The Self-Portrait Dance – extract from Anna Halprin

Learn about the self-portrait dance – An interpretation of oneself through drawings of the individual components of the body. Merging them together allows you to see the image you have of yourself brought about by your subconscious. When combined with dance, the mind and body can connect and begin to raise questions about this image.
For more on the life and works of Anna Halprin, see Gabriele Wittmann’s book ‘Anna Halprin – Dance – Process – Form’  

THE SELF-PORTRAIT DANCE

The perceptual journey through the body, accompanied by Movement Ritual and psychokinetic visualisation, can be followed through images, texts and episodic dance. Visualisations of different areas of the body – the head, spine, ribcage, shoulder girdle, abdomen and pelvis, arms and hands, legs and feet – finally come together in the drawing of a life-size self-portrait in which the separate images fit together in one large whole. Daria Halprin says: ‘Thinking of the body as a family made up of separate yet interrelated members, we know that each part has an impact on the whole and that each part can help us understand the whole. When a family is in conflict, it is important to listen to each member separately as well as listening to how they communicate with one another so that we can really hear and understand.’36 As if in a mirror, the person who did the drawing sees and encounters herself in the image she has created, and embarks on the journey of deciphering the messages concealed in it. She approaches the image not as one who knows, but as one asking questions. Anna Halprin drew a self-portrait and transposed the image into dance when she was coming to terms with her cancer diagnosis, of which she writes:

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‘This process of connecting with our internal imagery involved “dancing” the images that welled up from the unconscious as another way of connecting the mind and the body. In learning this imagistic language, it became clear I was receiving messages from an intelligence within the body, an intelligence deeper and more unpredictable than anything I could understand through rational thought.’ Various pathways open up as one approaches one’s self-portrait. The person who drew it lets the entire image, or aspects of it, speak to them and tries to hear, see and feel its messages (see Figure 18). The selfportrait is asked questions: Where are you from? Where are you going?

Halprin22

Answers come out of the silent dialogue, from the ‘soul’ of the image.38 In creative writing, texts and dialogues emerge between different forms and figures inthe image. They open up the gaze and the senses to the hidden, mysterious, unknown and seemingly alien, and blend together in a life story of the self-portrait. Processes of developing a concluding performance are walked through, following the model of RSVP Cycles (described below). The emotional process of discovery follows the thread of the Five-Part Process on the way to integrating the experiences gained.

For more on the life and works of Anna Halprin, see Gabriele Wittmann’s book ‘Anna Halprin – Dance – Process – Form’  

Why Neuroscience for Counsellors?

Rachal Zara Wilson is a counsellor, social worker and author of the new Neuroscience for CounsellorsWe caught up with her for a quick chat about the book and why she wanted to write about such a complex topic. 

1.  Who do you think would benefit from reading this book?

Definitely counsellors, but also any other therapists as well.  The book is designed so that it has sections where the neuroscience is explained, and separate sections for counsellors and other therapists with suggestions on how to use this knowledge for the benefit of their clients in the session room.

Families of people who are experiencing mental health dysfunction may also be interested in the knowledge contained in this book, and also in the implications for how they can support their loved ones.

2.  Why did you write this book? Wilson_Neuroscience-fo_978-1-84905-488-1_colourjpg-print

I’ve always been interested in neuroscience; the brain is so fascinating and amazing, and capable of so much more than we’ve always been led to believe.  And of course, as a counsellor working with people, how the brain works has always been top of my mind.  The final motivator was having a child who was experiencing problems with their mental health, and I guess I just hoped to find something that would help him and others in a similar situation during the course of my research.

3.  So what’s so exciting about what you learned?

Probably the most exciting thing would be the brain’s capacity to change itself, known as brain plasticity.  The brain isn’t static, it’s more like a dynamic organ that is constantly changing for better or worse.  And what we do plays a huge part in how it changes.  How much stress we’re under, what we eat, the quality of our sleep, whether we exercise and how much, our living environments, and the presence or absence of early trauma in our lives are some of the things that contribute to the way our brain functions, and to its capacity for change, or plasticity.  I guess the most exciting thing is that we have control over this plasticity to a large degree, and we can therefore improve the quality of our brain function, our health and our lives.

