Hi. It’s weird to actually say goodbye. I wanna thank you for helping me figure out my sh*t in the most beautiful way ever. I’ve hated and loved art therapy extremely much, but it’s crazy how many things I’ve learned. I really appreciate you being welcoming and kind towards me and everyone. You are one of the kindest people I’ve known. Thank you for also introducing me to something I want to potentially do. You are awesome. I hope we keep in touch.
I love this letter given to me by a client who was leaving therapy after nearly two years of good, hard work. Though it’s nice that she said sweet things about me, I am much more excited about the way she described art therapy. The idea of “[figuring] out my sh*t in the most beautiful way ever” just tickles me. In fact, hating and loving art therapy is probably the best possible reaction for someone who is really doing deep, difficult exploration.
Before she left, we did an Art Review where we laid out all of her art therapy work in chronological order. I love doing Art Reviews, because the course of progress and patterns is, well, visible. You can see the change in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors as they unfold through symbols and imagery. For this particular client, things like strategic use of glitter (when exploring relationships with others, except for the relationship with a volatile parent), the metaphor of a lidded bottle/jar (how it feels to fill up with emotions and not have an explosive outlet), the use of cut-outs and see-through media (measure of insight and understanding) and other symbols became personalized for her as a way to work things through.
Most importantly, she could see and own her progress. She could see her emotional regulation skills as they increased. She could see how her trauma responses became more simple and secure. She could see the way she was relating to others in enmeshed, then detached, and finally balanced ways. By her report, this all mirrors her experiences out in the “real world.” This kind of insight and understanding is just one of the many benefits of art therapy and the highlights the importance of Art Reviews as a way of saying goodbye.