Lisa Mitchell

Get instant access to The Creative Advantage!

A FREE Video Series to help you bring your imagination to work and supercharge your problem-solving.

Learn 9 new ways to apply the creative process to your practice and begin integrating an artistic approach into everything you do.



You will also receive notifications about new blog posts and upcoming events!!

Writing from the Art

Oct 22, 2017 | 13 comments

What I learned at a week-long writing retreat

 

It’s been a 6 days since my return from a week-long writing retreat with Laura Davis in Bolinas, CA.  I gathered with 20 other brave writers to face grief, uncertainty, and transition and to share our words that captured the raw experience of our pain and struggle.  The week was profound in many ways.  I want to share some of my experience here, with you, because I think it could be inspiring and useful for all therapists.

Here are my two big take-aways, plus one smaller one.

 

ONE

Writing from the Art

On the registration questionnaire for the retreat, in response to the question, “What do you hope to work on during the retreat?”  I responded, “I want to use the time to explore the relationship between my art and my writing.  I want time and space to do this.  I want to discover what it is about the two creative acts, joined together as one, that is so profound.”  This wasn’t a typical response, so Laura called me up and asked me to explain.  I told her about my latest therapist retreats and how powerful this integration of art and writing was for the participants.  I told her about the individual sessions with clients and how when I had started to bring writing into session (in addition to the art) I felt like I was on another plane with clients.  That what came out of those sessions was more intimate, deeper, more from a place of truth—realness—wholeness than I’d ever witnessed when just one modality was with us.  And, I told Laura, I felt I needed to do it more—for myself—not just facilitating it for others. I wanted to know the relationship between my writing and my art from the inside out.  She got excited for me and couldn’t wait for me to share my experience.

So, every day at the retreat, in addition to writing for 7 hours a day, I painted.  I took my sketch pad with my Golden acrylics to the bench overlooking the ocean or to the front porch of the Commonweal building or on my makeshift table made from my suitcase in my room.  And I painted.  Each painting had a direct relationship to my writing.  I linked together a series.  Painting, writing about the painting, writing about my writing, painting in response to my writing, painting in response to a sand tray, writing about the painting in response to the sand tray…..each prompt led to another related creative response.  I wove and integrated while I followed the breadcrumbs which led me further along this knowing:  When I plug into my creative expressions and let them relate to one another as collective guides in an intentional way, I get to a place I could never have predicted.

Read More… »

[Video] Use Color to Boost Your Mood

Jun 16, 2017 | 6 comments

 

Color can be a powerful resource for resilience and happiness.  When you access your resource color, you boost your mood and brighten your well-being.  These kinds of activities are vital for therapists and clients alike.  Rather than spending session after session slogging through dysfunction and what’s gone wrong, why not spend a session (or two or three or four) activating resources?

Here’s a fun activity to start with.

Use Color to Boost Your Mood:  Access Your Resource Palette

1. Pick a color you love and write about it.  Write for 5-10 solid minutes in a brainstorm, free form fashion.  Write about why you love it, what it reminds you of, the qualities of the color.

Here’s an excerpt from my yellow art activity:

   “I love yellow.  I love the blinding sun light that sneaks through my closed eyelids and warms the inside of my brain.  I love yellow’s fresh lemon zest and how it wakes me up even when I’m slogged and far away.  I love yellow with its hope and promised reminder that signals the inevitability of morning, a new day, a fresh start. Yellow pierces through darkness and floods it with light.  It tingles and tells me I’ve alive.”

2. Glue collage papers in various tones and hues of your color onto a heavy piece of paper.  Do this spontaneously and randomly.  You don’t need a plan.  Just working with the color is the art.

3. Add paint of various tones and hues of your color.  Again, let this morph as it wants to.  You don’t need to know what it is going to look like in the end.  You just need to stay with the color and your celebration of that color. Let dry.

4. Using other drawing materials like oil pastels, water soluble crayons, permanent markers, colored pencils add to your painting.  Adopt a playful attitude and just get curious about what you’d like to add with these materials.  Spend a moment sitting with your completed art.

