Being Present

Often, as I hand materials over to my patients, I find myself wondering what they are going to make.  It is easy to get caught up in the final product- what something is “going to be” and what it will look like “when it is all done”.

That is why recently, when I handed a young patient a ball of clay and she replied, “Thanks, I am not going to make anything” she gave me a good reminder of why art making is so helpful in the first place. In our art space, just playing with the art materials is exactly what some of our patients need to be able to do.

A pioneer in the field of art therapy, Edith Kramer, believed that the process of making art, not just the creation of a finished work, could be very therapeutic. She advocated for art therapists to place equal value on the creation process as on the final art product. She trusted that therapeutic value can come from manipulation, exploration and experimentation with art materials.

As this young patient manipulated the clay she laughed and talked about how she enjoys the feel of the clay squishing through her fingers.  She described the color and smell of the clay and watched it change consistency as she saturated it with water. She also expressed how relaxing it is to just play with something, without any intention of making anything. The benefit for this patient came from just being in the moment. Encouraging our patients to use art to be present is an essential process, which allows them to recognize and experience their feelings.