(psychotherapy as artistic experience)
An Artistic and Therapeutic Practice
How do we know when we are engaging in psychotherapy? What perception makes us decide if, when, or how therapy happens? As an art piece can be an agreement between an artist and an observer, psychotherapy is a pact entered into by the participants.
The frame, therapeutic or artistic, exists within the minds of two or more people as an interaction and an idea.
The client-centered therapeutic orientation puts forth six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapy, three of which are concerned with the perception and state of mind of the client. The first says therapy happens when two people say it does, agreeing between themselves who is the client and who the therapist. The second is the acknowledgement by the client that they have some issue, problem or incongruence. The third, fourth, and fifth conditions concern the efforts of the therapist to create a “therapeutic space”, engaging the client with empathy, genuineness or congruence, and unconditional positive regard. The sixth condition is that the client perceives the therapist has made his or her best effort to create these conditions through which therapeutic change can happen. This perception on the part of the client, that the therapist is engaged in the client’s efforts for therapeutic change, is at the heart of any voluntary therapeutic encounter or moment, no matter what the orientation of the therapist.
Seeking to create a “therapeutic moment” benefitting other artists as well as myself, I have decided to concentrate my counseling on working artists and creatives (individually, group or institutionally), looking for ways to connect and sustain a practice that would benefit this misunderstood and underserved population. My training included extended therapy with working creatives, and my experience with the piece TX~ART has shown me the majority of people who sought out that particular therapeutic moment tend to be artists, and/or people open to experience.
I have created this psychotherapeutic practice to concentrate on this underserved population, for which I have a particular affinity. My practice includes talk therapy, which addresses the disorders of depression and anxiety, helping people manage relationships, both personal and family, and time and stress management techniques, among other issues. Providing these services for people whose work, avocation, or passion includes using inspiration, generating ideas, or the study and mastery of craft or technique can serve the artistic community, because there is a dearth of counseling available for people with the particular needs and sensibilities of working creatives, including but not limited to visual artists, writers, musicians, designers, performers, filmmakers, craftspeople, gallerists, arts administrators, entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately, those who have insurance or can pay out of pocket are a small segment of the community I wish to serve, so I have a sliding scale based on income. One of the moments I most enjoy is when I have a client tell me they are doing better, have improved their circumstances, and can change their pay scale.
I have a specialty in Stress Reduction Management, based on the theory that there are 6 types of stress and various levels in the way people manifest them. Learning how one manifests stress, and then learning the countermeasures, can help people begin to think clearly, and then approach the issues that are causing them to have difficulty functioning. For many people, this type of stress reduction training helps them to begin to manage depression and anxiety, or helps them in a decision making process.
I also engage clients in conversations about Career Development, and help them answer the question every working creative must answer for themselves. Do I try to make a living from my art? If so how, and what am I willing to do, compromise or give up to be able to do so. If not, what sort of work or job can I find that will support me with enough energy and creativity left over to continue my artistic practice? These discussions often lead clients to more existential thoughts and discoveries about themselves and their desires for their work and artistic practice. This line of inquiry seems to be specific to my practice, and generally not one that is well understood by therapists who are not familiar with what an artistic practice can mean in life and its effects on family and relationships. I also advise clients on aspects of business development and entrepreneurship, drawing on my 30 years as a business owner and self-employed artist.
I began my creative life in the 1980’s as a clothing designer, creating a wholesale and custom business, including a line of scarves and shawls based on color theory and various lines of clothing and separates. Around the turn of the century I also began to create artworks that were more concerned with ideas of perception and social influence, some within the realm of fashion, some not. My investigations into cognitive psychology as it relates to color perception led me to return to academia and pursue a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology (Counseling Practice). This practice continues my interest in psychological and social perception, and though the subject investigated is the therapeutic moment as it relates to an artistic practice, as opposed to the experience of color, both of these concepts are subjectively perceived in the mind of the observer/client/participant.
Bio: Alice Berry, an SAIC alumna (1980), has completed her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology (Counseling Practice) (2014) at Roosevelt University, has LPC licensure, and is currently engaging in this relational art piece as a psychotherapeutic practice. She has a 30-
year background in the arts as a fashion, textile and installation designer, entrepreneur and visual artist. (aliceberry.com or aliceberrypsych.