Conscious Endings

Art Therapy: Thoughts About Conscious Endings

Written by Samantha Davis

Guess what - the end of 2018 is clearly approaching fast!

For many people, endings can bring up a combination of feelings, associations and expectations regarding the festive season. There may be apprehension or excitement, relief or overwhelm or even dread around end-of-year arrangements and relationships with family and friends, or being alone at this time.

We spend a lot of our year thinking, waiting or planning for the end of the year with an expectation of actually slowing down and having fun. By this stage we are usually focusing on the urgent boxes that still need to be ticked. However, with the rush and time-limits to get things done – it can all be quite challenging and even exhausting.

What can be really meaningful is to also bring about some ‘consciousness’ or awareness around the ending of your year through mindful reflection. What does the approaching end of year mean for you?

Ask yourself some questions such as what have you experienced, achieved, gained, learnt and lost this past year?

What would you like to still let go of?

What would you like to make space for?

Who can you show more kindness toward?

How can you be gentler and kinder to yourself?

Even if your answers seem silly or insignificant – it’s really useful to acknowledge your year’s journey. This awareness provides a sense of integration, collaboration and purpose and leads toward having a conscious ending of the year.

So, what is a conscious Ending and how does it relate to Art Therapy?

As the year draws to a close, there are endings for Art Therapy groups as well as individual clients. In Art Therapy, we aim to work as much as possible with a ‘conscious’ ending. What I mean by this, is having the ‘awareness’ firstly knowing when the sessions/groups will terminate so that the therapist and client are able to count down the sessions together. Further, to be able to explore what endings mean for each different client/group on their particular journey. This allows the client to pace themselves toward the ending through reflection and hence integration of the work already done and to work with whatever comes up for the client in the last couple of sessions around the ending.

The opposite of a conscious ending would be not knowing that there is an ending - i.e. a sudden ending hence not being able to say goodbye. Endings that are avoided, not thought about, discussed or explored and where feelings about the ending are denied or repressed are not conscious endings.

In a client’s previous experiences there may not have been an opportunity to say goodbye to relationships through circumstances (often beyond one’s control) such as loss, abandonment, premature endings or even death. Hence, addressing endings is often an uncomfortable process in that it can bring back painful, difficult or unresolved memories of previous 'endings' in one’s life.

The therapeutic experience needs to be a reparative experience that is different to the past, whereby termination is a ‘conscious’ process where the ending is acknowledged and discussed in the weeks leading up to ending.

The Art Therapist needs to be aware of possible changes in behaviour with their clients; for example sudden acting out or lateness, as this may be the client’s form of expressing a difficulty unconsciously, with endings. In the last session with a boy child last week, he chose to play a factual game of knowledge with me, one that he plays with his friends. Something ‘familiar’ was needed by this child in order to support his saying goodbye, which included turning away from the creativity and playfulness (of the right brain) and a return to the known and structure (cognitive left brain) which felt safer for him in his ending.

Raymond Lindquist says that "Courage is the power to let go of the familiar". In Art Therapy sessions or group work, children may often turn away from using art materials and rather play with toys or objects in the therapy room as a means of re-establishing their defenses and preparing themselves for ending therapy and the relationship with the therapist. Artwork often changes during endings in that children may doodle, create cartoons, or try to play games such as ‘naughts and crosses’ or ‘hangman’ as a form of distancing or separating from the therapist or therapeutic process. This moving away from spontaneous play and more into structured play is not a bad thing as it is a means of re-establishing one’s defences and preparing oneself for the ending and allows for individuation back into the 'real world'. Sometimes clients including adults may become frantic wanting to complete images in time, or even just want to talk and not use art toward the ending.

The aim of a conscious ending is that of having a shared experience with the therapist and then being able to integrate the good and the challenges along the journey in a more manageable and digestible manner. Often clients or groups may wish to end with an exploration of all their art work created over the course of their Art Therapy process and reflect through the imagery on their journey as a means of closure.

Although endings can feel scary and uncertain, they can also be wonderful opportunities of transitions to the hope and potential of what lies ahead before a new beginning.

Wishing you all a conscious ending of 2018 - acknowledge the good the bad and the ugly and embrace every bit with gratitude! May you take time to relax, unwind, have fun and rejuvenate this holiday season.

Thank you all for your loyal support, feedback and interest in the developments of Art Therapy.

Fresh start to 2019

Looking for clarity about your goals for 2019 professionally, socially, financially, creatively, spiritually and physically? Start the new year with a clearer vision and a sense of purpose – join one of my January Vision Board Workshops in Cape Town. The workshops serve as an opportunity to identify and map your goals and dreams creatively and start to manifest them, both personally and professionally.

