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Creative Final Products in the Psychology and Counseling Program

Wendy Phillips, PhD, MS, LMFT's picture
MA Psychology-Counseling Blog
Creative Final Products in the Psychology and Counseling Program

 

The last work of the Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Goddard College is the “Final Product.”

This work represents a culmination and integration of coursework, and may take the form of a thesis or a Capstone Product. Each student makes his or her own decision about which of the two final product options will be undertaken.

Recently, students have begun to integrate creative and expressive work into these final products. Thesis students have created artwork that “stands alone” or is juxtaposed or integrated into theoretical writing.

Capstone students have also created art as a component of their reflections on their own Personal and Professional Development during the course of the program, these being the two required pieces of the Capstone Product.

Examples of recent creative theses have included:

  • A theoretical discussion of Positive Psychology and Eastern Spirituality juxtaposed with photographic images and original poetry (Rebecca Martin, MA PSY '11);
  • A critical analysis of holistic and art-based interventions in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder and a screenplay about a protagonist who lives with this diagnosis and experiences holistic and creative interventions (Megan Simms, MA PSY '11);
  • And a critical analysis of relevant theory about mothers who have mental illness that integrates a memoir of the author’s lived experiences (Molly McNaughton, MA PSY '12).

“Process Pieces” have also recently been created by Capstone students including poetry by Bryce Wilson (MA PSY '11) and Deborah Bianchi (MA PSY '12).

Exploration with visual arts processes, writing, and other mediums are currently part of the Capstone work of students Cricket Greer and Tanya Sapula this semester.

The Residency time has become a space for the presentation of work from creative final products as part of student presentations and workshops and during our art opening. The works you encounter here in this blog were also presented at our Spring 2012 Residency. I look forward to the experience of the new work in the fall!


Deb Bianchi’s poem, a component of her Capstone Product

I feel they are drawn to me as if they somehow believe that I possess the power to heal their wounds.

I don’t think they comprehend that the healer alone without the wounded, is powerless.

I close my eyes and envision myself, not as a counselor in today’s society walking paved streets in trendy clothes but rather a native, cloaked in the hides of animals and walking the plains; barefoot, connected to the earth and its people, a shaman, a Dakota, a spiritual warrior from the tribe of my mother.

I don’t ask the wounded what they feel, rather I myself become the wounded; with passion strong enough to share the burdens of their pain, subconsciously, internally, we are connected.  I close my eyes again; exhaling, diminishing breaths of selflessness, giving way to willingness and acceptance, to embark on secret journeys guided by the compass of compassion and driven by revelations of light.

Slowly, they rise to depart from their legacy of despair

No longer children, but not yet adults

They enter through the gates of knowledge

Educated only in fear.

Their lips forever stained a crimson red

They once breathed life but tell a story of the dead.

Their hands are empty but secretly long to be held,

 Hearts that once loved, but know only to rebel. 

Feet were once planted firmly on the ground,

Now run effortlessly without making a sound.

 They walk, catatonically in their shells

 And slip silently through the cracks where only delinquents dwell.

 Despised and rejected,

Fighting only to exist,

 They gather in numbers and mightily resist.

 Seeking shelter and refuge they appear at my door,

 Awaiting their due process, hopeful but unsure.

 In their eyes I can still see a flicker of light,

 I cling to the last embers

 Before their souls take flight.

Now imprisoned by their wounds and scars open wide,

No one knows of their pain, but their crimes they cannot hide.

 The arsonist who’s aching and burned beyond belief

Strikes a match to start a fire

And burns the secrets that he keeps.

 The dealer has the hand, who holds the power to erase,

To the addict with an open hand

 He turns the cap, takes a gulp

and swallows the demons he has faced.

 While the thief, he waits in shadows

 To take back all that he has lost

not able to fill the emptiness and no longer can carry his cross.

 To the delinquent, the arsonist, the dealer, addict and thief

You spoke so softly to the heart of me;

I am not a teacher, a counselor or a keeper of beliefs

Just a wounded healer seeking to release some inner piece;

 You are so much more than nameless forms of nothingness

 Awaiting your release.


