I have long wanted to make a space, at home, for art and crafting. It is nice to reflect over achievements and this morning I am enjoying having progressed one of my goals. We are fortunate to have large sized bedrooms and our guestroom is where I have my writing desk.
While I am still developing the ‘writing den’ aspect of the room, I have now achieved my long awaited goal of creating a space for dabbling with art and crafts.
I managed to pull together some of our older furniture, from various places around our cottage. These were a couple of bookshelves (old ‘Billy’ bookshelves from Ikea – still the best bookshelves you can buy, I would say. I’ve never had one of these shelves ever bend under the weight of heavy books, yet!), a table and a chair.
I have been able to put books on art, crafts and some relating to writing, on the shelves. I have also put on there my art materials, art and craft tools and packaging for anything I may make and want to try to gift or sell. My table is now in place, with the chair, for me to sit at and spend hours enjoying being creative.
I recently bought an old art easel. It was about £45.00 and is just the right size for the room. One of my aims is to learn to paint with oils and acrylics and so having this easel will be ideal for when painting onto canvas.
I am thinking of making things that may sell at a Christmas Fayre. There are a few months between now and Christmas, so that gives me time to try to produce some nice things that may, perhaps, include items that will make fun gifts through to unique cards and packaging.
As a person with Parkinson’s, my only difficulty will be whether I can stand at an art easel for long enough before pain or instability develop? I will have to manage that by painting in short stints. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Do you enjoy art and / or crafting? Are you a writer? Do you dabble in all of these? Have you created a writing den, a crafting room or an art studio at home or, like me, space for these activities in part of a room? Do share your experiences below, if you would like to.
“Reinvention has been the key to my career success. Once in a while, I change direction. I adapt and grow. This has now become the key to my life as a person living with Parkinson’s and it is what enables me to survive with this devastating disease.” -Dean G. Parsons. 2019.
“I had always intended to make writing my profession. It is, in fact, the main reason I wanted to leave my thirty-five years of life as a Londoner and move to a quiet, rural setting within close distance to the coast. The perfect setting for living life as a writer. In 2007 my partner, now husband, and I made the move from London to the beautiful county of Suffolk. We live in a centuries-old cottage, just a few minutes drive from the coast and we are living the dream.
I left school at age seventeen, having completed one full year of A-levels study but knowing that, for a number of reasons, I would not be choosing to go to university. Instead, I wanted to get to work and so I quickly landed myself a job in the accounts department of a water company, of all things. From here, I quickly learnt how to take on new responsibilities, achieve constant training and move myself ‘up the ladder’, so to speak. This gave me a solid foundation in the private sector and I was soon employed as supervisor and team manager in some of the UK’s leading blue-chip companies. It was in that environment that I developed a strong work-ethic and self-discipline.
When I tragically lost my father to cancer, I was just thirty years of age and his loss impacted upon me deeply. I was changed by it. Where before I might have put my dreams in the ‘one day’ category, suddenly I was galvanized into action. I wanted to achieve my dreams, for life suddenly seemed so very short.
Thanks to a local opportunity, I applied for work in the public and charity sectors and went from strength to strength working in supporting victims of hate crime, initially, to then working in a service that treated people for addictions. Before long, I was training as a Counsellor/Psychotherapist and I had moved from Outreach Worker to Support Worker and then to Team Leader and finally to Service Manager. I was running what was, at the time, the biggest drug and alcohol medical and therapeutic treatment service in London and it was incredibly successful. When I left, to move to Suffolk, I had relocated us to bigger premises, tripled the size of the workforce and doubled the funding secured to run the service. More importantly, we saved lives and changed lives and that was it; I was hooked into a life of helping people and communities.
To make the move to Suffolk, required me to find work in the county. Unbelievably, the job of a Commissioning Manager for drug and alcohol treatment, based in the Chief Executive’s Unit of Suffolk County Council, arose. I applied for it and I was successful. The doorway to our new life in Suffolk had opened. Until late 2009, I served as one of the Commissioning Managers and threw all of my knowledge of providing treatment services, into designing, tendering, commissioning and performance managing them for Suffolk County Council and I also helped a fellow team further develop Suffolk’s hate crime victim support services. Not without great challenges and stresses, I actually thoroughly enjoyed all of this work. I knew, however, that I wanted to return to being closer to treatment provision and so I took an opportunity to move to Suffolk NHS in 2011.
