rawley. Aggression and Depression Assessed through Art: Using Draw-a-Story to Identify Children and Adolescents at Risk, New York, Brunner-Routledge, 2005.




Add a Comment   
    We welcome your comments. Thank you for sharing!!


Spiritual & Healing Practices | Healthy Lifestyles | Community | Arts | Find Practitioners & Orgs | Forums
Our Store | Aldea Verde de Costa Rica | Submissions | Editors | Terms and Conditions | About Us / Contact Us


Disclaimer. Each category is under the supervision of dedicated editors who are passionate about their topic and believe that raising people's awareness is one way to make a difference in the world. You may or may not agree with all that is presented. Since respectful discourse is an excellent way to learn and grow, we welcome comments on articles and your participation on the Forums.

  © 2010-2017 Inspiring Change, LLC     REGISTER      LOGIN Web by MacDaddi | Developed by AWE