4. Why don’t we know this stuff already?

Because neuroscience is a field in its infancy.  There’s a lot of learning coming through, but much of it’s wrapped up in scientific jargon, making it inaccessible to those of us who are not scientists.  And because there’s lots of different levels of looking at the brain, (both micro and macro,) different neuroscience specialties do not always integrate their specialist knowledge.  I think the benefit of this book is that it integrates the neuroscience into an overall big picture, while also drawing on this resource to come up with practical ways for integrating it into therapy.  It hasn’t been done before because it’s new, because it’s complex, and because integrating neuroscience with counselling and other therapies requires a knowledge of both fields.  I believe that in the future, all practitioners providing talking therapies are going to need to understand what neuroscience offers our professions, or risk becoming irrelevant.

5.  Why put it in a book?

This knowledge is meant to be shared.  All counsellors and therapeutic practitioners want best outcomes for their clients, and the more knowledge we have that can help people make positive change in their lives, the better.

6.  Is it complicated?

The neuroscience is complex, but the book is designed so that people who just want to know what it means for their practice can just read those sections, while those who want to understand how it all works can read up on the explanations for how all the scientific evidence fits together.  The book is written in the plainest English possible, and there is a glossary and diagrams at the back to help you fit it all together.

You can find out more about the book, read reviews and order your copy here.

Browse our latest collection of new and bestselling titles in counselling and psychotherapy

Here are our new and bestselling titles in counselling and psychotherapy. For more information on any of the books inside, simply click the title or cover image to view the full book page.

Starving our Anxiety Gremlins

Kate Collins-Donnelly; therapist, consultant, and author of Starving the Anxiety Gremlin, talks about the rise of anxiety in children. In this article, Kate discusses what can be done to help young people struggling with anxieties and shares a letter from one of the young people she has worked with on her experiences of overcoming problems caused by anxiety.

Collins-Donnell_Starving-the-An_978-1-84905-341-9_colourjpg-web

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the UK and worldwide. The UK ONS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey published in 2004[1] estimated that 290,000 children and young people nationally had an anxiety disorder, which equated to 2.2% of 5 to 10 year olds and 4.4% of 11-16 year olds. Leading anxiety charity, Anxiety UK, estimate that one in six 16-24 year olds have suffered from an anxiety disorder and five pupils in an average school class will have experienced anxiety[2]. And results form an NSPCC survey published in 2004[3] revealed that 34% of the young people studied felt that they were always worrying about something, with 11% feeling extremely worried.

We still don’t know the true prevalence rates amongst national and global populations as, like many other mental health disorders, anxiety disorders remain under-reported and under-diagnosed. However, what is clear is that anxiety is a common cause of distress for children and young people today.

Just like for adults, anxiety can come in different shapes and sizes for children and young people too – with some children and young people getting anxious about a variety of things and others only experiencing anxiety in response to very specific situations. Common worries for children and young people include school work, exams, friendships, family circumstances, health, death, bullying, body image, and much more. And children and young people can experience anything from normal occasional worries, fears and nerves to long-lasting and severe anxiety disorders that include generalised anxiety disorder, simple and complex phobias, panic disorder, separation anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and health anxiety.

Not only is anxiety common and varied, it also has the potential to be debilitating, especially when experienced on a frequent basis. This is partly because anxiety can bring such a wide range of cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms with it, including concentration problems, obsessive thoughts, headaches, racing heartbeat, panic attacks, loss of confidence, avoidance of situations and procrastination to name a few. And it is important to remember that these symptoms can vary from young person to young person. It is also because anxiety can have impacts on all aspects of a young person’s life, including their studies, work, relationships, physical health, mental health and emotional wellbeing, future prospects, motivation and much more.

