Therapists get a little help from a friend as fellow therapist and author, Laurie Ponsford-Hill, leads them on a journey of self-discovery in THE ART OF SELF-SUPERVISON. Using art as a tool to mine the emotions, the book identifies the connection between self-reflection and self-care. The goal is to help art therapists develop deeper self-knowledge and attain insights into how to utilize their own expert advice for a more peaceful, balanced life.
Being a therapist of any kind is a grinding vocation no matter how fulfilling the work. The day-in and day-out nature of being the sounding board and advisor for an emotionally suffering clientele can make self-care challenging and, oftentimes, non-existent. It was this realization that sent the author on a quest to study the effectiveness of art therapy as a healing practice. The book presents the findings of a clinical research study in which 15 art therapists (whose identities remain anonymous) chronicled their emotional state through full-body self-portraiture and journaling. They were then interviewed by Ponsford-Hill, who also analyzed their documentations.
To determine the psychological significance of what the participants shared, the author focused upon eight essential themes:
Self-awareness through symbolism of environment
Symbolism expressed through use of media
Self-awareness through emotional, spiritual and bodily awareness
Construction of self through word in art
Self-awareness through engagement with inner child
Self-awareness through transformation
Self-awareness of professional self
Self-awareness through self-care
Self-awareness of hope and appreciation
For example, Ponsford-Hill noted that “Linda” relied heavily upon environmental themes in her self-portraitures by depicting herself in various outdoor settings. Through thoughtful consideration of her drawings, Linda seemed surprised that she was shoeless in each image, a detail that Ponsford-Hill interpreted as evidence of childlike innocence and a yearning to be free of constraints imposed by daily living. In another case, the self-portraits by “Salina” are stark in comparison, the body in each a simple line drawing existing alone on the page with lots of whitespace. Also surprised by her renderings, the artist interpreted her selfies as a reflection of both strength and vulnerability, while Ponsford-Hill’s takeaway was a lack of physical energy, among others. Participants largely agreed that this exercise resulted in greater awareness of body satisfaction.
In examining their journaled reflections, the analyses of the art therapists and the author embodied a similar range. The revelations of both practices – the self-portraits and journaling – seemed to show a cause-and-effect between the two: Their newfound self-awareness sparked the re-emergence of lost creative energy. Though this is a simplistic stating of the author’s comprehensive research and its findings, it captures what’s at the heart of this eye-opening book: Art is the window to the soul and a spiritual force with the power to heal.
THE ART OF SELF-SUPERVISION by Laurie Ponsford-Hill offers valuable insights for art therapists – or anyone – experiencing career exhaustion and burn-out, though the depth of detail and clinical approach may make it a tedious read for casual fans of self-help books.
~Libby Wiersema for IndieReader