So, tomorrow – Monday, Feb 6th, 2012 – I commence a 5 day prerequisite counselling course. It’s the first requirement of the Graduate Diploma in Art Therapy at La Trobe University, which I’ll be undertaking this year with the intention of going onto Masters in Art Therapy in 2013.

I must say I’m pretty excited about it all, especially the aspects of the course that deal with a person centred approach to the therapy process and, perhaps a little selfishly, the impact this will have on my own personal development. (Looks like some reading in Carl Rogers is in order).

Art Therapy, you ask?

For those of you who have known me over the years, it may seem a bit left field. After all, I suppose most people tend to associate me with music and computers, and training and teaching in associated areas, as well as a general interest in the arts and video art in particular. But Art Therapy? Hmmm… in the end, Art Therapy came about for me via a rather circuitous route.

A Circuitous Route

About 4 years ago I was browsing through the bookshelf at the little beachside shack we were renting for a week’s holiday break when I came across Norman Doidge’s, “The Brain that Changes Itself”. I was hooked and neuroscience became an increasing interest over the years, to the point where I perhaps got a little bit obsessive about the desire to undertake study in it. The only trouble was I couldn’t get into the course I would have liked to get into since it had been too long since I had completed the required entrance studies – I would have had to return to “High School”. Not the level of studies I was interested in doing…

In the mean time I attended a few neuroscience symposiums and conferences during 2011 to help me get a better overview of what is actually involved in neuroscience study. Whilst a lot of what was talked about hovered a few kilometres above my present understanding, I loved the level of commitment, enthusiasm and passion involved and gained a lot of new learning during this period. Over the year, in conjunction with attendance at the events, I also did a fair bit of reading about neuroscience, fMRI, neurospychology, and other related topics.

It started to become apparent to me that the course I was interested in would require a reasonable amount of experimentation with animals and, whilst not disagreeing with it in principal, I wasn’t convinced I would be able to actually do it (see my Blog entry “Animals in Brain Research?”). I was also taken aback by the amount of PhD research work which had a definite leaning toward outcomes that would have a purely financially beneficial outcome, but then again, this was probably more due to my level of naivety rather than a sense of reality with who puts the butter on the bread.

By this time, however, I’d shifted my thinking to encompass the fact that I would return to study and so started the search for a related field that would have some level of academic rigour; be related to the way we work as human beings, particularly the self and mind; have a grounding in the exploration of creativity; and allow me to extend and develop my ongoing lifetime desire to become “an artist”.

In this search I stumbled on Art Therapy – something I hadn’t really heard of before – and slowly, bit by bit, I came to the realisation that Art Therapy, for me, is the vehicle to meet these requirements.

If truth be told, my initial impression of Art Therapy was that it was probably a bit of an “airy-fairy-love-and-mung-beans-new-age-feely-touchy-but-no-actual-basis-in-the-real -world” kind of thing. Well – it can be, but not so at La Trobe University… there’s a strong, psychotherapeutic, theoretical underpinning to all that we do, and with my interest in neuroscience, I hope to be pursuing the relationships between brain studies, neuropsychology, creativity, the development of self, mental well being, psychosocial development, and on it goes…

In part, The Pons Institute is one of the ways I am seeking to document and share this journey. Anyone who wants to come along and take part is more than welcome…

10 Points To Take Home on Day 1 (Introduction to Counselling)
Day one is finished and all went pretty well. I’m the only guy in the class of about 20, but I’ll get used to that, I hope…

Here’s 10 points – observations and quotes – that have resonated with me on Day 1:

Transparency is confronting to self.
Inner dialogue can be judgemental despite desired intent.
“History of self” influences immediate reactions in opposition to desired reactions.
As the counsellor, desire to know and collect more information from the client may be driven by one’s own needs as opposed to the needs of the client. This needs to be consciously acknowledged to the self and dealt with.
“For the counsellor, issues of self transference can be bracketted and put aside for a later time of “dealing with” rather than completely erased, ignored or overlooked”
“It’s articulation that opens the doors.”
“I like the use of the term ‘Imaginative Variation’ in the exploration of future alternatives and possibilites (e.g. “What would life be like if…?”)”
The contrast between good conversation and good counselling can be disarming when first undertaken by those new to the processes involved (such as myself).
A “counselling conversation” is an intentional conversation with the needs of the client in mind.
An effective counsellor, for me, is one who does not diminish the importance and potency of the issues I come with and present, despite how trivial they may appear on surface value.

Guest post courtesy of Colin Read,

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