“Trusting the process is based on a belief that something valuable will emerge when we step into the unknown. There are elements of surrender and letting go which have more to do with flexibility and the ability to change direction, than with defeat and annihilation. The ego is willing to relinquish its plans and expectations in order to receive an unanticipated result” (McNiff, 1998, p.27).
I haven’t made a post in a few months, and that is mainly because I have been completing the beast that has been the dissertation, one of many endings that have been occurring over the past few months. Endings bring up conflict, and I am experiencing that at the moment – a push and pull, a mixture of happiness and anxiety as the course comes to its completion. A gladness to reclaim some space in my life, but a worry about how it will be filled and lots of questions about what is next and a need to remind myself to trust in the process.
A couple of months ago, when I initially went to write this post, saw the first ending of the experiential sessions at university. A group experience that has seen us meet for one and half hours for the three years of this MA Art Psychotherapy. ‘Trust the process’ was a phrase used from the start of the course and given as an explanation for the experiential process. It wasn’t therapy, but it was a space where we checked in, made art and then shared our experience with the group, led by our tutor (a qualified art psychotherapist) at a regular weekly time. At the beginning, I found it a struggle often to share with the group what was going on for me and discuss my artwork in relation to this, I had never done anything similar before. As the years have gone on, I still find it hard at times, especially to articulate what I feel or mean, which is why the non-verbal of the artwork can be so helpful. But I have been able to make and speak with the group, and feel I have been heard and witnessed, which has been a special experience. As McNiff explains (1998) that attitudes of empathy and respect provide the essential environment for people to risk new expressions and allow for the process to be transformative. I learnt a lot from being part of the group, expressing myself verbally and non-verbally, and my experience of the other group members and their art making; it has been an invaluable space on the course.
We celebrated our ending with tea and cake and by creating a group piece which we all added to through the session, as and when we felt like it. It felt to me to be a very cohesive and integrated piece, demonstrating how we had developed our own styles and ways of being in the group, our roles and first steps as facilitators. We went off throughout the session to make individual pieces as well; I rolled some clay over the group image, collecting up wet paint, glitter, paper onto the clay and used it to print onto a piece of A3 paper. I will be taking this group experience on with me, and all the members of it within me as I start my journey as an art therapist; like that ball of clay, they have all left an impression on me.
The endings have been staged; we completed our taught university times table with some creative endings using dance and movement with the music therapy cohort and then using art for our whole art psychotherapy year group. This was a few weeks ago, along with the hand in of the dissertation. A sense of relief to be handing in something that has taken so much focus and energy, the cumulation of a 9-month journey overtook the day for me, feeling slightly delirious! That day also saw a twilight lecture from past graduates, talking about their career development post course which was inspiring, and a quick reminder that with an ending comes a new beginning.
In the coming weeks, the course will completely end, I still have a couple of months on placement completing the 528 clinical hours I need for graduation and personal therapy will wind down. Three years ago I would not have considered how much affect an ending would have, one of many changes that have occurred in the way I think due to undertaking this course. Change is looming, and I am holding in mind that ‘the magic of the creative process will never be experienced unless we persist and trust that there is a force working in every situation that we cannot know until we undergo the experience.’ (McNiff, 1998, p.28).