When I joined the graduate art therapy faculty at the college of New Rochelle, in 1980, as a practicing art therapist and fine artist, I was determined to help design a curriculum that embraced creativity and ensured that students continued to develop themselves as fine artists while they embarked on their journey to train as clinicians. One of the special courses I developed, to promote exposure to the unique aspects of stone carving and help students apply their personal experience within this process to explore clinical phenomena such as countertransference, was the Workshop in Imagery Transformation. Here, students were required to create a stone sculpture and describe their ongoing experience as a parallel to working with a resistant patient. Over the years I added an online component so students could post weekly progress photos, describe their experience and comment on classmates posts. We also worked, in class as a group, to continue this processing on deeper levels, as countertransference inevitably leads. I've been extremely gratified over these many years to have received many comments from students, that this course was among their favorites and was often described during exit interviews, as a 'life altering experience'!
I had also offered a briefer, preliminary version of this process to Pratt graduate art therapy students over their summer session programs in New Hampshire, during the mid 70's- mid 80's. But these were much shorter and less intense experiences where the focus was more simply on the creating of art.
I believe that all art therapists who work with other peoples' unconscious material, will often have their own unconscious issues stirred by this powerful resonance. Creating artwork gives the therapist an opportunity to externalize material that has been triggered and place this within their art. A more developed description of my own experience using stone carving to process my countertransference with a challenging patient can be found in my book,"No One Can Hear Me Scream", 2010, which was an expanded version of an article written for 'Psychoanalytic Perspectives", in 2010. (The PDF of this article is available below on this website, in the 'Publications' section of my Vitae)
So with this as background, I would like to share how my second stone sculpture of this summer has progressed thus far. Below you see some views of this piece which is being formed from a stone that is similar to the first piece shown in my last post. Whatever unconscious material that I have been externalizing into this work has not yet made it to my consciousness. Sometimes whatever has been externalized in our art needs time to be more fully understood, and the simple process of externalization has a healing effect through sublimation.
I plan to post photos of the 'finished' piece whenever I feel a sense of completion for the moment, and my unconscious allows me to bring closure to this particular form. Creativity is an expression of the unconscious; which is an ongoing process like a river that is always flowing; and if I allowed myself to follow that river indefinitely, I might continue to work on this piece until there was nothing left but dust.
Professor Robert Irwin Wolf,