Creative Break

Our schedules are disrupted and our senses are either over- or under-stimulated because the normal things we hear, see, and touch in our daily routines have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your emotions are real and valid. We all need ways to express strong emotions in productive ways that don’t diminish their value.

Take a creative break. Making art can be a soothing activity to engage and manage our senses. Here is a simple watercolor painting project you can try at home. If you trust the process, it can take you from perceived chaos to a sense of calm while discovering unexpected beauty.

The key is to intentionally observe how wet pigment moves, swirls, and interacts on wet paper while being safely contained on the page. This process helps us acknowledge the chaos around us while at the same time, regain a sense of control. Have the courage to shift from feelings of anxiety to peaceful acceptance and curiosity. 

This step-by-step process is one way to use color and creative self expression to soothe and ground yourself during times of stress. 

Gather basic tools:

          • Water in a cup
          • Paintbrush
          • Sketchbook, mixed media, or watercolor paper
          • Watercolor paints

Instructions:

  1. Set up a painting station with your paper in the middle
    2. Place your paint, water cup and brush on the right side if you are right handed, left side if you are left handed.
    3. With your wet brush, add a drop or two of clean water into each color in your paint pallet to activate the pigment.4. Dip a clean brush into your water and paint a small to medium sized shape onto the paper, adding more water if necessary to keep it wet.5. Dip your wet brush into a color of your choice, then gently touch the tip of your brush onto the wet paper in 2 or 3 spots.6. Watch what happens as the color spreads, swirls, and moves in random shapes.
    7. Clean your brush and repeat the process with another color of your choice. Tip: Add small drops of water to the paper as needed so the colors can flow naturally.8. Give yourself permission to move slowly and observe the pigments interacting.
    9. Add a few more colors if you wish.10. Allow it to dry and marvel at the finished product.11. Great, you’ve done it! Now explore more. Try another shape with new colors.

Now, pause and check in with yourself. How do you feel? How did this help? If this has made a difference for you, please share this with friends and family to stay creatively connected with them.

Take a Creative Break.

Give yourself permission to try other materials and methods.

Make art.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Make Your Mark

We are born to create. It’s in our DNA. We were made in the image of the Master Artist himself, yet we often discount what is innate by saying “oh, I’m not good at art,” “I can’t draw” or “I’m not creative.” Maybe we narrow the definition of creativity to artistic ability alone. It’s as if there’s some unattainable, high standard for a creative outcome where everything we create must be a masterpiece, ready to be framed and put in a gallery.

Creativity is much more about the process than it is about the product. It provides a release and causes a sense of relief by helping to clear your mind and calm your nerves. “Anything that engages your creative mind — the ability to make connections between unrelated things and imagine new ways to communicate — is good for you,” says Girija Kaimal, a professor at Drexel University and researcher in art therapy. [Source: NPR.org]

All forms of creative self-expression can enhance your life, doodling, coloring, knitting, baking, scrapbooking, woodworking – the sky’s the limit. It enables flexible-thinking, improves your ability to focus and can help you make sense of your emotions. Because it can be relaxing, it allows you to experience a state of flow. Also, “engaging in any sort of visual expression results in the reward pathway in the brain being activated,” says Kaimal. “Which means that you feel good and it’s perceived as a pleasurable experience.”

Try picking up a brush or a marker and just start creating for the sake of creating. Who cares what it looks like? Give yourself permission to play. Don’t be afraid of making a mess as you might discover your own style, your own expression… your own mark. 

God loves all forms of creativity. He specifically called people to make artwork, music, dance, writing, and more. Find out what type of self-expression works for you. Be brave and overcome the fear of making a mistake…make a mark, you’ll feel better, you’ll live better.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Gratitude in Struggle

Being grateful does not mean things are easy. But gratitude can be a blessing when expressed while we are going through our most difficult challenges in life. Lately I’ve been through various trials and horrific experiences, and while I would never choose to go through them, I can see how I am growing and changing as a result of these struggles. I am thankful for this growth.

Feeling gratitude during conflict is not easy and it may be the last thing we want to do but focusing on gratitude opens our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking. It can put our struggles into perspective and help us find balance. That stability gives us a platform for coping with difficulties. 

It is often only through times of change that we allow ourselves to grow and learn, to be stretched and pulled, to see things in a new way. That, in itself, is something to be grateful for as it is important for us to stretch our brain, heart, and spirit. This stretching of our minds, known as neuroplasticity, is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience. 

Our brains are amazing in their ability to adapt and change. In fact, studies have shown people continue to develop neuroplasticity through old age. So you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! 