Creative Thesis Excerpt from Molly McNaughton (MA PSY '12)

It is during this time that I go to a beautiful event with my friend Patrick, a musician. It is called the Full Moon Masquerade. While Patrick sets up his amplifier on stage, I meander through the masked guests, a woman doing exquisite body painting on mostly nude models, servers balancing cocktails and various fortune tellers and palm readers who beckon to me. The event is in a large, upscale Thai restaurant and I make my way into one of the back rooms where the light is low.  I decide I will have my fortune read by a beautiful young woman whose face is painted like a bird. On the table before her lay the Animal Medicine Cards. She is younger than I and there is something modest and unassuming in her demeanor.

“We will have a simple reading and you will pick three animal cards to represent the past, present and future”, She explains, expertly shuffling the deck and fanning the cards face down on the table between us. “You will choose a question and ask the cards”.

My question is about career and how my professional life will unfold.

My first card represents the past and I choose the Salmon. “The reading is individual to you,” she says, “So it is a mixture of your own personal association with the animals as well as ancient lore.”

“What does the Salmon remind you of?”

I remember a time when I was twenty-five years old and coming down from my most severe mania in Bellingham, Washington. It is the time when my mother is visiting and we go into the wilderness. We have heard the Salmon are spawning. It is something I have never seen before and I am completely unprepared for it.
The thin river is a writhing mass of fish, swimming upstream, against the current. I have never seen such frenzy. The Salmon are only halfway to their destination, where they will spawn and lay their eggs, and already they are torn to pieces, their flesh hanging from their bodies in large, bloody chunks.

“The Salmon reminds me of desperation and self-destruction,” I muse to the fortune teller.

“And does that in any way fit in with your past and your question about career?” she asks.

Indeed it does. I think over the first half of my adult life. I think about how, like the salmon spawning, I have lived with desperation and self-destruction, often because of a drive that seemed beyond my own control. And how now, I use my familiarity with the darker side of the human experience to cultivate understanding and empathy for the patients in the hospital.

At the hospital, when L.M. scuffles down the hallway after me yelling that I am a “Bimbo” who has the “Erotic Rainbow Light he’s been searching for” and that if I like, he can “Teach me the Tao of Sex and impregnate me with his eyes”, I think back to myself when manic – back to when I was hypersexual and really not so different from L.M.

And when M.H. sits solemnly in group, speaking about his fear that he will be forever dependent on Seroquel and that his girlfriend will interpret his dependency as addiction and judge him harshly for it, it is more than easy to find empathy for this young man.

The salmon very much reminds me of my past.

The next card I choose, the Turkey, represents the present. I tell the woman I don’t have many personal associations with the turkey but that I know it is an animal that represents sacrifice.

“Ah,” she says, correcting me, “It represents a willing sacrifice.”

I think about this in relation to my current life and it makes sense. Unlike the past with its frenzied salmon swim of destruction, my current sacrifices are purposeful. The energy I give to Ezra, to the patients, to my schoolwork – it is all a willing sacrifice indeed.

Strangely, after this Animal Medicine Card reading, I begin to see turkeys everywhere. They are native to Vermont and I see them on the side of the road. I see them in fields. This spring, a mother hen and her babies frequented my backyard. Because my life is now so busy and I am committed to so much, I occasionally notice that my thoughts can turn to self-pity.

I am doing so much, I lament; I have to re-schedule Ezra’s dentist appointment and finish my thesis by next week and there’s barely any money in my checking account and I have a heavy load of clients tomorrow. How can one human being do so much? When will life get easier?

It is often precisely at these moments that I catch sight of a group of the large, brown birds. They help me remind myself that everything I do, I do willingly. All my sacrifices are chosen.

Finally, I choose the Animal Card that represents my future. It is the Whale. The Whale, to me, is something almost beyond words - so massive and dense. A being that glides effortlessly through the deep. What comes to mind when I imagine the whale is the sense of taking up space unapologetically…..

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