“Information is Coping”


“Information is Coping”

Sandra Graves, PhD, LPAT, ATR-BC, was one of my professors in grad school.  Sandra always said that “information is coping”, and she was right.  People who are provided with information about what they are experiencing or will experience stand a better chance of dealing with it successfully because they’re not operating in the dark.  How many times have you been to the dentist and wished someone would explain what’s happening in your mouth while it is being picked at, poked at, and prodded by people with sharp and noisy instruments?  If someone could mentally prepare us for the procedure or talk us through it as it’s occurring, it wouldn’t be so stressful an experience.  It’s easy for professionals to forget that what they do daily isn’t old hat for the people they treat.


The same is true of mental health professionals.  That’s why we’re called upon to inform our clients (or their parents/guardians) of what they can expect from the treatment process and any associated limitations. When introducing art into therapy sessions, however, clinicians may overlook the significance of a formal introduction!  If you add artmaking to the therapeutic mix, it’s important to address aspects that relate to this.  For example, clients should know why you’re using art in therapy to begin with (in other words, you’ll need to explain why you believe using art in therapy will help them meet their treatment goals), and they should know that using art in therapy does not promise a beneficial experience.  They also should be informed of your credentials and any qualifications that allow you to use art in therapy; if you do not have these, clients deserve to know that as well.


Another item clients might need to understand is the wearing of clothes that are appropriate for working with art materials.  And last but not least, clients should be made aware of the potential psychological and physical risks associated with using art in therapy.  At the psychological level, the artmaking process can stir up memories, impulses, and emotions that clients might not be expecting or might prefer to avoid.  Preparing clients for this probability supports them in their efforts to cope with psychological material that is difficult for them.  And at the physical level, art media and methods vary in terms of their safety and ease of use.  Clients should be informed of any harmful possibilities that might await them if they engage with certain media and methods.


Information is coping!  And since we’re in the coping business, we’re inherently in the information business as well.  Don’t be like the dentist who performs upon people who are in a vulnerable position and find it difficult to ask questions.  Providing a formal introduction to the use of art in therapy is good for business and will help make your clients aware that you think of them as collaborators, not collateral, in the treatment process.  Plus they’ll know for certain that you have no intention of pulling their leg…or their teeth!


With appreciation for the important work you do,

Megan March 2012

About the Image on This Page

This is a thumbnail of Apple iPhone Wallpaper, posted to The Public Domain website by Mitch Featherston in 2012. Click here for more information.