But thankfully, by learning a range of cognitive behavioural strategies and techniques, children and young people can learn to manage their anxiety and bring it under control. And that is why I wrote Starving the Anxiety Gremlin to highlight to children and young people that by learning how to think and act differently they could starve their Anxiety Gremlins for good! You see, if we all starve our Anxiety Gremlins of their favourite food – our anxiety – they’ll shrink and shrivel away!

And here is a letter from one young person that I worked with to show starving our Anxiety Gremlins really is possible! Well done Chloe! You are an inspiration!

Dear Reader,

When I was six I developed a worry.  At my birthday party I was quite badly sick and from then on I was terrified of vomiting. My worry caused panic attacks, which made me shake and cry; and gave me a runny tummy and nausea, which made me even more anxious. I thought that there was no escape from my worry. I wasn’t even sure what life would be like without it. I found it difficult to be left alone at school. I didn’t like to leave the house because I was scared of being sick or needing the toilet and not knowing where it was.  My worry was taking over my life. I didn’t know how to make it stop and my family didn’t know how to help me.

We went to see the doctor and then some people who are trained to help children with worries.   At first trying to get over my fear of sickness felt like an impossible task but slowly I found ways of fighting my worry. I learned to breathe slowly when I felt panicky and to turn my scary thoughts into sensible ones. Keeping a worry diary and telling my family and friends when I was having a particularly bad day helped too. Unfortunately none of this works over night, but if you follow the steps in Starving the Anxiety Gremlin you will learn to manage your worries. With help, I began to have less panic attacks and suddenly life didn’t feel like this huge burden. One day, it will feel like that for you too.

When I was little I didn’t know of anyone else who was going through similar things so I felt very alone. I thought I was weird. But I wasn’t weird and I definitely wasn’t alone. Lots of people have a worry; just like me, just like you. I know it may feel like there is no way out but one day things will seem a lot easier and life will seem fun again. Never forget that you are strong enough to cope with your worry and that you have the most fantastic brain to help you overcome it.

I am now 17. I still worry sometimes because everyone does but I don’t worry a lot about being sick anymore and I’ve stopped having panic attacks. If you are feeling worried and scared it is really important that you tell people how you are feeling so they can help you. I promise it gets better. Remember that you are not alone in how you feel, you aren’t weird and that most of all you are incredibly brave!

Love from your fellow worrier,

Chloe xxx 

You can give Kate’s CBT techniques a try for yourself by downloading free evaluation sheets from her workbooks Starving the Anxiety GremlinStarving the Stress Gremlin and Starving the Anger Gremlin. Download the free evaluation sheets here.
You might also want to try these free activities on building a positive body image, taken from Kate’s book Banish Your Body Image Thief, and encouraging healthy self esteem, taken from Banish Your Self-Esteem Thief.
Starving the Anxiety Gremlin has been shortlisted for the School Library Association Information Book Award 2014. Voting commences on June 18th 2014. If you’d like to find out more about the awards or request a pack for your school, visit the website here.


[1] Green, H., McGinnity, A., Meltzer, H., Ford, T. and Goodman, R. (2005) Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain 2004. London: Office

[2] Anxiety UK, Children and Young People With Anxiety: A Guide for Parents and Carers, available at: www.anxietyuk.org.uk

[3] NSPCC (2004) Someone to Turn To? Who Can Children and Young People Trust

When They are Worried and Need to Talk? London: NSPCC.

Request a free copy of the new Art Therapy catalogue

Art therapy cat coverSign up to request your free copy of our latest brochure of new and bestselling books on Art Therapy.

This includes information on our new and bestselling titles such as ‘Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies’ by Laury Rappaport and ‘Using Art Therapy with Diverse Populations’ by Paula Howie. This range includes practical books for professionals, manuals on how to incorporate creative approaches into practice as well as guides for individuals who are themselves affected.                                                                         

To receive a free copy of the catalogue, please sign up for our mailing list and we’ll get one out to you right away. You may also request multiple copies to share with friends, family, colleagues and clients–simply note how many copies you would like (up to 20) in the ‘any additional comments’ box on the sign-up form.

