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Using Art To Access The Unconscious Mind


Using art to access the unconscious mind

Art making is an innately human instinct that overcomes language and cultural barriers and is therefore a highly effective way of engaging with traumatic experience. When art materials are engaged with in a therapeutic environment, the process may evoke different feeling states reflecting the unconscious forces that shape a person’s experience. The role of the Community Art Counsellor is to create a safe space in which the voice of the image can be heard, understood and contained.”


These words, as outlined by Lefika La Phodiso (The Art Therapy Centre) opens up a new way to think about using art: A space where art is not about being ‘talented’ or ‘skilled’ nor is it about a masterpiece up on the wall for all to see and admire. Rather, art making becomes a safe opportunity to discover something about our private selves. Parts, which are in fact hidden from our own concious minds. Sigmund Freud described the mind as an iceberg: The small tip that peeks above the water is our concous mind, but the part below – most of it in fact- sits deep below the surface. This is the unconcious mind- the parts of ourselves that are unknown to us. If you think about that, that means that an enormous amount of what we are doing on a daily basis is unconcious. The mind deliberately represses certain thoughts to self-protect due to needs being unmet in the past; The problem with this is that it means we are constantly being governed by primitive unconcious desires which can lead to negative cycles and unhelpful repititions in present expereince. This is often why people seek counslling later in life – because something just isn’t working for them anymore.


Psychodynamic practices like Art Counselling provides a way for adults to access parts of their younger selves in an unintimidating way. Art Counselling has found a way to coerce the unconcious mind to come out from its hiding place using art materials, creative processes and dialogue. In Art Counselling an object is created with various materials. Each art material brings with it different associations and experiences and when engaged with in different creative processes with an Art Counsellor, these processes bring up different feeling states and unconcious associations. This creates a narrative for something that the client is going through- something which does not yet have words because it was formed before words existed, but never-the-less needs to be noticed now. The unconcious mind, is sending signals about unmet early needs all the time, and through this process, the Art Counsellor is able to recognise these cues and finally allow the unconcious to be acknowledged. This is incredibly liberating, allowing the unconcious mind to finally be released from obstructive repetitive cycles and negative forces, perpetually present until now.


To enquire about releasing negative cycles by beginning your own Art Counselling process, please contact Andy Cohen



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