The Department of Psychology organized a two-day workshop on “Transforming your life story through the Expressive Arts on June 11 & 12, 2014. The participants consisted of faculty members, counselors, practitioners, postgraduate and undergraduate students.The workshop was facilitated by Kate T. Donohue, Ph.D. – licensed psychologist ,registered expressive arts therapist, international educator and trainer and founding core faculty member of the CIIS Expressive Arts Therapy Department. With her expressive arts compatriots, she has helped establish the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and has co-created their professional standards and ethics code.
On day one, the experiential tone for the workshop was set through various group activities that had participants explore the meaning and story behind their names and articulate how they felt about it through a significant personal gesture. Ground rules were articulated by the facilitator in terms of enabling participants to not only explore their life stories but also co-create the stories of those around them ; allowing roles to be flexible to facilitate transformation; and to empathize with others with whom one shares a similar story but respecting their privacy as well. A wide range of expressive arts were discussed such as drama/theatre, dance, music, imaginal language arts, visual arts and multi-arts and the facilitator encouraged the participants to narrate their personal story through their chosen art form.
Participants were given the opportunity to also depict as drawings their childhood , adulthood, self-perceptions and transformative emotions that were evoked through dance, music and theatre. Through this participants explored layered meanings in their personal stories, identified their personal myths, used metaphor and imagery to narrate their stories and the obstacles that probably distorted their views of themselves. Through an experiential process of conscious mindfulness as well as exploring the unconscious or subconscious through active imagination, the participants were encouraged to experience the ‘healing’ and ‘therapeutic’ power of story-telling.
A similar process was followed on day two where participants worked in either pairs or small groups to facilitate further exploration of how their personal life stories were being transformed.The highlight of the workshop was perhaps the dramatic enactments where story telling became a communal event as participants took turns in narrating their stories and other participants were not merely an audience but played an active role in weaving new stories. This meaningful activity not only helped portray the transformative journey of the participants over the past two days but also served the purpose of catharsis, encouraging empathy , insight, spontaneity and co-creation.
Overall this workshop emphasized the role of both the unconscious and conscious psyche in the personal myths and fables we create and allowed all the participants to find their niche in the gamut of expressive arts. Further the groupwork permitted sharing of experiences without fear or inhibition. Participants perhaps concluded the workshop with enhanced optimism and personal control over their lives and the perceived ‘power’ to continue to transform their lives through their chosen expressive art.
Baiju Gopal,Elizabeth Thomas, Miriam Mohan & Surekha C
Department of Psychology