We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to get more information about our outstanding new titles such as ‘Presence and Process in Expressive Arts Work’ by Herbert Eberhart. The catalogue also features information on bestselling titles such as ‘A Guide to Research Ethics for Art Therapists & Health Practitioners’ by Camilla Farrant and ‘The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals’ by Suzanne Darley.

Click this link to see a listing of new and recent titles from Jessica Kingsley Publishers’ Art Therapy list.

To request a copy of the JKP complete catalogue of books on Art Therapy, please click here to fill out our sign-up sheet. Please be sure to click any additional areas of interest as well. You should receive a copy of the catalogue within two weeks.

Why helping traumatised children find the right words is so important.

Jane Evans, trauma parenting specialist and author of How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear? writes about the importance of helping children who have experienced domestic abuse or other trauma to identify and talk about their feelings.

Early years children affected by domestic violence need help to find the words for their big feelings sooner rather than later.

Being able to recognise how we feel at any given moment is essential to our well-being, decision making and the way we relate to others and behave every day. Being able to understand and put into words our own feelings and those of others is also essential for our mental health and safety, never more so than when we are children. If a child can’t recognise the signs in their body of fear, anxiety, frustration, excitement and joy then they will struggle to tell the difference between them and this can make them vulnerable.

All illustrations by Laurence Jackson

All illustrations by Laurence Jackson

When it comes to children who have lived through domestic violence, or other trauma, matching words to their feelings and their bodily state, as early as possible, is even more vital. Post domestic violence, children need to be able to make some sense of the things they have seen, heard, felt, smelt, and even tasted. Without support to learn to do this, their emotional memories will remain unprocessed within them which will affect all aspects of their onward journey, especially their physical and mental health.

For any child being able to understand the emotions they have means they can feel less overwhelmed by them. Anyone who has seen a pre or early verbal child get frustrated because they can’t make you understand they wanted the purple cup and not the green one you have given them, will know what I mean! They may become distressed but not have the words to describe their inner state and how much the purple cup means to them and this can escalate in to an emotional overload of frustration, or they will learn to give up and switch off from trying to communicate their distress, which is never a good thing.

For those living and working with children who have, or may have, lived with domestic violence, How are you feeling today Baby Bear?, has been created to begin this vital work of enabling the children to find a voice. It can also be used sensitively in situations where an assessment of a child’s view of how they felt at home needs to be known and considered to for their future or immediate well-being and safety, such as a safeguarding or court based assessment.

Gentle suggestion and exploration done patiently and sensitively can begin the process of filling a child’s ‘feelings machine’.  Imagine a Las Vegas style slot machine as being the child, adults keep pulling the handle down to get a ‘pay out’ of feelings. “Tell me how you feel about hitting your brother/being in trouble at school/being in time out again?” “How do you think I feel about hearing you hurt someone again/didn’t do as you were asked again/finding your torn up book?” The handle is pulled repeatedly but as no one has put any dollars in the machine there are none to pay out. However, each time we explore and name a feeling with even a tiny baby, “oh I think you might be sad/worried/cross/excited”, we put a dollar in the slot machine then eventually there can be a ‘pay out!’

In homes where adults are involved in domestic violence, one carrying it out and the other trying to avoid it and protect themselves and their children from it, there is no time to have every day feelings based conversations. Once the family is safely out of it the feelings work needs to begin gently and in small ways as soon as is possible. Young children’s brains are developing and wiring up very rapidly based on what they experience and are exposed too. Connecting words to the signals their body is giving them is vital to enabling them to sort through and regulate feelings which are too big for them to live with in a healthy way.How Are You Feeling Today baby Bear? cover

How are you feeling today Baby Bear? is designed to be a tool to begin this important work with young children to enable their early year’s mental and emotional development to give them a better emotionally informed foundation for life. It is a gentle book which gives permission, insight and those all-important words to children who need to begin to process their memories of feeling frightened and confused so they can get on with being children.