I became the Specialist Services Team Leader for NHS Suffolk. This role involved running two Nursing teams; the Shared Care Team and the Blood Borne Viruses Team, concurrently; delivering care, immunisation, detoxification, reduction programmes, counselling, blood testing (I trained in Phlebotomy), crisis intervention, trauma counselling and other services to clients with substance addictions; many of whom had co-morbidity and dual diagnosis. Many patients suffered with severe mental health problems and the debilitating effects of long-term trauma. Again, I loved this work but the role came to an end due to a tendering and restructuring process that, painfully, saw most high level skilled workers made redundant and their responsibilities passed down to less skilled and less qualified staff; an unethical pattern seen nationally due to increasing austerity cuts in the UK at that time.
I have become well known in Suffolk for my roles as Commissioner and as Specialist Services Team Leader. Concurrently, in 2008, I established my private Counselling and Psychotherapy practice in Suffolk.
One commission that I am particularly proud of was for a wonderful charity called Focus12, based then in Bury St. Edmunds. This was a residential rehabilitation centre for those with substance addictions and compulsive disorders. I was commissioned as Clinical Supervisor between 2008 – 2013. In this role, I consistently supported Focus12 to successfully achieve and pass routine audits by the Care Quality Commission. In 2012, I was awarded for my work as Clinical Supervisor for my supervision of Student Interns for the military US Air Force base at Lakenheath in Suffolk. This was a service in which we, again, saved lives and changed lives.
Since 2011, having left the NHS, I continued to work for myself and, in 2018, I celebrated ten years of delivering my services in Suffolk as a Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor. The work is incredibly humbling and fulfilling.
Throughout my life, since childhood, I have always written. I have been privileged to grow up watching my father work in the film and television industry and I always knew that I would eventually sit and write as my profession; inspired by the screenwriters and scriptwriters that I met back in my younger years of watching my father at work.
When I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease in 2017, I realised that, in time, I would have to step away from working as a therapist, for the symptoms of my illness will one day prevent me from sitting comfortably with clients and will prevent me having clear enough speech to communicate with them well. So, reinvention was again required.
In 2017, just weeks after being diagnosed, I signed up to study for a Diploma in Creative Writing; which included fiction, non-fiction, journalistic writing, playwriting, writing for radio, poetry, life writing and even editing. I successfully achieved my qualification in January 2019. I had achieved my goal of equipping myself with the formal credentials to support my writing career.
As I write this, it is now August 2019. Since January, I have published three short-story e-books at Amazon and I have written and published one paperback; an autobiographical work that explores my life with Parkinson’s Disease and which uses poetry to describe and communicate much about that experience, along with a narrative that tells some of my story. This is also available through Amazon. Just visit my Amazon Author Page to find out more.
For now, I continue my therapy practice, though part-time, while alongside that I write and this online magazine has now become another significant writing success.”
Good morning from a wet Friday in England. We have ten days of stormy weather arriving today! Still, the rain keeps these islands green and lush.
What are your plans for the weekend?
Try my 10 point plan this weekend and let me know how you get on.
1) Chat with at least one person, in-person.
2) Make a kind gesture for at least one person.
3) Spend at least 15 minutes outside, each day.
4) Listen to something you like for 10 minutes; from silence to heavy metal! From birdsong to water flowing.
5) Assess one room in your home and identify one change you can make, to make life easier.
6) Eat something you really like the taste of.
7) Put something in your home that smells nice; from a bowl of zesty citrus fruit, to a nice coffee pot. From a baking bread or cake to a fine fragrance jostick.
8 ) Touch things in your home to feel connected and appreciative; from a fluffy blanket or throw, to a plant. From your pet to your favourite outfit.
9) Look around your home. Are you and the things you appreciate and value about your life/your world represented there? From pictures of landscapes, to photos of happy memories. From objects that speak of you and your interests, to books that represent your heart and mind. Are you there, in what you see in your home?
10) Do one thing new or different. Break your routine. Try a new shop. Buy a different brand. Drive or walk a different route. Message someone you’d like to know more. Have a new experience. Change your appearance.
Try these 10 points and see how much more content you feel, emotionally.
An activity I use with clients who may have communication difficulties, is that of collage making. Communication difficulties can happen for a very broad range of reasons. For example, a person may have experienced a trauma and so may either be unable to, or may not want to, use words to communicate. Sometimes, disability may be the reason that a person has difficulty expressing themselves verbally.
A person may have a learning difficulty or a mental health condition that may make communicating with words problematic. A person may not have a broad emotional vocabulary and so may struggle to describe their feelings or they may have a limited language vocabulary for a variety of reasons. Children and young people may have yet to learn words that adequately represent their thoughts, feelings and emotions. (This work should only be undertaken with children and young people, by a suitably qualified therapist specialising in work with those under eighteen years of age).
