Labyrinth at Lookout Point B&B in Hot Springs, AR
The University I attend is on a trimester calendar. I haven’t been able to write much about my latest Art Therapy discoveries, because the fall semester was dedicated to fieldwork. I was able to implement directives with a variety of individuals including pediatric mental illness, and older patients with medical conditions, with whom art therapy could provide a beneficial experience. I cannot share my experiences here, for obvious privacy issues, but I will share a discovery upon writing a paper on the termination process. Closure to a therapeutic relationship is part of the process, and one that can help a person, move on to the next level of growth. In reading about the reality of not always being able to have a neat, step-by-step therapeutic process because of the inevitable life events that may get in the way... I offer a remedy here. Mind you it is theoretical and possibly over simplistic, which I will find out once I’m able to engage in the process professionally.
Examining the fingerprint as a personal labyrinth, an abstract expression of the blueprint of who we are, this paper suggests that closure isn’t a final termination, because we take with us the fingerprints of others. The people we touch and in turn touch our lives, effects the future fingerprints we leave behind. This cycle of life symbolized by the labyrinth, suggests an art therapy directive to open and close the client/therapist relationship, described here.
In approaching the concept of closure, I thought about how we touch each others lives and about leaving each others lives. I thought about literal touch and how we leave fingerprints on one another. Perhaps it was the Steven Curtis Chapman song, that refrains; “We are the fingerprints of God”, that got me thinking about it (Chapman, Web). But I’ve always liked the idea of using fingerprints in art, and now I had my chance. When I completed the fingerprint art, made of my actual fingerprint that was enlarged and then covered with sand, I thought of a labyrinth. When I looked up labyrinth, it turns out I had a wrong assumption, as I suspect many others do. It is quite different than a maze. Though I intuitively knew the fingerprint had a meditative quality, it wasn’t confirmed until I research labyrinths. Helen Curry in her book, “Way of the Labyrinth: A Powerful Meditation for Everyday Life” (2000), makes the distinction between a maze and a labyrinth. Mazes are multicursal, there are many ways out of it, many detours and it is generally thought of as a mental challenge, almost stressful. Mazes can make you disoriented, you could lose your way, and you could be on the same path over and over again (Curry p.27). Labyrinths are unicursal, meaning a single course or path. Once you get on a labyrinth, you need only follow the path, with no dead ends or choices to make. Follow the path and you will arrive at the center (Curry p. 37).
What strikes me about the labyrinth in terms of closure is two-fold. First, the circular movement is symbolic in many cultural traditions: “The labyrinth is part of the canon of archetypal symbolic circles of meaning—including wholeness, unity and the divine center” (Curry, p.38). This reminded me of the recent circle at the Parkinson’s partnership, where we held hands, and sent energy around the circle through squeezing hands. I was struck by such a simple unifying act, and saw the labyrinth as an art directive, that could have a similar outcome. Secondly, Labyrinths have also been symbolic of the cycle of life (Curry, p. 47), birth and rebirth (Curry, p. 48).The back and forth meditative movement that is experienced within the labyrinth symbolizes a journey. It represents a difficult yet attainable inner journey toward the center (Curry, p. 50). The termination process between client and therapist is not always something that can be accomplished. Whether the client leaves because they are not ready for the termination process and therefore skips the last session, or other unexpected changes that interrupt closure, inhibits proper completion (Schroeder, p.83). Often we don’t think about termination and the necessity to have closure with certain relationships. I really don’t feel a need, in terms of Art Therapy I-III, because I don’t see anything coming to an end but another stop along my personal journey. Still, I recognize that not everyone thinks that way. Keeping in mind a client/therapist relationship and the possibility of not being able to have formal closure, I thought of a directive that one could do at the beginning of the relationship. What if I developed an art therapy directive that includes the making of a finger labyrinth, that I would introduce at the beginning and suggest it being used all the way through the process? What if during that first session I suggest that our relationship will come to an end eventually, but I’m giving them a tool they can use as a reminder of their own journey and the circular nature of it? They could then use it again when our relationship ended, whether I am there or not. The labyrinth seems like a perfect candidate for such a directive.
A traditional labyrinth is constructed out of varied materials and large enough to walk through. Finger labyrinths are created on a smaller scale and can offer meditative qualities as well. You can literally let your fingers do the walking. The right hand and left hand labyrinth (artworks that accompany my fingerprint) are designed for one to trace one’s finger along the path toward the center (Curry, p.122). It is suggested that by doing the right and left hand finger labyrinth simultaneously, one can balance their corresponding brain hemispheres (Curry, p. 130).
As an art therapy directive, a finger labyrinth drawing can be pre-made and copied to allow for varied client abilities. In the case of my labyrinth, I copied the one in Curry’s book (p. 125), enlarged and elongated it to make it more resemble a fingerprint. This could then be colored, painted or embellished anyway the client wished. Given my own experience not only in fieldwork, but also taking my daughter to counseling, the relationship can be very fleeting. Schedules get in the way and consistency is hard to maintain, and time may be limited.
Given our three fieldwork experiences, sharing artwork at Millcreek was closure for the children there. At BAEP, we shared artwork, and they made something they could keep with them within the facility. But the director at BAEP, took it one step further and had his students write thank-you letters. Introducing gratitude offers a chance for deeper meaning, which has longer lasting effects. So to, the labyrinth may have that potential. For Esther, a participant at Parkinson’s Project, closure was difficult. She said she was sad to see us go. She dealt with it by taking a photo of us, and then she could revisit the experience whenever she wanted to.
I like the idea of giving a client a tool to use at our first meeting, as if I may never see them again. Change in relationship is inevitable, whether you call it closure or termination, the fact still remains. But given the knowledge of this, introducing a directive such as the labyrinth has a potential to make the impact less severe or barely noticeable.
Chapman, S. C. (2008, April 21). "Fingerprints of God" Steven Curtis Chapman - YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved November 4, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gvf8ZRdO-o
Curry, H. (2000). The way of the Labyrinth a powerful meditation for everyday life.(pp.27-130) New York: Penguin Compass.
Schroder, D. (2005). Thoughts on Trauma. Little windows into art therapy small openings for beginning therapists (p. 83). Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley.