What Are "Life Transitions"?
Life is full of transitions. They are those periods of time when something shifts for us; when we move from one stage of life to another. Although they are a natural part of every human experience, someone in the midst of a life transition can feel overwhelmed, confused, excited, or out of focus.
Through out human history, life transitions have been honored and held by community ceremonies or personal rituals. In a world that lacks sacrament and ceremony, making time for therapy and creative reflection ensures that we come out on the other side of these passageways healthy and whole.
Listed below are just some of the life transitions honored in ceremony around the world. What transitions in your own life could you add?
- puberty or menopause
- spiritual confirmation
- starting a new venture or journey
- a surgery or healing process
- achieving life goals (i.e. climbing a mountain)
- a medical diagnosis
- the purchase of land or a new house
- separation or divorce
- a career or job change
- coming out as LGBTQ
- pregnancy and new parenthood
What are the Expressive Arts?
1. Expressive- The focus of Expressive Arts Therapy (and perhaps all therapy) is to facilitate client expression with the goal of clarity and meaning making. Sometimes having a caring conversation is all a client needs to gain insight. However, it is really just one mode of communication in a sea of possibilities. Writing, moving, singing, stretching, laughing, crying, breathing, painting, pointing...they can all be expressions of truth. As an EXA therapist I am interested in multiple perspectives and ways of being in the world. In the expressive arts the value is always placed on the expression and the process, rather than the product.
2. Arts- There are so many ways to be an artist; a gardener is an artist at work in the medium of dirt and water and possibility. There is a reason we say "arts", with and "s". In Expressive Arts therapy there is an emphasis on all creativity and creative acts as a healing tool. Sometimes this means we pull out the paint in session, sometimes it means we play in sand or tell stories or explore song lyrics. The magic of the expressive arts is in the transition between mediums; multiple art forms can meld in to a unique creative experience. It sounds scary, I know, but every arts intervention offered is simply a suggestion; an invitation it step in to your own creativity and see what treasures you can uncover there.
What I love about my job (jobs)
I started my career in the theatre; the ultimate ritual art form. In 2005 I moved to New York to write, direct, and produce edgy and thoughtful theatrical experiences. I learned that good theatre verges on a spiritual experience as people come together to share creativity, ideas, stories, and emotions.
To support myself while directing, I worked as a theatre and visual arts teacher in Harlem. It was then that I started noticing how my students were impacted by art making. There was so much going on in their lives; divorce, bullying, poverty, puberty, and even the election of President Obama. These were big deals in the communities I was serving and I felt honored to witness how the kids were boldly and confidently processing their lives through art making. Their emotions, thoughts, and inexpressible experiences were finding a way out in their paintings, crafts, and improv scenes.
I was filled with a desire to know more about the connection between creativity and life transitions; to plant myself at the intersection of art, counseling, and spirituality.
In 2009 I moved from New York City to San Francisco to get my masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with a focus on the expressive arts.
In addition to my academic courses, I was honored to train in dramatherapy techniques with Armand Volkas of the Living Arts Center. While studying I used my counseling skills to work with elders, a population I hold very close to my heart. I went through the geriatric training program at AgeSong Institute as a counseling intern to residents living with forgetfulness in the form of dementia and Alzheimer's. That work, along with my work in local hospice programs, gave me some keen insight into the importance of rituals and ceremony when working with grief and loss.
In the course of all this time I began to be asked to officiate weddings and rituals for friends, so I sought ordination and became a non-denominational minister. The first wedding I performed was for two of my best friends. I will never forget how honored I felt to be in that role, it was the perfect culmination of all my talents.
Since that first wedding in 2009, I have worked part-time as a celebrant in religious communities and with individuals to deepen my understanding of the art of sacrament. I am also currently accepting clients in my part-time private practice as a marriage and family therapist. Some clients are only interested in therapy, some just in celebrant services, and some in both. The aim of all the work I do is to provide my diverse clients with emotional, creative, and spiritual support during life transitions.
I consider my self a success when clients can walk away feeling they have been fully present for their own transformation.
Ritual and the Expressive Arts are my main tools as a therapist along with a Jungian, Person-Centered lens. That said, every client or couple is different and every thing I do is deeply influenced by the needs, outlook, and culture of the person I am sitting across from.