Culturally, a person may be unaccustomed to speaking about his/herself; sometimes through traditions of modesty or other times through the cultural norm being that one does not disclose private matters or subjects that may be judged as shameful or breaching a standard of honour. These are but some of the many potential reasons that a person may experience difficulty in communicating through use of words, in a therapy situation.
I would add that this exercise is not just about finding a way to express something when using words is difficult. This exercise is often about finding meaning, whether the words are known or not. The process of collaging can help a person to explore, consider and to make sense of something in a way that simple discussion may not achieve.
It is important not to suddenly spring the activity onto your client and, equally, it is important that you consider how the client may feel about being faced with the prospect of committing something to paper through the use of art materials. From what I have seen, may people feel quite daunted at the prospect, initially. The reason for this, is that they almost always express an apologetic sense of not being good at art and a fear of having an artwork judged.
To introduce the collage making, I have always found it best to introduce the idea in a prior session with the client. This provides the opportunity to explain the purpose of the exercise and it allows the client the chance to explore, consider and question the idea. I take this explorative process further by then helping the client to understand that the outcome we would be working toward would not be to create an artwork that is to then be viewed and judged as an artwork. One of the outcomes that would be achieved would be, instead, a form of self-expression; a piece that describes something, that communicates something or that explains something.
A major point, however, is that the ‘finished piece’ is actually not the only outcome. In fact, the most significant outcome is achieved while the collage is in the process of being created. I explain to my client that this is where we would be talking. I would use my skills to help the client to explore why they would be choosing a particular image to be added to the collage. I would be looking at symbolism and the significance of everything from the images or materials being chosen to their positioning on the paper or board. I would be encouraging the client to ‘tell their story’ and we would work together to consider which materials would represent something of what the client is thinking, feeling, remembering, communicating, describing and disclosing. This is where, from a therapeutic perspective, the true outcomes are achieved and I make the client aware of this. In fact, once the client knows we are not creating an ‘artwork’, they often describe feeling far more comfortable to be creative.
Finally, I also set out some rules. These include that I would not be letting the client depict trauma. I will not take a client into a trauma, while using art materials, and I will not permit the client to depict a trauma in their imagery. The reason for this is that doing so may potentially cause the client to experience a flashback; reliving their trauma, or it may trigger them into an existing or new experience of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This would not be the desired purpose of the session. It is okay to explore around a trauma; for example to consider impact and consequence or to explore aspects of change in the person before and after a trauma; but this must be carefully assessed as being helpful to the client and something that works towards their goals, rather than being an indulgent process. Again, I would only suggest this be done by any therapist trained in working with and around trauma.
My recommendation for this exercise would be, instead, to use collaging for exploring aspects that are about the present and the future. This makes the process a safer one and it means that the client will, at the end of the task, be taking away something that may have more hopeful and optimistic significance rather than being a representation of something disturbing from the past. That said, I do allow a small representation of the past to be included, if the client feels the need to do so.
I have to consider the needs and special needs of my client. To assess the potential value of the session, to consider what I know about the client and whether the process will be helpful towards the goals they have set and what I need to have in place in the setting. This taps into also considering special needs; is the client in need of any special equipment? Can the client discern between colours? Do they have any allergies? Does the client have the manual dexterity to use scissors, glue and all of the other equipment that I provide? Do I need to provide a table of a particular height or a chair that meets any special physical needs? These are just a few of the practical considerations.
Equally, I need to consider ethics. So, in my materials I will need to ensure that if I provide magazines or pictures of people, that a broad and diverse range of people types are depicted; from skin colour and race to images of disabled people, differing body shapes and sizes, different gender types, different age groups, faith based imagery, couples of different and same sex, different social class imagery and so on. The person must have access to materials that are relevant to them. This is why I ask the client to also bring in materials that they may like to use. Who better than the client to know which materials would best depict their culture, their social status, their relationship and family structure and their age, faith (or none) and gender identity?
You will note that I have used the word ‘materials’. Well, if you think about the broad range of thoughts feelings, emotions and experiences we have then we must accept that the means to express, communicate or describe these without the use of words may require quite a range of materials. From glitter and sand, through to feathers, leaves, dried food, animal fur, gravel, fluffy materials….the list is endless. I always bring something that represents the five senses; sight sound, taste, touch and smell. From a couple of perfumes, to magazines and images, through to dried food, fluffy and coarse materials and things that are tactile, like wood with grain, bird seed etc.