5. Now write some more.  Take 5-10 minutes to write about your painting using the stem sentence, “The color __________ boosts my mood because____________________.”  Let the ideas emerge spontaneously, write what comes to mind.

Here’s an excerpt from my yellow art activity:

  “Yellow boosts my mood because it has an energy all its own.  It wants to radiate and be set free to spin.  If you let it, it will grow and reach and permeate places still dark.  It wants to dance.  Yellow boosts my mood because it is playful and wants me to jump in and giggle.  It is simultaneously warming and invigorating—like the lemon zest in a tangy cocktail invented for a special summer occasion.  It’s celebratory, but not in a way that asks for fanfare.  Just in its yellowness—it can’t help but say, “Yes, yay, yippee. For me, the spinning is the finishing touch. (Watch the video to see for yourself!)  When I close my eyes and watch yellow spin—playful rays shooting outward, growing itself into more light—it makes me smile and feel all the possibility in the world.”

 

I hope you try this Boost Your Mood With Color art activity.  I’ve found that the combination of resource based art activities and writing is incredibly powerful.  Share it with your client!  Let us know how it goes!

If you are interested in a very special opportunity to experience the powerfully healing combination of writing and art you might want to join me in my Sacramento studio for Artspace starting in September 2017.  We will be practicing and refining “Collab—Art—wrITE” which is the process of cultivating a relationship between painting and prose.  When you cultivate the art-write relationship your creative expression has the kind of depth and breadth that inspires great healing and inspiration.

 

Forcing creativity? It won’t work for long.

Feb 2, 2017 | 4 comments

Last year was a year of putting my work out into the world.  I lectured in 25 different cities across the US, I taught five 4-week online programs and co-hosted a 2 day online creativity festival.  I launched my book and celebrated with 80 colleagues.  I wrote 35 blog posts and more emails than I can count.  2016 was a year of taking my creative harvest and sharing it with thousands of people.  I loved it.  And I learned from it.

Let creativity lead

In a 4 hour long, heartfelt conversation with my friend, Shelley, yesterday, I heard myself saying, “I don’t want to force anything right now.  I don’t want to squeeze a blog post out just because I know I can.  I don’t want to white knuckle anything. I’m done leading my creativity.  This year I want my creativity to lead me.”  She teared up a teensy bit and put her hand to her heart.  It resonated with her and we decided to hold each other in this intention.  And so, we closed our computers and put down our pens.  Rather than pound out the details for the retreat we were planning, we just talked.  We talked in swirls and ideas and metaphors and personal experiences.  It was time for lunch and I asked, “So what should we do?”  Shelley said, “Well, I think we need to just keep talking.  Shall we set aside time to do that regularly?”  I agreed, “Yup, we just need to keep talking, but how about we just let the talking part emerge out of just being together.”  It felt perfect.  It is perfect.

I’ve always struggled with Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese.  I adore it.  But the first lines have baffled me….

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

It sounds good.  Like there’s an invitation there that’s delicious.  But formerly, doing what my soft body loves has repelled me with images of eating multiple cartons of Ben and Jerry’s while binge watching Grey’s Anatomy.  And, that has felt self-indulgent, non-productive, without a sense of purpose or passion.  Not even creative.

Now, this year, this moment in my life, I get it.  I understand in my bones that Mary Oliver is inviting us to stop striving and white knuckling and squeezing out that barely baked piece of art.  It is an invitation to allow creativity to take the lead and guide us to discovering new ideas that fuel our work.

If it wants to make something, it will

One of the projects on my calendar this year is to produce and co-host Create Fest, the 2nd annual creativity festival for mental health professionals.  It’s a huge undertaking and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it without white knuckling.  So I hesitated.  I put it off.  Then a little spark of curiosity led me to ask Rick Hanson to be a guest speaker.  He said yes and was very supportive of the Create Fest mission to inspire therapists to do creative experiential work.  And then I asked myself, “Who else do I really want to talk with?” Which led to interviews with some of my most favorite authors!  And with this sense of ease, Create Fest is shaping into a beautiful creative collection of conversations and inspiration that I can’t wait to share.

