By Hillary Rubesin, PhD, LIMHP, REAT
“Draw a dot in the middle of the page.”
I make my mark and await the next instructions.
“Now write about what you see.”
One of my supervisees is testing out an arts-based therapeutic process before presenting it to her clients. I focus on the dot, and my thoughts immediately go to my son—an 18-month-old with various medical issues and developmental delays. I notice fear, anger, sadness, and guilt tightening my throat as the “dot” lodges itself in my windpipe.
I write for a few minutes before my supervisee gently calls me back.
“Did you write about the dot or the space around the dot?”
I pause. I had not even considered the space around the dot. I was so focused on the small, black circle that I never noticed the openness surrounding it.
Intermodal Expressive Arts Therapy is based around the idea that, by transitioning between different art forms—such as music, visual art, drama, writing, and movement—one can gain new and deepened insight. I use intermodal expressive arts therapy in client sessions, in supervision sessions, in my teaching, and in my own personal healing.
A few hours after this particular supervision session, I decide to return to the dot. I explore the image further through Authentic Movement, a somatic practice created by Mary Starks Whitehouse that involves a “mover” moving their body intuitively while a nonjudgmental “witness” observes.
With the paper as my “witness,” I allow my body to engage with the dot. I curl into a ball and give myself permission to fully experience the grief I am holding about my son. Although the feelings are intense and painful, the grieving process almost feels easy. This is a space I’ve occupied many times before.
Far more difficult is braving the space beyond the dot. I move cautiously at first, exploring the outer bounds of the dot with my eyes closed. Surprisingly, the open space is peaceful. There is so much room here. I stretch out. I breathe.
Soon I am on my knees, tentatively crawling around the space, just like my son is still learning how to do. Letting my body take control, I begin “digging” into my carpet, “planting” tiny seeds. I plant seeds everywhere, almost frenetically, and then I sit back, exhausted yet calm. I remain in this liminal space for a few minutes longer, not sure of how or if the seeds will grow.
Suddenly, I notice I am sitting on the imaginal dot. I am able to be in both spaces at once, holding both wonder and fear. I am whole. I am okay.
I sit with that for a moment. I breathe in deeply and think about my son. For the first time in a long time, another voice rises within me: We are okay.
If you are interested in individual therapy, upcoming trainings, and/or professional supervision using intermodal expressive arts therapy, please contact Hillary at email@example.com