You can find out more about Jane’s work, upcoming events and read more of her blog posts on her website: http://www.parentingposttrauma.co.uk/

 

You can also follow her on twitter: @janeparenting

Introduction to the Psychology of Ageing for Non-Specialists – a free extract.

Stuart-Hamilton_Introduction-to_978-1-84905-363-1_colourjpg-printIn this extract from the Introduction to the Psychology of Ageing for Non-Specialists author Professor Ian Stuart-Hamilton explains a little about the idea behind this edition and the audience he wrote it for.

For a free sneak peek, just click the link below to read the preface from the book.

An Introduction to the Psychology of Ageing – preface

You can find out more about the book, read reviews and order your copy here.

The Inspiration behind ‘How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear?’

Trauma Parenting Specialist and author of  How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear? Jane Evans explains the inspiration behind the book.

Why I wrote How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear?

From the time I was a little girl I have loved children’s books and, for the past 22 years since becoming a parent, step-parent and grandparent I have totally loved children! My professional life has been an extension of this love for them.

My work has regularly brought me into the lives of families living through the most difficult of times. For many this has been domestic abuse and violence, mental illness, addiction, homelessness, poverty and child abuse. It has always been a privilege to sit alongside them and to learn from them. My life has been full of ups and downs, my battles with mental illness and beyond domestic abuse and through it all, in one way or another; it has always been children who have been the light at the end of the various dark tunnels.

How Are You Feeling Today baby Bear? cover

For many, many years I have had a burning desire to write a book for children which would be of real use to them. In my work with children I have used story books to give them chances to explore, in a gentle way, how they might feel about complex issues they have no words for.  When I worked as a Parenting Worker with families affected by domestic abuse and violence, their parents and carers kept asking me for a suitable book to share with their youngest children who had seen and heard  arguing, fighting and other abuse.

Sadly, I have repeatedly been struck by how much the children I have worked with have struggled to find the words to describe their feelings. For most of them it has been like learning another language and has been a slow process of trying to make up for a vital missing part of their developmental journey. Similarly their parents have often shown and told me how they too have found this difficult both for themselves and with their children.

Never was this more evident than when I was working alongside families’ post domestic violence and abuse, especially those with very young children. “Is there a book I can read with them?”, parents and carers would ask me; I struggled to find the right one which would give a child opportunities to learn about the words for their feelings without being scared, or without being ‘told’ how they  might feel.

All illustrations by Laurence Jackson

All illustrations by Laurence Jackson

Finally the time came to put the words and images I had created in my mind, from thinking about how a very young child feels during and in the aftermath of domestic violence, down on paper! Baby Bear was ‘born’ with two Big Bears who are having a difficult relationship, which often erupts into arguing and fighting, all of which is heard and felt by Baby Bear.

My hope is that How are you feeling today Baby Bear? will help families and young children post domestic violence and abuse to put feelings into words, rather than feeling their only option  is to express these difficult emotions via their behaviour.  Happier, healthier children with a closer connection to caring adults will offer them the onward journey they so deserve.

You can find out more about Jane’s work, upcoming events and read more of her blog posts on her website: http://www.parentingposttrauma.co.uk/

You can also follow her on twitter: @janeparenting

Assessing emotional awareness after trauma

Grasso_Clinical-Exerci_978-1-84905-949-7_colourjpg-webThis extract taken from Clinical Exercises for Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents by Damion J. Grasso gives practical guidance to assessing and enhancing a child’s emotional awareness and vocabulary prior to therapeutic exposure.
‘These skills are essential for fully engaging in the therapeutic exposure and for processing the emotional content of the trauma memory.’

Read the extract here

 

Helping people through the holidays.

In this blog post, John Wilson, bereavement counsellor and author of Supporting People through Loss and Grief, shares some thoughts on how grieving people can cope with the difficult holiday season, and how those around can try to help and support them.  