So many times, in the creative process, we make the mistake of beginning with only the end in mind.  A painting to hang above the couch, a memoir about childhood, an online program that will sell, a therapeutic technique that will teach a specific skill.  We drive the creative process as if it is a navigable train and we miss the richness of the experience.  When I was writing my book, Creativity as Co-Therapist, I was the most disciplined I have ever known myself to be.  I forced myself to hermit one weekend a month and do nothing but write.  It was excruciating at times.  I’m proud of what I created, but there is a part of me that wonders if that was the best way to let that piece of work emerge.  If I had been nicer to myself, or on a looser timeline, or with a softer touch—I wonder what my creativity could have led me to.

I have another writing project now that has emerged in the most organic and beautiful way.  My mother and I are collaborating and we are writing what we call Mother/Daughter Perspectives.  Our writing endeavor is a way for her and me to share the process of our evolving relationship and history.  We now have a list of shared events and moments.  Each week we choose one of those moments and write from our hearts about our memories, our experiences, and our perspectives.  When we share these every week the phone line vibrates with truth and intensity and so much possibility.  We don’t know where this writing endeavor will take us—it is the leader, really.  What I do know is that I want to follow it to see where it goes.

I think we need to consciously plant seeds for our creative process to thrive.  Last year I harvested—maybe even clear cut.  This year, the seeds are showing up in surprising places.  I’ve fed my creativity with new information and experiences because that’s what nourishes the soil for new ideas to grow. I plan to share more about what I’ve been doing to plant those seeds in future posts.  But for now, I hope you consider this.

In order to create, artists need to fertilize and plant seeds.  And therapists, are, in fact artists.

What could you stop white knuckling?  What creative endeavor could you allow to take the lead?

I’d love to have you join me in the ease of unfolding.

(And stay tuned for Create Fest 2017—because it is becoming something wonderful!)

Do you ever let your snow globe settle?

Dec 22, 2016 | 10 comments

Art Therapy Invitation for Therapists and Their Clients

During the holidays is the perfect time to purchase snow globes.

Other times of year, they are hard to find. Pick a couple up the next time you are out shopping and bring it back to your office.  Use it, or the following art invitation to ask the questions:

Do you pause and ponder often enough?

Do you teach your clients to pause and ponder too?

 

When I asked a group of therapists to do this art invitation, it was pretty extraordinary.  They were mixed in terms of years of experience, and yet they were closely joined in the collaborative creative rhythm with which I was inviting them to engage.

As I invited them to make collages that depicted their expectations of themselves as therapists, I was imagining a snow globe newly shaken.  The flurry of magazines and scissors–their hands searching and sorting.  The mess was an amoebic mass that ebbed and flowed from the middle of the art table.

As their collage became complete, and I invited them to settle in and reflect.  The scissors stilled, the paper ripping ceased, and the silence of newly fallen snow prevailed.  The quieting was serene, and the pondering was deep. Read More… »

Election Art: Beauty from the ruins

Nov 11, 2016 | 13 comments

Election Art 2: Beauty from the Ruins

In times of fear and uncertainty, before I coax myself to embrace the unknown, I go back to what I know for sure.  It’s always same three things: my basics–the things I am certain I can do no matter what.  On Tuesday, Election Day 2016, I found myself clinging to and then landing in these three things. It was good.  Very good.  I want to share them.  Perhaps they will inspire you and your clients.

In know I can teach.

I can teach people to squeeze hot glue onto buttons and sea glass and to use formerly meaningless objects to make something life affirming.  I can teach people to throw paint onto paper and create an experience of complete freedom.  I can teach people to mesmerize themselves with rhythmic knitting, their needles, yarn and hands becoming a relaxed collaboration.  I can even teach people to love themselves—though sometimes that takes a very long time.

I know I can love.