In my art therapy practice, I have my clients use the art-making process to enter into a mindset of gratitude. The very act of considering art making for a specific intervention begins to develop new pathways in their brains. As they continue making art about their challenges, their minds continue to change and expand. Gratitude becomes a healthy companion in the recovery process as they begin to see problems in new ways and choose alternate ways of responding to them. They are learning new ways of living their life.

We learn best through experience and the things we learn help us cope with future challenges in life. Plus, our responses and expressions of gratitude can become a guide for others to mimic when they, too, experience challenges. 

Gratitude does not mean everything is okay. Gratitude does put us in a place of openness so we can respond better to our circumstances. For that, I am grateful.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Growth in Transition

I’m a learner. I may be an Art Therapist, business owner and Adjunct Professor, but I still remain a learner. I look at my life and the world around me in wonder and amazement. I hope that never changes.

Choosing a state of wonder helps me embrace life’s transitions and changes as it’s often full of circumstances I would never have chosen. I decide how I will face or manage what I’m given.

That mindset showed up in one of my art therapy courses during grad school. My classmates and I were invited to choose a paper bag among many on the table as we left for the evening. Each contained unknown items and we were told to go make an art piece. As I considered the contents; a child’s medical mask, several band-aids and a small rock, I began to look at each item from a “think outside the box” or in this case “think outside the bag” perspective. This was a fabulous exercise in expanding the imagination to solve a problem, a great life skill enhancing project.

What surprised me, when everyone brought in their projects the following week, was that I was the only one who incorporated the paper bag as a key element in the finished art piece.

In order for us to grow emotionally, spiritually and physically, I think we need to adjust and “think outside the box” of our given circumstances. We need to go beyond the basic elements and consider everything we’ve got before us. You’ve got more in you than you think.

What does it mean to be given an opportunity to grow or to heal? What does it look like for you to be in that vulnerable place where you NEED to struggle in order to change? Does it hurt? Can you look at it as a gift of being able to “look outside the box” of your situation and address it creatively? Does it force you to seek help from others? Does it nudge you to seek a time of restorative prayer? Where do you go for healing?

Lately I’ve I learned that I want to hold on to too much. I hold the stories of my clients, which is good, but I also have a tendency to hold what isn’t mine, what wasn’t meant for me to carry. During those times, I try to think of this bible passage in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I am not always gentle and humble towards myself; I need this reminder and this invitation to find rest for my soul.

After profound rest and deep healing we are changed. Sometimes we are stronger; sometimes more gentle, but we are definitely different. The outcome of our experience can surprise us. Give your burdens to God and let Him soothe you. You can count on His strength. Remain a learner.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Belonging to a Community

 

Community and a sense of belonging are important to all of us. When we are isolated, we are in our own heads too much and we can overthink things or become fixated on them. The desire to feel connected to others is essential to our personal well-being. I know it’s essential to mine.

By nature I’m a people person. Currently, however, I am often alone in my home office and when I begin to feel isolated I will purposely make appointments or go to a coffee shop just to be around other people. Do you do that?

Make no mistake, we can still feel isolated in a crowd. In order for us to connect and feel part of a community we have to be involved with others. It’s a concept called gemeinschaftsgefühl that I learned while studying Adlerian Psychology at the Adler Graduate School. It’s a German word that means “a state of social connectedness and interest in the well-being of others.” In short, social interest.

To develop a true sense of community we need to have conversations and interactions that take us beyond “hello, how are you?” We need to connect socially. When we get to know others it also means we allow others to get to know us. Through this social interaction, we start to care for each other and become concerned for one another. We naturally want to help and support each other. That’s a healthy community.

How do you start this? It can begin over a mutual interest or a shared activity. You could start by joining a group such as a book club at your local library, a Bible study, or even a writers group. Find a place where you will learn and grow in a healthy, meaningful way. Attend a local event such as a workshop or class where you can meet others who share your interests. It can be scary to join a new group because you will be meeting people you don’t know. But by becoming involved in an activity such as a cooking class, art-making, or volunteering for a favorite charity it gives you a common connection to start a conversation. Hopefully it’s less scary than staying in isolation.

Starting in October, Art Lab Rx will be providing various wellness workshops that are available to everyone in the Twin Cities area. Our wellness workshops are skills-based classes that focus on resiliency and self-care techniques that can help you cope with daily struggles and provide an outlet for creativity. You can find our workshop schedule on our schedule page.  We welcome you to our community!

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Moving Beyond the Mask We Wore: The Healing Potential of Creative Self-expression.

Moving Beyond the Mask We Wore: The Healing Potential of Creative Self-expression.

