At our fall residency, Expressive Arts Therapy Concentration student Natalie Hogge and faculty member Wendy Phillips collaborated in the creation of a six-hour Multimodal Expressive Arts workshop held in segments over three days. Our goal was to offer students and colleagues an opportunity to experience Multimodal Processes and to reflect on these experiences in preparation for sharing the work with clients and in communities. According to the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA):
“The expressive arts combine the visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing and other creative processes to foster deep personal growth and community development. IEATA encourages an evolving multimodal approach within psychology, organizational development, community arts and education. By integrating the arts processes and allowing one to flow into another, we gain access to our inner resources for healing, clarity, illumination and creativity.”
We began each session with a meditation which offered the opportunity for us to become centered and grounded in our bodies before beginning our work.
We were fortunate that one of our meditations was led by graduating student Michelle Vosika-Cooper. Her work is informed by Hakomi therapy practices.
We began our work in pairs, tracing our bodies on long rolls of paper used by construction workers and house painters. Each person traced his or her partner’s body in the position or gesture of their choice. This is the foundational work for the “Evolution of the Self” (renamed by me) exercise I learned when I studied at Expressive Arts Florida. Once the tracing was completed, it was mounted on the wall. Participants spent time reflecting on the silhouette before beginning to elaborate their “body” using chalk and oil sticks.
Consistent with Multimodal Practices, we moved to an activity with clay led by Natalie in which the clay was a meditative metaphor of sensory exploration with eyes closed. Participants were invited to explore the clay by pulling, breaking, kneading, poking, mending, and any other way their hands felt intuitively drawn to work with the material. The earth was held as a metaphor of the resilient earth body, the container of our experiences.
As the group was offered a guided meditation of this clay process, they were invited to allow an image to form if one arrived during this process. The group was invited to place their image in front of them and view it as though it were a new image to explore with curiosity. The group then moved into a resonant process that reflected their clay experience, such as writing or drawing about the clay process or image. Some people chose movement, or sound; others returned to add to their body maps. This was guided as an intermodal process in which the mediums would be sought by the individuals.
Throughout the three days, we moved from medium to medium, some directive, some non-directive processes, allowing participants to choose the mediums that resonated with them. The beginning and end of each session was held in a collective capacity, holding intention, creating a safe invitation for expression, grounding the body through meditation, and inviting curiosity and playfulness in the moment. Utilizing the group’s collective desires helped shift to activities in a way that met the group where they were, reaching to mediums and activities that were welcomed by the community.
The themes that were explored were the body mapping and the “evolution of self,” sacred reciprocity, and therapeutic practices outside the framework of words. Creating the body map became the thread that participants returned to throughout the three-day process; it was the large manifestation of all other processes, as it was written on, cut, painted, collaged, drawn on in pen, marker, pencil, pastels—it became the culminating project that physically reflected the workshop experience in a life-size image. The processes, such as mindful meditation, mindful movement and mirroring, expressive writing in prose and poetry, the sharing of quotes and mediations that held intention, and eco practices often led participants back to work on the body maps.
These intermodal/multimodal practices closed in the garden with a collective natural mandala and some quotes of reciprocity toward the earth body and self, and all participants reflected on their experience during this three-day process.