A Leap of Faith: The Call to Art

CHAPTER THREE – When Art Is Enough

“It’s not the go, it’s the way” – Anonymous

This chapter is a story about possibilities. It is also a message about paying attention to what is important. It is so very easy to miss the simple solutions. Unfortunately, I think that this comes from adaptation to a culture that bombards us with stimuli and in turn causes us to tune out energy.

The tale which follows embraces the concept of tuning into another person’s energy; in this case, that of a talented and misunderstood ten year old boy. It is a metaphor about paying attention to the most simple and obvious conclusion. As a clinician, this is vitally important: that is truly attending to another and (concomitantly oneself) and one’s reactions to any situation. This is not always easy to do. Often, I overlook the obvious and become entrapped by the ‘solution’ and do not heed the ‘soulution’ as I have come to see it. In seeing the ‘soulution’ of a human being, I allow my energy to mix with the other. This is not about loss of boundaries but rather it is co-creating, connecting / ‘kinecting’ and permitting the flow of elemental play to enter the heart and soul of the therapy. Thus, this mixing of forces becomes the ‘soulution.’ And in this, I am not the healing agent but rather a participant in wellness: mine as well as the other person’s.

It is a double-edged procedure. For in the healing process, whether guiding or receiving the healing energy, it is not either /or, it is both / and. One can not avoid being effected. Indeed this process of healing the energy system of a human being is participatory by default. To deny this position is to deny one’s existence, one’s energy, and the universal constructs of energy itself. We are not inert matter. We mix. Whether for better or worse, this is indeed what we do. In receiving this truth, we can change ourselves, others, and yes, perhaps even the world.

Brian

This is a story generated by paradox. There have been several ironical connections to this tale. I will relay three.

Paradox One
(The Recent Past): The first irony occurred approximately a year ago. I was sitting in my office at Hillside Children’s Center where I have been employed for over fifteen years. Oddly enough, I had been holding a Pleistocene sculpture that Brian had made for me approximately twelve years ago.

I had just begun researching this book and I was pondering how unfortunate it was that I had never been able to obtain a signed art therapy release form from Brian. I had been thinking what a wonderful illustration this case had been in utilizing a studio art therapy approach.

The phone rang. It was a teacher from the campus school connected to our residential treatment facility. She asked me if I remembered working with a boy by Brian’s name.

My heart leapt into my throat as I barely eked out, “Why, yes”. She explained that he had just phoned the school and asked if he might come and speak to the students at the school since he wanted to “give back” a little something based on what he had received when in treatment with me. She then added that he would be coming that Friday and wanted to know if I would be willing to see him. My mouth dropped as I told the teacher what I was holding and what I had just been thinking. I affirmed that I would be there on Friday.

On Friday afternoon, I entered the room. I barely recognized Brian. He sported at least 6’2” to my 5’ 2” frame and besides his soft, beautiful blue eyes and wry smile, what I recognized most were his hands: these hands that I had watched for over a year had seared an indelible mark in my memory. His hands were as familiar as twelve years ago. As I approached him, not knowing whether to shake his hand or warmly embrace him, a desk was physically stationed between us. I leaned over the desk as did he, and we embraced. I uncovered the carefully wrapped Pleistocene figure that I had kept on my desk for years and watched as he was shocked back into our time together. He had forgotten about this figure and its presence threw us back twelve years. Quickly, we switched gears as he told me that he had watched the videomovie that we had made together and he then showed me his current portfolio and incredible puppets. I was amazed at his artistic prowess.

I experienced a rare follow-up opportunity with Brian. We conversed freely: artist to artist. Brian had done well.

He had received several scholarships for his artistic aptitude after our therapy ended. Indeed, he had been an enormous success, receiving a full scholarship to the prestigious Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Thus began a rare friendship born from a relationship informed by art. While the details of our reconnection, a look at Brian’s current art work, and his thoughts on what art means to him will follow the tale of our prior work together, the coincidences involving this case continues.

Paradox Two (The Past): It is a rare occasion to be a recipient of one’s own work. Over twenty years ago, when I was a graduate student in the field of Art Therapy, I became actively involved in NYATA (the New York Art Therapy Association) and read countless legislative bills that were being circulated around Albany. In one such bill, our legislative lobbyist (Pat Lynch) asked the members of NYATA to write rationales for introducing the creative arts therapies into the applicable bills that were being generated. One of these bills was an amendment to Public Law 94-142 in which creative art therapists (art, music and /or dance therapists) could be included in a parenthetical description of “support services”. Pat submitted my very simplistic rewrite of that particular bill which was then ratified and amended into law. This created a civil service line for creative art therapists in New York State. In the ratified bill, if a student’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) was named as a “support service” then, by law, the school was required to fund and deliver that service (Horovitz, 1980; Goodman & Wilson, 1980).

Much to my surprise, in 1983, I became a recipient of my own work in the case of Brian. Brian’s school psychologist recognized his aptitude for art and as a result his teacher made an art therapy referral on his IEP. As a result, even though he lived forty-five minutes from Rochester, New York, once a week he was bused from his school to my outpatient office for art therapy. We worked together for one and a half years and with school vacations and summer breaks, there was a total of thirty-nine sessions.

The referral on his IEP Phase I (submitted by his teacher) read as follows: “With the recommendation of the school psychologist, an art therapist will hopefully be provided for Brian (Author’s Note: named changed for confidentiality). He seems to be able to express himself the best through drawing and since the therapist’s approach is to work with the entire family, this should help Brian with his emotions. Her name is Ellen Horovitz and she is willing to see Brian and his family in her office on a weekly basis”.

This case referral took place approximately twelve years ago. In those days, the school supplied insufficient psychosocial information to construct a family genogram. What was known was that one of the older sisters and Paula both had learning disabilities, mother and father were both high school graduates, and father had difficulty with language, reading, and numerical computation. It was suggested that there was a genetic predisposition for Dyslexia and learning impairment. Father was employed as a truck driver, and mother was employed at the local school cafeteria where Brian and his sister went to school.

Numerous assessments had been done on this 11 year old child who had been labeled (according to the referring IEP) as “Learning Disabled / Emotionally Disturbed”.

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