Lisa Mitchell

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Creativity and Hope: The magic combo for starting back to work after the holidays.

Lisa Mitchell | Jan 2, 2014 | 4 comments


Tree SketchI’ve stepped away from it all for a week or so.  Instead of art directives and treatment goals, I thought about king tides and the seals barking in the bay.  I walked long stretches of California beach and watched junky Netflix movies at night curled up in front of the wood stove.  Getting away is wonderful.  Coming back is sometimes hard.

But this year, I’m deciding to hitch a ride on hope and creativity.  With the New Year, this seems to be just the thing to remember.  That with each client, with each beginning, the act of engaging requires two things:  Hope and Creativity.

As I arrive at work today, I will remember what comes so naturally.  And I will slip myself back into the wonderful exchange of doing therapy. 

First, I will remember that I have to create order out of the chaos.

Therapy invites us to be artists.  And, as artists, we use our creativity to consolidate and sort.  We make connections between disparate parts and find some sense in it all.  We have to love doing this so much that the client gets mesmerized by our interest to the point of wanting to participate with us in the act of sorting. 


Second, I will remember my belief that always, on some level, I can help.

Therapy asks us to be hope merchants. We have to hold the hope that there can be relief for a client, and that we can play a part in helping them find relief.  We must believe it so much that we convey it in our every being.  By engaging, by conversing, by assessing we are a bridge of hope that invites the client into relationship to seek  relief for his/her symptoms. 

Please forgive me, but with all of this nature and relaxation, a poem came out:


Finding Beauty

Your complex canopy of branches creak and moan with the wind.

As I gaze to the sky, my eyes wander along twists and clumps

I am taken in by the complexity that makes no sense

How can water travel the multitude of  upward switch backs

and arrive at such a tiny leaf?

How is it that you can, a tree in your own right, still be standing?

I want to show you what I see.

Your divine beauty.

The power and tenacity of a tree trunk that can sustain toothpick branches and limbs outstretched.

I want to create a picture of you.

One where you can find a focal point that saves you from the spinning

Where order emerges when the zoom lens finds a bird’s nest

or the hummingbird flitting in and out.

As a hope merchant,

I know that picture is there.

It’s my honor….my pure joy….

to find it with you.

We will gasp with sudden recognition together,

like two kindergartners on the rug at reading time

who simultaneously find Waldo in that crazy-making book

that we find so very compelling.

4 responses to “Creativity and Hope: The magic combo for starting back to work after the holidays.”

  1. Georgia says:

    One of my colleagues asked about what values guide the work we do with out clients and then I read this post and I love the term “hope merchant!” That is a perfect descriptor. Thanks and happy new year!

  2. hannah says:


    Thanks for this. I was walking down the hall of the hospital this morning, wondering what makes that magic, that connection between patient and therapist. It occured to me that it’s just what you’re talking about. It’s as if we light a match and hold our hand behind the flame, hoping that the fire of our enthusiasm with catch and that our client will be able to benefit from the fire of creativity. Happy New Year!

  3. Pam Blamey says:

    “hope merchant”. I like that too. Thanks Lisa.

  4. Amy Maricle says:

    HI Lisa:

    What an inspiring post. I hear in it your call for us to keep art therapy magical. While we need to be grounded in clinical insight and planning, there is so much art in the art of being a good therapist in general, and especially so, an art therapist.

    I wonder if you are willing to share anything that you concretely do to transmit the hope and creativity to your clients? For me it’s often my energy level, laughter, positively phrased treatment plans, and hopefully focused art therapy directives. For example, a client recently made a mini book and is filling it with statements about her growth.

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