Cultural healing was the focus of an amazing two-day African Mental Health Summit (http://www.africanmhs.com/)  held at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts last week. The event included African drumming, a tour of MIA’s African gallery, presentations on various mental health related topics and our mask-making workshop…all for 200 participants.

We began the workshop by listening to a few personal histories about masks or mask-making. We then invited the group to creatively explore their past experiences, sacred cultural symbols, and how these components could be used as a bridge to their current journey. This time of creative self-expression also provided an opportunity to actively process substantive information presented at the conference.

Physical movement was a critical component of the mask-making workshop. To organically move participants through the process, we placed natural elements, colorful materials, patterned papers, ribbons and string along with oil pastels and markers at various stations in the room.

The physical movement represented critical life moments such as immigrating to a different country, shifting from one developmental stage to the next, or making educational and career changes. Upon finishing their individual exploration, we asked participants to make room for the next person, symbolically making room for the next generation.

Another component of the mask-making workshop was acknowledging the sense of community that formed as they intersected. It was a collective experience as they interacted and inspired one another while on individual quests of self-expression and discovery.

Finally, we gathered together to debrief and discuss their experience. While sharing the meaning behind their masks, participants often expressed a deeply personal narrative. Some reported a sense of relief, having used this opportunity to process all of the information from the conference. As a group they were able to experience positive forward movement. It was a profoundly moving experience. Masks were layered with trauma, hurts, and history. They showed hidden ideas of self, fears, strengths, and hopes. These masks were exceptional.

“The artwork depicts the symbolism of cultural conflict and shock that  every immigrant experiences in western world. Internal crying for clarity in a confusing but beautiful world. Having two faces to accommodate both cultures. The experience was intense and revealing.” – E.T.

I personally thank Dr. Tolulope Monisola Ola, Founder & Board Chair of Restoration for All (REFA) Inc. and Dr. Richard Oni, Executive Director of Progressive Individual Resources for inviting me to present this workshop: Moving Beyond the Mask We Wore: The Healing Potential of Creative Self-expression.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Therapy is for Everyone

Therapy is for Everyone

Holding on to anger and unforgiveness about things that were happening in my life recently prevented me from moving forward. I was stuck. This had a negative ripple effect on my relationships with family and friends, I had to do something to change this. I had to address how I felt and identify what was holding me back.

There were multiple things I did to get unstuck. Part of it was through prayer, reading books and bible verses that people recommended, writing a gratitude list, praying with friends, and seeing my own therapist. Therapists need therapists too. Therapy is for everyone.

Writing a gratitude list of where God has shown up in my life was pivotal for me. It shifted my focus away from me and what I thought was a problem, to a focus on God as the source of all things. He is the source of forgiveness, the source of taking my anger, the source of providing for me, and for knowing what I needed at the time.

I shared this gratitude list with my therapist who then helped me see how important relationships are to me. She pointed out that my list was loaded with people coming alongside of me. She helped me step back and take a look at my life from a new perspective. It helped me shift my focus. That was one of the biggest things I did in this process.

A great benefit about going to see a therapist is they can give an objective view of the whole picture. Your therapist can help you sort things out and help you see what you can’t see because you are too close to it. Even our best friends can’t always see things objectively or from a distance. So seeing a therapist sheds a whole new light on the situation and gives you a new perspective.

By including therapy in part of my process, I now have a deep sense of peace. I have an awareness of the blessings in my life that are greater than the things that I was focusing on that kept me stuck. Therapy helps.

– Lisa Lounsbury, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx

The Joy of Moving Forward

The Joy of Moving Forward

Life can be messy and sometimes we feel like WE are a mess. We reach a point where we want to clean up the mess and get a fresh start but don’t really know how.  If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to step back and see your life through a new lens, a creative lens. Can you remember as a child how easy and effortless it was to make art? But then, maybe in school, someone told you that your art wasn’t good enough or you compared yours to theirs and became discouraged?  You stopped making art; being creative. It happens and I’m so sorry.  However, we were made by the Master Artist in His image to be a creator of things. Not everyone knows that, and not everyone believes that, but let me illustrate what I have seen through working with others as an Art Therapist.

Throughout our lives, many of us become stuck in a circle of repetitive behaviors where we experience the same consequences, the same results. That’s exhausting. The cycle continues because we often don’t know where to turn or what to do. Familiar behaviors are comfortable and safe. I see this every day when bringing art therapy into residential treatment facilities where individuals are undergoing treatment for addictions. When I introduce the concept of creating art from where they are, based on what they are experiencing right in that moment, it’s a novel idea. Often I will get initial resistance or a response like, “You want us to do what?” They resist the unfamiliar, doing something outside of their normal patterns of behavior. I assure them that they do not have to be an artist or even like art, it doesn’t have to look like anything specific, I just want them to begin making lines and shapes with color… no judgement… there is no right or wrong way to do this, they just need to start. It can be a safe way to explore new thoughts, new experiences, new ways of thinking.

