From 2018 to 2019, Mother’s Well offered mothers a confidential and relaxed space for explorative art-making during and after pregnancy. As an art therapist, Sarah offered mindful art sessions to groups and individuals.
How can art therapy of be of support during pregnancy and after the birth of a child?
During pregnancy, women undergo drastic changes both on a physical and psychological level as they prepare for birth and motherhood. As they grow a new sense of self, renegotiate roles, relationships, duties, priorities, and dreams at home, work, and in society, they later care 24/7 for an(other) small human being that shakes them up in manifold ways and challenges their resources, beliefs, expectations, and best intentions. How can art therapy be of support in this particularly transformative phase of their life?
Art therapy offers a non-judgmental space in which all sorts of feelings and thoughts are allowed to take shape in a contained and safe way. Held by the triangular relationship of the therapist, artwork, and client, new or yet-to-be-defined images of oneself and others can be explored in a confidential and reliable environment. Art-making helps relieve stress and anxiety and to reconnect with inner resources, bringing relaxation and joy.
“Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress […],” explains the American Art Therapy Association.
What is the difference between mindful art sessions and art therapy?
Both mindful art and art therapy have healing aspects and serve the wellbeing of the client.
While art therapy, like any other kind of psychotherapy, benefits from the commitment to regular attendance over a specific period of time, mindful art sessions can be booked sporadically.
Mindful art sessions are solution-focussed and directive, which means that the mentor will give prompts and ask questions in order to empower the client to find their own answers and resources in regards to a specific problem.
Art therapy is mainly non-directive which means that although the client and therapist may have agreed on specific goals or areas that need more contemplation, understanding, and integration, the client will decide what materials and subject matter they want to explore in each and every session. Free association and reflection accompany and complete the sessions.
Art therapists are highly qualified and have both broad and specific clinical knowledge. The psychodynamic approach understands the importance of the artwork and that it needs to be kept safe during the time of the therapy. In mindful art sessions, the art work is a tool for communication only and is usually not revisited.
While there is no contract needed for mindful art sessions, the art therapist and client will agree on a contract for the art therapy. The contract will set guidelines for the therapy, such as attendance, confidentiality, art usage and storage, goals and objectives, and informed consent.
During individual mindful art sessions, your facilitator listens to your thoughts and feelings regarding pregnancy, birth and motherhood and guides you with a solution-focussed mindset through purposeful drawing assignments. Here, you are encouraged to explore the changes in your life, to express and reflect on all kinds of emotions as they arise, to find meaning in the questions you may have and to gain strength and calm from the mindful art process.
After the birth of your child, mindful art sessions help you reflect on your experiences of motherhood, explore your new sense of self as well as alternative ways of managing challenging situations and emotions. The art making process functions not only as a mirror of the self but more importantly offers tools to make change happen–on paper and in life!
Mindful art sessions are especially helpful for women who struggle with one or a few specific aspects of motherhood, pregnancy or their birth experience and who would like to target their unresolved feelings and conflicts with a solution-focused mindset.
If you feel a little apprehensive about diving into making art, mindful art will offer you a gentle way to get acquainted with the power of the creative process. Your facilitator will offer guidance through themes and prompts and you’ll experience drawing as a tool for exploration and reflection.
Mindful art groups bring women together that are facing similar challenges associated with pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. The group setting provides the participants with the opportunity to witness and support one another’s unique creative expressions and emotional processes. Members quickly reach a deeper level of authenticity and intimacy through the use of the art material and its innate ability to express ambivalent feelings, hidden beliefs and memories as well as new visions, strengths and resources.
Birth story listening sessions may or may not include art making as a tool of communication, self-discovery and healing. If you struggle with a difficult birth and want to feel differently about your experience, then a birth story listening session may be just what you need. Your facilitator listens to your birth story with a compassionate, mindful and solution-focussed mindset so you can move from confusion and disappointment to transformative emotional healing after birth.
“I am forever grateful for participating in birth art sessions with Sarah while I was pregnant with my son. I don’t consider myself particularly artistic or creative but quickly realized that it didn’t matter. The sessions were fun and enlightening – exactly what I needed to explore my thoughts/feelings on becoming a mother without boundaries or expectations. In discussing my art I was surprised to learn several new things about myself. I know I will continue to reflect on the experience for years to come, as I continue my motherhood journey.”—Lindsay M.
“I really did enjoy the session. I left feeling emotionally lighter than when I went in and have carried that with me. Thank you so much!”—Lacey P.
“Our session really did help me tremendously. I think for me, it was the point of our time together when I switched my thinking, which I had not done before. That instead of remembering and immersing myself in thought patterns of the fear, uncertainty, and lack of preparation for embarking on motherhood (which seemed to be the theme of my whole labor/birth), I have adopted new ways of thinking about the experience. I have felt a lot of healing from transforming my language. By saying, “I brought this child into the world”, which is amazing and such an empowering moment for me. By embracing my role in the process and knowing that I did such a miraculous thing. This transition has completely switched my thoughts of regret or frustration with how the birth went to feeling more content and at peace with the reality of how it went. I have talked about my birth story many, many times, but never in the way I did with you, with a goal and purpose in mind. It really did provide relief in a way that I was not expecting at all. So, thank you so much. I know it will be such a healing and profound experience for other moms that work with you.”—Angela S.
“I do think it has done a lot to have the sessions with Sarah. Sarah is a wonderful listener and I felt witnessed in a powerful way through the process. I feel like my story is integrated in a new way and it has carried over into how I approach the day to day situations where I don’t feel seen or heard. It’s helped me to find my voice and speak up because the work we did together helped me to feel more aware that it is there.”—Lydia T.