Supporting People through Loss and Grief cover

Supporting People through Loss and Grief

This Christmas will be Sophie’s first since her husband David* died in early Spring 2013. Her eyes filled with tears as she recalled a long-standing family tradition. Each year since the children were small, the family would drive to a plantation in a country park and select their Christmas tree. They would all sing along to festive music on the car stereo, and once home, would decorate the tree together.

In her grief counselling session, Sophie and I, her counsellor, were discussing how she and her three children should buy their tree this year. Should they try to continue the family ritual as if Dad was still with them, or should they do something entirely new? Sophie had talked to her children, who were certain that they wanted to continue the tradition.

At times such as this, there is no escaping the reality of a loved-one’s absence; a situation rendered even more poignant by a holiday others are celebrating. Be it a religious or secular holiday, a birthday or an anniversary, the loss of those we loved and continue to love, evokes bittersweet memories.

Of course David, husband and father, will be with his family when they choose their tree. He will be in their hearts and thoughts; more so perhaps, if they are brave enough to continue this and other rituals in his fond memory. One of the many things my bereaved clients have taught me is the power of symbolic meaning. David will be with his family symbolically. This is not at all the same as pretending that nothing has changed, because for this family, a lot will be different this holiday and on all future holidays.

Not so very long ago, it was believed that to overcome grief, the bereaved needed to relinquish the lost loved-one. “Let them go and move on”, we were told. We accept now that bonds with the deceased can continue. This does not mean clinging on vainly to the past, but it allows the life of our lost parent, child, sibling, lover or friend, to become part of our future. The lessons they taught us, the examples they set us, the values they lived by and the jokes and stories they shared, become immortal; family lore which we can choose to bequeath to each new generation.

Symbolism and ritual are valuable human activities. At festivals and holidays we will inevitably be drawn to think about those no longer with us, whether we like it or not, so let us deliberately and consciously embrace the opportunity to recall the ways in which they continue to affect our life. At the hospice where I work, and at many hospices, relatives can sponsor a light on a tree at Christmas. We call it “Light Up a Life”. The switching on ceremony is emotional, but both happy and sad thoughts are evoked, and in many cases shared. Whoever it is you have lost, there is something helpful in knowing you are not alone in your grief; a reason why collective memorial events serve to heal. You may consider lighting a candle or taking flowers to a grave or to a special place significant to your loved-one. Perhaps you might make a donation to a charity in his or her name.

Not every bereaved person has close family nearby. Childless people bereaved of a spouse often struggle when they lack the continued sense of purpose and meaning which comes to those lucky enough to have children, or even grandchildren. It is easier to maintain a sense of purpose when you have this motivation to “keep cheerful”. Bereaved spouses with no dependents have to find novel, symbolic ways to continue a bond with the partner they have lost. One of my clients would retrace the steps of a favourite moorland path she and her late husband had often walked. At holidays and anniversaries she felt that this brought them closer together. It was important to her that she walked the route alone, to give herself time for reflection. This need for solitude can be very important. For many newly grieving people, December marks the end of a sad year and the hope of a new start. Many bereaved spouses have told me that they would like to have some time on their own on Christmas Day, but that well-meaning relatives will not allow it. If you have a recently bereaved friend or family member who has asked to be alone, at least for some of the day, please try to support this wish. Remember that being alone is not the same as being lonely, and that sometimes the loneliest place to be is in a room full of happy people.

When I see my clients for the last time before New Year, generally in mid-December, I say to them ”Try to have the best time you can”, because to say, ”Enjoy yourself” would be insensitive and unhelpful. There are ways to make a difficult time of year more bearable, and I hope that here I have provided a few pointers.

*Sophie and David are pseudonyms. The real ‘Sophie’ has read this text and has given consent for her story to be told.

 

John’s book, Supporting People through Loss and Grief, will be published 21st December 2013. You can read more of his expert advice by following @JWilsonOnline on Twitter.