As a Mental Health Professional, I have the blessing of bringing this new perspective to my clients. I approach my work from a prayerful place, looking at all of my clients as amazing individuals who already have what they need to move forward successfully in their lives. Some of them are stuck, needing gentle reminders of the strength inside of themselves. Some need more time with creative self-expression to explore their life circumstances; to find new ways of understanding. During this time of discovery, I often hear clients say they forgot how much they enjoy art making, or they haven’t done anything like this since grade school. Through our encouraging therapeutic relationship they have permission to explore. Through the process of making art there is a release of energy, a relief when light has been shed on darkness and the image is out on paper. The art piece itself becomes a reveal of the subconscious. The client begins to trust the process when there is a phenomenon of flow as time passes quickly. A fresh perspective is revealed in their art work. When a client is able to externalize pain, they are allowing themselves to be open for God to do the healing work inside of them, releasing a destructive cycle in order for them to move forward.

Movement is the key. As we explore a new direction, a new way of thinking, we may occasionally find ourselves falling back into old patterns of behavior. That’s okay. Even if you move back a couple steps, it’s still movement. If the behavior is familiar to you, but no longer comfortable, then you have information to make new choices. It takes action or movement to get better. Being stuck is the problem. Keep moving!

-Lisa Lounsbury, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx

 

 

 

Q & A with Lisa Lounsbury: Art Therapy Impacting the Brain Injury Population in Minnesota

Q & A with Lisa Lounsbury: Art Therapy Impacting the Brain Injury Population in Minnesota

“Art-making helped them focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities,” said Lisa Lounsbury.

Q. Amy: What exciting event is happening next week?

A. Lisa: I have the honor of being the first Art Therapist presenting at the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance Conference which will be held on the 25th and 26th of April at the Earl Brown Center in Brooklyn Park.

 

Q. Amy: What is your personal connection to people with traumatic brain injuries?

A. Lisa: A friend of mine suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as a result of a horrific motorcycle accident. It profoundly changed almost every aspect of his daily living. It affected his memory, physical functions, speech, language recall, and his ability to work – but he could still paint. Also, another friend of mine, who was a Pastor and photographer, suffered a TBI from a car accident. Her symptoms were not as severe, but she had to shift from her job as a Pastor, which she loved, to one that was less demanding. She continued her photography journey, which brought her joy and fulfillment. Both friends are still able to create art – which is a gift and part of their identity. I could see that art-making helped them express themselves and build back their self-image. Watching their transformations inspired me to serve this population through the healing possibilities of Art Therapy.

 

Q. Amy: How does Art Therapy positively affect someone with a TBI?

A. Lisa: Engaging in Art Therapy promotes neuroplastic changes and it literally improves the brain. It also increases their sensory, motor, cognitive, and behavioral processes – it is fascinating to see the impact! It can generate new pathways in the brain where communication and expression are enhanced – ultimately improving their quality of life. Art Therapy ROCKS!

 

Q. Amy: What are the key messages you want the audience to walk away with?

A. Lisa: I hope this audience will walk away with a better understanding of what art therapy is, how it works, when the subconscious is activated, and that they recognize the importance of referring clients to Art Therapists. During my presentation I will be explaining psychological theory, describing why Art Therapy could be life changing for this community, showing practical examples, and encouraging participation with the audience. They will hear it, see it, and make it. It will be a wonderful experience.

Author: Amy Stratig, Communications Consultant

Our Founder Featured in the American Art Therapy Association

Our Founder Featured in the American Art Therapy Association

You can check out the article by clicking here.

Lisa is an inspirational, confident and compassionate therapist and leader. In the three years I’ve known her, I have benefited greatly from her presence. Lisa is dedicated to advancing the field of art therapy and has not gotten to where she is now by playing it small. She has big dreams and goals that she sees through to fruition. She’s an inspiration to not only to me but countless others, and I feel blessed to work for Art Lab Rx. – Shannon Fraser, Mental Health Practitioner, Development Director for Art Lab Rx.

Art Lab Rx, LLC
10225 Yellow Circle Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55343

Phone: 612-226-5472
info@artlabrx.com

Art Lab Rx, LLC was created in 2015 by Lisa M. Lounsbury. Art Lab Rx is a registered trademark. © 2018 Art Lab Rx. All rights reserved.