Other considerations are to ensure that scissors are small and round ended, not sharp point ended. To ensure that you have done your best not to provide items or objects that could be used for self-harm or that could be used to assault you. Such incidents are almost unheard of but must be considered. I also consider whether the client has been , or is, an addict. If I am providing glue or products that can be sprayed, then this could place an addict at risk. In the imagery I have provided in magazines and other sources, I need to ensure that there is nothing associated with a direct link to historic trauma in the client and I also need to consider the flammability of any items I bring into the venue.
This may all sound onerous but it is simple and I actually now have a pre-made set of basic materials that I keep in a couple of boxes, that form a standard basic content, which I then can add to based upon each specific client, closer to the session.
It can also be good practice to have the client sign a simple agreement form with you. For example, that you will provide an apron and even goggles but that if the client’s clothes are stained or damaged, the client accepts responsibility. That the client confirms the session purpose and rules have been explained to them, that their needs and special needs have been assessed and that they are happy to undertake the exercise.
I recommend that you have a go at making a collage, yourself, before you ever do so with a client. This will help you to empathise with them about the experience. It can help you become aware of which materials are best to use and it can also help you be better aware of time management and the comfort of the venue.
I made a simple collage to represent a perfect day. Here is mine:
This was an useful exercise, for the reasons stated, but I also rather enjoyed just taking the time to think about what makes a perfect day. I decided on the subject, simply because it was a nice and optimistic subject. It was interesting to practice and I was surprised by the depth of the thought processes about things I enjoy. It was actually challenging to then look for the imagery to represent that.
As you can see, by me showing a client this, they will immediately recognise that the end product is in no way about art! That offers them reassurance.
Finally, in the session that follows the collage making, this is when I ask the client to return with the collage and we talk through, reflectively, the experience the client had in making it, we discuss how they found the session and then what they gained from the process. The collage remains theirs to keep. We consider whether there are any subjects that we may need to take from the experience into our work together, going forward.
If you are a therapist who rents therapy room space, don’t forget to book yourself around twenty minutes setting up and clearing away time and the extra room hire cost may need to be added to your fee for the session, so that you are not disadvantaged. Some therapists will ask for a small fee to help cover the cost of materials, but I do not.
This is not a session that you can advertise as Art Therapy. Only a qualified Art Therapist can do that and would do so as part of a broader art therapy programme with the client. It is okay to use art materials in your work with your client but unless you are a qualified art therapist, these should be occasional supporting methods rather than a regular feature. Always consult with your Clinical Supervisor before and after you undertake such sessions with your client. Your Clinical Supervisor should also be able to offer you Clinical Supervision using art materials, to again further your insight and empathy into the experience and to help you better develop some of your skills.
If you are a client in therapy, do ask your therapist about collaging. It really can be a very helpful exercise.
Any of my regular readers from the Parkinson’s community; you may like to try this yourself to express something of how you feel about living with Parkinson’s. Remember, don’t just focus on the difficulty. Try to make the piece something uplifting and optimistic. Perhaps depict both a difficult and a good day in the one piece?
I don’t know about you, but once in a while I need to sit and think about what has been achieved. Today is a particularly wet, rainy day and so what better opportunity, as I complete administrative and writing tasks, than to think about what has been achieved in the first six months (already!) of this year.
What sort of a year have you had? Mine has been somewhat of a whirlwind. I am delighted to say that a great deal has been achieved, though. I have written a lot of articles on this site and I have written and published three short stories on Amazon Kindle. I have written two short plays and I achieved my Diploma in Creative Writing, back in January. Somehow, while also running my psychotherapy practice and seeing that grow, I have also started to present a small weekly segment on a radio show!! I didn’t see that coming! How did that happen? I love the surprises of life.
I have been through another review of my health, to see how I am doing in regard to Parkinson’s. I guess this is a tricky one to feel an accomplishment about, for each year my health deteriorates in some way as the disease progresses. That said, I believe that the achievements in continuing to live life well and achieve new things, as well as maintaining existing components of life, is something of an achievement. The new or increased medication that comes from each appointment with my Neurologist, reveals the nature of the progression of the disease but I can happily say that the medication is doing wonderful things and I am just incredibly active and busy.
I would recommend to anyone who is living with illness; whether that be physical health or mental health, that being creative is helpful and therapeutic. For me, writing is top of the list and I would add gardening in there. I also have a desire, having been glued to the BBC’s ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ (I love that show!), to have a go at portrait painting. That is on my agenda for this year; both to just dabble and, perhaps, find a tutor to teach me some basics. What are you doing that brings creativity into your life, in a therapeutic way?