In a recent post, we linked to several articles offering scientific evidence for the benefits of creative practice. As therapists, we may fall into the trap of saying, “That’s nice, but when will I fit that into my schedule?”
Prior to her research on wholeheartedness, Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW had this to say about creativity: “A-R-T how nice. I have a J-O-B- I’m doing real work.” Sadly, that has become the fate of creative expression for many of us in this product-oriented world. Brown has since learned from her research that creative expression is a necessary and powerful component of wholehearted living and loving. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she states, “The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born out of our creativity.”
Reframing Resistance to Creative Time
How about we shake things up a bit? How about reframing the “no time” excuse as the “oxygen mask” analogy. You know, where the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first so that you can better help others. When we practice creativity for our own self-care and expression, something profound shifts in us. I know this from personal experience and practice. By allowing regular creative practice in my life overall, not only while process painting, a simple change has occurred. I am more comfortable with not knowing what is going to happen next. This flings the door of possibility wide open.
“Not knowing” is a principle of process painting. It is also a hallmark of our work as therapists. Of course, we have our training, our primary theoretical orientation and the strong ethical guidelines that are the foundations of our work. As seasoned therapists, we also know there is even more that we don’t know. Our work with each client is unique, fueled not only by the rigor of our training but also by our gut sense in the moment, our intuition and our creativity.
Taking Creative Risks Every Day
Risk taking and experimentation are part of the creative process. No matter which work-a-day world you live in, these traits of creative expression are key to enlivened, energizing and effective work. Packed schedules and mile-long to-do lists are antithetical to creative expression. Can you plan some time each day to risk exploring with a brush and paint?
Maybe you start small with a journal and some watercolor markers. Or perhaps you dive in and sign up for a Painting Experience workshop to jump-start your practice. No matter the path you take, your efforts will be rewarded. One recent study says you can see benefits to your well-being with just 45 minutes of creative play each day.
To encourage you on your journey, I will end with a quote from Shaun McNiff’s book, Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul:
If we can liberate the creative process in our lives, it will always find the way to whatever needs attention and transformation. The challenge, then, is first to free our creativity and then to sustain it as a disciplined practice.
To read more from Molly, see Five Ways Self-Compassion Supports Your Painting Practice and Three Steps to Greater Creative Self-Compassion.
If you’re a therapist interested in receiving CEUs for workshops with The Painting Experience, visit our Continuing Education page.
For a list of upcoming Painting Experience workshops and retreats, visit our Programs page.
Molly Siddoway King is an affiliate with The Painting Experience. She’s a retired psychotherapist, teacher, and Outward Bound instructor. She facilitates process painting workshops in Bozeman, Montana. To contact her directly, visit her website.