My love is a comforting constant. I love my clients, my pets, my friends, and my family. I love my coffee.  I can share my fierce heart easily because it is strong and real.  If it ever wavers, I can go out in nature and feel love the instant I look at tree bark or hear water flowing.

I know there is beauty in the ruins and I can always find it.

As therapists, we are highly trained for this type of activity. Every day, in every session, we must delve into another’s state of ruin—the failed marriages, the tragic deaths, the self-loathing and self-abuse, and the abyss of despair. We face it with our clients like archaeologists excavating a dig site.  With our compassion and love, we comb over every detail searching for the beauty.  We are a committed bunch, dogged in our search to find what we so passionately believe.  That there is beauty there—somewhere, under all of the shit and darkness.  Sometimes, all we have to do once we find it, is point to it.  “Look!  There’s beauty here in this tear falling from your cheek.  It’s a diamond. “ Read More… »

The power of holding art in your hands.

Oct 27, 2016 | 8 comments

Hope Filled Postcard Art Exchanged

 

I got HOPE in the mail and I held it in my hands!

I signed up for Gretchen Miller’s Creative Deed Art Challenge thinking it was a fun idea to be a part of a postcard exchange.  The theme was HOPE which made it feel comfy and cozy.  I made three postcards, infused them with HOPE, and addressed them to Australia, Maryland, and Iowa.  It felt good.  I liked thinking about my hope-filled art cruising around the country and finally landing in someone’s appreciative hand.  I enjoyed following the Facebook images of the others’ who were creating postcards and gifting their hope to the world.  I thought to myself, “This exchange thing is wonderful.  I want to do more.”

Then I started receiving postcard gifts of my own in the mail.  Through the mail slot–real paper, real art, from real people popped through and landed on the floor with such grace and beauty.  To my delicious surprise, the very same people to whom I’d gifted a hope postcard had made and sent me one of their postcards.  We were now linked.  Joined in our endeavor to spread hopefilled art and in our appreciation of one another’s wish to connect in this way.  When I first received each one I traced the texture and line with my fingers and truly honored the handcraftedness of the postcard.  I have carried the three cards with me in my planner and feel buoyed by their presence in my daily schedule. Read More… »

Using Art and Creativity to Manage Transitions

Sep 7, 2016 | 3 comments

How to manage transitions with art and creativity.

When art speaks, I listen

There is something so profound about the moment a painting reveals its message.

There is also nothing much more frustrating than the period of time when a painting is in transition.  This is the long haul when it is no longer the clean white canvas it used to be and not yet a colorful entity with a message.

The slog through that transition is something I dread and something I love.  It is the essence of the creative process, of discovery, of growth, of life.  Being in the slog is how I stay real with myself and keep track of where I am and where I am going.

About 6 weeks ago, I started a huge painting.  It was beautiful and pristine in its 4 foot square mass. I actually hugged it for a bit and smelled its clean white canvas.   I started it because I wanted answers to the question, “What’s next?”  I wanted to fill it up with color and clarity and certainty.  I lured myself into the studio by promising if I tackled my choices with creativity I’d feel more secure, at ease, and pretty darn pleased with myself.  I had no idea what to paint.  I just had the idea that painting would help. Read More… »

What They Said

Jul 20, 2016 | 0 comments

idea-2

Clients can say the most eloquent things. Whether they are telling their stories or answering your probing questions, sometimes clients say profound and meaningful phrases. When you are listening for these phrases, your ear is a poet’s ear. You bring a level of presence and engagement that is different from simply listening for the purpose of understanding. When we capture our clients’ words we can learn things about them and ourselves. We up level our conversations as well as our insights.