Be sure to sign up for the Art Therapy newsletter and take a look at the list of upcoming workshops for 2019 on Facebook and on the website.

Please note that one can only legitimately use ‘Art Therapy’ with clients once you have undergone a registered Art Therapy training (which is only available internationally) and are then registered with the HPCSA. For more info on an international Masters in Art Therapy, go here.

Art Therapy Workshops in South Africa

Art Therapy and Mindfulness Workshop (Cape Town)

Art Therapy & Mindfulness Workshop (CT)

Wed 10 April 2019

Join the 1-Day Art Therapy & Mindfulness Workshop to explore and experience the art of being present! Tap into your innate creativity, with a focus on being in the moment, accessing joy, insight, wellness, gratitude, playfulness and having fun through art. No art experience required.Learn More
Art Therapy 1-Day Intro Course (Cape Town)

1-Day Intro Course (CT)

Wed 20 March 2019

This one-day course is aimed at introducing you to the dynamic and exciting process of Art Therapy and how it can be applied to adults and children of all ages. An exciting combination of learning, experiential art-making and questions and answers in a group environment. No art experience required!Learn More
Art Therapy 3-Day Seminar Cape Town

3-Day Seminar (CT)

11-13 June 2019

An introduction to the process of Art Therapy including theory, case studies, experiential art making, exploration, sharing daily plus journaling. Less intense, lighter, shorter and cheaper than the 5-Day Intensive Course.Learn More
Art Therapy 5-Day Intensive Course (Cape Town)

5-Day Intensive Course (CT)

6-12 November 2019

5 consecutive weekdays excluding the weekend A dynamic combination of psychodynamic and Art Therapy theory, case studies, experiential art making, journaling and reflection within a psychodynamic group environment. Beneficial for both personal and professional growth. Includes comprehensive course manual and journal.Learn More
Art Therapy 3-Day Seminar (Johannesburg)

3-Day Seminar (JHB)

Dates TBC

An introduction to the process of Art Therapy including theory, case studies, experiential art making, exploration, sharing daily plus journaling. Less intense, lighter, shorter and cheaper than the 5-Day Intensive Course.Learn More
Art Therapy 5 Day Intensive Course Johannesburg

5-Day Intensive Course (JHB)

28 August - 3 September 2019

5 consecutive weekdays excluding the weekend A dynamic combination of psychodynamic and Art Therapy theory, case studies, experiential art making, journaling and reflection within a psychodynamic group environment. Beneficial for both personal and professional growth. Includes comprehensive course manual and journal.Learn More
Art Therapy Vision Board Workshop - Cape Town

Vision Board Workshop (CT)

Fri 25 Jan / Sun 27 Jan / Mon 28 Jan 2019

A combination of colour, pictures, words and Art Therapy techniques to identify, explore and creatively set goals for 2018. Lay the foundations for the New Year! No art experience required.Learn More
Mandala Workshop

Mandala Workshop (CT)

Friday 10 August 2019 (National Women's Day) – or upon request

A Mandala is a Sanskrit word for a ‘sacred’ or ‘magic circle’. Mandalas have been used for centuries in meditative and creative practices. This half day workshop is designed to help you relax and unwind and get into a space of being in the present moment through art, visualization, letting go in order to access a spontaneous, innate creative place within yourself. A real treat!Learn More
Art as Communication 8 Week Course

Art as Communication (CT)

Dates TBC

(This course runs for 8 consecutive weeks on a Monday evening.) A hands-on experiential art making workshop and exploring of images within a group format, whilst introducing basic Art Therapy theoretical ''concepts''. Various art materials are used as a means of self-expression and communication.Learn More
Art Therapy Creative Year-End Workshops

Creative Year-End Functions (CT)

November / December 2018

Wondering what to do for your end-of-year function in Cape Town? Try something different - choose creativity and finish 2018 with an Art Therapy Creative Year-End Workshop. Funky, unique, innovative, relaxing and fun - no art skill required. Book yours today!Learn More
Art Therapy for Corporates

Creative Workshops for Corporates

Upon request

Tailor-made for organisations and corporate settings! Various creative interventions available, which encompass a uniquely developed and researched methodology utilizing practical, creative and experiential learning rather than the traditional 'learning from lecture and notes' approach.Learn More
Art Therapy in Education

Art Therapy Workshops for Educators

Upon request

Tailor-made Art Therapy workshops for groups of educators, art teachers and councillors working in school settings. Choose from a 2 hour mini-workshop or a 1-Day Art Therapy workshop...Learn More

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