Lisa Mitchell

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Do you ever let your snow globe settle?

Lisa Mitchell | 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.

Someone said, “I never look from this perspective.  I never step outside and pause to invite a quiet reflection.  I never ask, How is this work sitting with me? What is the meaning of my work for me at this moment?

It was beautiful.  Breathtaking actually. 

Pause and Ponder is a technique that Mary Jo Barrett uses in her work with trauma treatment.

It’s also something that artists do naturally–automatically–as a way of being creative.

You can play the painter’s dance in your head…..

The painter looks at the blank canvas.  Steps up with her paint filled brush.  Applies some color, moves it around…elbow bent, head lifted slightly..a full body engagement with the act of painting.  Then, with smooth precision, she steps away….one, two, three steps back.  And she looks.  Her gaze may take seconds or minutes.  But she’s still and quiet and settled.  Then, once again, she approaches the canvas to start the dance over again.

There’s a trick in here, though.

The stepping away–the pondering–is NOT an analysis.

When a painter is in this dance, she does not use exacting words to clarify what her next step in the painting will be.  She doesn’t take this pause to get ahead in the planning and strategize her next several moves.

She’s letting the snow settle, quieting, and using this pause as an invitation to check in.  “How is this sitting with me?  What is my reaction from this vantage point? In this moment, is my work feeling meaningful?”

Pause and Ponder can be grounding.

It can be calming, validating, fueling.  It can lend a pacing that can’t come any other way.  It can teach regulation and secure attachment.  It is truly powerful.

But, I think the most important part about actively inviting the snow to settle, is that it helps us turn off the incessant analysis, evaluation, and diagnoses and to drop into the experience.

As the group experienced yesterday, it allows us to  self reflect and participate more fully in this amazing experience of helping others.

I invite you to intentionally pause and ponder today. 

Invite your clients to do the same. 

Step back, let the snow settle, and check in…..

10 responses to “Do you ever let your snow globe settle?”

  1. Eileen says:

    Love the metaphor Lisa!

  2. Peggy Gulshen says:

    “Pausing” and “settling in” is vital just in everyday life.
    Thanks for always inspiring me in such provocative ways with your blog!

  3. Maria says:

    Powerful image. Very good advice , as usual. Thanks a lot

  4. Martina says:

    Even though I have integrated that pausing, ponder and reflecting already in my art-therapeutic teaching, your article is an important hint to do that more conscious and teach to use that as a tool.
    Thanks a lot!

  5. Amy Maricle says:

    HI Lisa:

    I am new to your site and your blog. Thank you for your powerful work. I love how your writing invites us into the moment. I indeed felt present in your workshop.

    As an artist and art therapist, I understand pausing and pondering. I find that stepping back from a piece with my clients is powerful. When we do it well, we are a team working together to discover what insights a piece has to offer, quietly pondering, looking from this angle and that, and asking new questions.

    Amy Maricle

  6. sylma says:

    Great idea, and certainly food for thought!

  7. Lyssa Harvey says:

    In this new year,looking for a way to help my therapists in supervision to see their counseling worldview with a sense of wonder vs. clinical and academic.. Perfect. thank you.. They will be Pausing and Pondering and collaging!
    Lyssa Harvey, LPC-S, ATR-BC-S

  8. Perri says:

    This sounds like a very effective grounding technique, especially with trauma clients. Also, for mindfulness and relaxation. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Berni says:

    Beautiful timely post! Really like everything about this. Thank you .

  10. Perri Jacobs says:

    I can totally relate to this, as a therapist and an artist. Great way to paint a picture of reflecting. Thanks for sharing.

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