When you come to Villa Kali Ma, it’s like being a caterpillar, agreeing to go into the cocoon. Tucked in to a soft, safe and quiet place, you are able to go through your metamorphosis. Transformation from what you are now to who you really mean to be involves letting go of your everyday self and opening up to other parts of you. As you get in touch with your own inner healing forces, it helps to call on processes and powers of life that are bigger than you. The caterpillar doesn’t recover through effort alone, though she has to be willing to put some work in. While her personal commitment and actions matter enormously, in the end she recovers most of all because she finds the courage to surrender herself to a process, to forces of nature that transcend and go beyond her.
Expressive arts therapy is a way of working therapeutically that interweaves art, music, dance, drama, and creative writing. It engages play, images, expression, and creative inspiration to heal and to create meaning. It helps you come up with a way of relating to life that you prefer to the one you have now. Expressive arts usually involves making visual art pieces, discovering symbols and metaphors for your experience, telling stories, and using imagination to relate to your life the way children do – with play and wonder. At Villa Kali Ma, we use expressive arts therapy to help you undergo metamorphosis – to become the specific butterfly, with your unique patterns and markings, that it is your natural destiny to become.
What If I’m Not Creative?
Expressive arts is a way to have contact with our own, personal creativity, it is not about anyone else’s idea of what that is. And in spite of popular ideas about artists being special, they’re not – regardless of what we have been taught to think about it, creativity is an in-dwelling gift that all humans have. Just as any old caterpillar has the inherent ability to call on nature’s powers of transformation to undergo metamorphosis, just by being human you have the right to call on your own unique creativity as a transformative power in your life.
If the cocoon is right, metamorphosis will happen on its own. Likewise, if the cocoon for creativity is properly set up, healing creativity happens. At Villa Kali Ma, we provide the structure, support, safety, and series of guided assignments that create the possibility to experience the creative power of life and to allow it to heal you. All you have to do is show up and join in.
What If I’m Not a Good Artist?
Almost everyone is wounded in their creative self-esteem. We may have very high standards for ourselves or believe that only talented, special people who are “good at art” (or dance, or music, or acting, etc) should make it. We may fear the creative process, not knowing what will happen or if we will be judged. Most of all, we may fear the activation of our own inner critic – that voice within who evaluates us mercilessly and makes us feel bad about who we are or aren’t. Luckily it’s not necessary to feel completely unafraid, nor to identify with the word “artist” to get the beauty and benefit of expressive arts therapy.
People in expressive arts therapy sometimes make art pieces that they love. Most of the time participants experience the whole spectrum, from pieces that annoy or disturb, to pieces that don’t appear to be anything at all, to pieces that move us deeply, to pieces that enchant and charm us. The group is first and foremost about the process. What we experience as we interact with materials, our bodies, and our imaginations, is equally as potent as the final product we end up with. Finally, expressive arts isn’t about making good art at all. “Bad art” is just as valued, interesting, loved, and wanted in expressive arts therapy as the stuff we may think of us more pretty or acceptable. Expressive arts welcomes everyone and everything.
How Will Expressive Arts Help Me Recover?
Pioneers and founders of the field of expressive arts therapy write extensively about how creative work heals the psyche. If you’re interested to know more about the method, you may enjoy reading this Psychology Today article, or check out the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association. In addition, I’ve listed a few of the key reasons that the expressive arts therapy program at Villa Kali Ma helps women recover from addiction to live lives of joy and meaning.
Creativity Is a Natural High
As long as you’re in a safe enough setting, getting in touch with your own creative flow brings pleasure, aliveness, and a sense of connection. It is inherently pleasurable to feel the creative force moving within, to give it its space and see what it does. Many people are surprised, moved, inspired, and restored by what happens for them during expressive arts therapy.
Expressive Arts Helps You Get in Touch With Your Insides
Many people with addiction find themselves in a condition where they are out of touch with what it’s like to be them. Their own underlying point of view, emotional riches, and personal thoughts have been eclipsed by the addiction’s pattern of suffering and numbness. As we all know when we cry to a song we used to love as a teenager, or feel inspired to drum along to a song with an uplifting beat, the arts can be incredibly deep and evocative, allowing us to have experiences of profound emotion. Expressive arts therapy helps you make contact with your own depths.
Expressive Arts Helps You Get It Out
As the turns of phrase “get something off my chest”, “spit it out,” and “what’s on your mind?” imply, our psychological burdens are felt as presences pressing inside us. When we have too much going on in there, when it’s crowded inside, or overwhelming to be inside our own skin, expressive arts therapy helps take those energies from inside and get them out. In short, art takes what’s inside you and puts it on the outside. Pent up energy in your body, heart and mind that have been locked up in you through the addiction are released into the art piece.
Expressive Arts Helps You Feel Safe
Touching art materials, moving your body, using your imagination, and getting into the relaxing, meditative, alpha brainwave state of flow generate feelings of deep peace and safety. Also, the process of making an art project turns intense energies that have the potential to hurt yourself or others into harmless pieces of art. Expressive arts therapy helps you complete this conversion of energy by bridging your inner world with your sense perceptions of present-moment reality. By engaging with the material world outside of you at the same time that you interact with stimuli going on inside of you, you link your inner world with the outer physical world. Bridging your insides with the physical world helps you take chaotic, powerful, dangerous, or painful energies and transform them into something neutral and safe. Anger becomes a messy red painting instead of hurtful words or actions. Sadness becomes a haunting melody instead of the first step on a road to relapse.
Expressive Arts Helps You Get a Good Look at It, Whatever It Is
By bringing your inner experiences across the bridge into form, you create something that’s called a “crystallization”. This means that what was once cloudy and uncontained, formless, and difficult to interact with, crystallizes into something concrete and specific. Translating your subjective experiences, body sensations, thoughts, memories, and impressions into something outside of you that you can clearly see creates positive distance, the possibility of a new perspective. Now that your material is outside of you, contained, and in a specific form, you can see it, name it, interact with it, and differentiate from it. This kind of distance is therapeutic. It allows you to really get a good look at what has been going on with you and gain new insight and ideas about how to proceed.
Expressive Arts Helps You Understand Yourself
Once your natural, in-born creativity helps you turn your experiences into something you can interact with, you can make meaning and sense of it. One of the most important parts of recovering is finding your own personal interpretation of your life’s meaning and purpose, including the role that addiction has played in your destiny. Expressive arts therapy helps by getting you in touch with the part of you that is a meaning and metaphor maker, a mythologizer. It makes your story larger than life, like a movie, and memorializes it like a song.
Expressive Arts Therapy Takes You on a Journey
Finally, expressive arts therapy at Villa Kali Ma takes you on a journey. On your first day, you create a recovery box, which symbolizes your commitment and the start of your voyage into the creative ocean. During your thirty-day stay, you play with a succession of smaller and larger projects that are designed to help you undergo the transformative process, endure the pains of growth, get the gains, and come away with new abilities and powers. On your last day you have a witnessing ceremony, during which your peers, myself and other staff witness your transformation. We look at all your work, and get to take a peek at your “wings” – what you have grown and who you have developed into during your month-long recovery journey.
Create Your Recovery With Us
The process of growing into a light, flexible, beautiful being involves some pain for the caterpillar. But in the right context with the right support, it is a healing, cleansing transformation, the kind of growing that brings gifts, depth, meaning, pleasure, and profound connection with all of life. We look forward to creating your recovery with you!