Shame Dynamics Among Creative Arts Therapists

From Essays on the Creative Arts Therapies: Imaging the Birth of a Profession by David Johnson (1999):

As artists, therapists, and (mostly) women, creative arts therapists have experienced a sizable amount of humiliation in the course of their careers. (p. 66)

To choose a career as a creative arts therapist often means stretching the tolerance of one’s family and entering a world where one is not understood or appreciated. (p. 67)

Empowerment also means carrying the burden of past abuse that we do not pass on to those who follow us: to support others, when we were shamed; to mentor others, when we were not mentored; to remain positive when what we experienced was negative. (p. 71)

Progress will mean experiencing the emergence of power from within our ranks. (p. 73)

In order for us to move forward in contributing to American health care, we need to be able to collaborate closely with each other; we need to be able to form a larger entity with greater strength and unity. (p. 74)

Institutional space is largely complex. Because of the levels and layers built up within institutional spaces, there are often many chances for dysfunction to form. This is probably true of any work environment, particularly a large work environment. Office politics happen, but who would have thought they also happen within institutional settings that are created to provide a therapeutic environment for treatment?

Institutional burnout isn’t a new idea, but maybe prevention can be explored further.

David Johnson is direct. He says what I’ve picked up on in my little experience as a graduate student. He puts into words the experiences of trying to form an identity in the field. But what I like about David Johnson the most is his ability to separate from the negative and move into the hopeful and potential aspects of making progress in the field by focusing on the importance of collaborating and providing community support for each other in our respective fields.


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