I took a bunch of homeless teens to the river on a photography outing one Spring. We were looking for ideal settings to shoot self-portraits and one of the teens wanted to find a juxtaposition of fast running water with the solidity of a rock walled bank. We’d been trekking the trails for an hour or so and one of the teens exclaimed, “Spring is Opti-mystical!” and then, “They should make it mandatory that we all spend 18 minutes a day in nature!” A zing went through me when I heard him say that phrase. There was such truth and irony in his words. And his gratitude for our trip was not lost to me, either. I made a page spread to commemorate his wise suggestion. When I look at the page today, 5 years later, I still smile at the memory of that moment. Read More… »

3 cool truths about effective therapists

Jul 6, 2016 | 2 comments

blog-image-3-cool-truths

 

Here’s an email conversation I had with my assistant……

Tara:  There were irritating clicks again on the recording of your teaching call.  It’s pretty bad, did anyone complain?

Me:  Again?!!  That’s so awful.  We have to fix it. And, no, no one even mentioned it.  Isn’t that weird?

Tara:  Actually, your students are the nicest bunch I’ve ever worked with.  They are pleasant and appreciative and really easy to help.

Me: I absolutely love working with therapists for that very reason!  (In my thoughts, “Therapists are such beautiful people, I’m so fortunate to get to work with them.”)

Tara works with many different kinds of people, so her feedback is the bomb!

Not only are we pleasant and appreciative and really easy to help.  There some other super important things that make us such great helpers.

Here are 3 cool truths about effective therapists

1. Therapists are insatiable learners.

We are seekers and we strive to continually add to our tool box of skills in order to be effective with our clients.  Bill Doherty, (Psychotherapy Networker, May/June 2013) talks about the particular kind of learning that is necessary for us to keep getting better.  He says of the most admirable therapists, “They continually change and develop while holding onto the core of who they are as therapists. They’re interested in new models and new evidence, but not in serially reinventing themselves with each new fad.”

Continuing education has to hold our interest. We are hungry for education about important concepts, but we won’t be swayed to forget about what makes us unique as a therapist.  We love training.  We love to learn new approaches.  This is how we refresh ourselves and our work. Read More… »

Do you rush your clients? Do they rush you?

Jun 29, 2016 | 9 comments

do you rush your clientsIn his book, Art and Soul (Charles Thomas, 2004), art therapist, Bruce Moon recounts the story of a twenty something year old client named Carly. Newly out of residential treatment, she tells him of her emptiness and how she’d like to feel again. They have an initial session in which Carly draws a picture of a box surrounded by mist. Bruce guides her in a dialogue with the image she drew which puts Carly in touch with feelings she doesn’t want to feel. She abruptly tells Bruce that she doesn’t think he can help and leaves.

Months later she calls Bruce and tells him she’s ready to work with him. In that next session and many sessions after, they work together on building a canvas. They start with framing wood frame and cut the proper angles to make squared corners. They stretch the canvas and staple it just so. Carly gets impatient. She asks, “Can’t we just go buy a canvas and get started painting?” Bruce tells her that she could, but not in her work with him.

He goes on to explain, “If you buy a prestretched, pregessoed canvas, you’re cutting yourself off from the process. You might as well buy a pre-painted, sofa-sized painting.” Carly likes this and laughs.

This is a poignant story on many levels.

What stands out for me is the wonderful shared experience that Carly and Bruce had together. She was able to be in the relationship without being judged and simultaneously be guided and encouraged to master something with her own hands. She was encouraged to take her time, to allow herself the grace of building something important from the ground up, and all the while, Bruce was patient and engaged. Over time, Carly was able to explore more of herself and her feelings through the experience of making art. But it is not lost on me that the therapeutic relationship and the relationship that Carly forged between herself and her art was the foundation for this exploration.

Building a canvas from scratch is quite an endeavor. Carly thought it was a waste of time at first. Bruce knew better. He didn’t want her to skip any steps. He wanted to build from the ground up—both painting-wise and relationship-wise.
Indeed—this is altogether wise—from no matter what angle you look.

And yet, how many times do we as therapist forget this foundational approach?

How often do you skip the building of the canvas and get right to the painting? There may even be times when you skip the painting altogether, never quite connecting with your client, and, instead, just tell them what to go do? Read More… »

© Copyright Inner Canvas 2017

All Rights Reserved.

Designed by Solamar Agency

Featuring Recent Posts WordPress Widget development by YD