WRITING, PSYCHOTHERAPY & CREATIVITY

If you follow my blog you will know that this page is brand spanking new. I’ll start with a confession. I have a secret life. Not an intentional secret, but recently a dear friend commented that I seem to keep my two occupations separate in the public eye. He was right. The two pursuits which consume my days have been compartmentalised. Until now. This is a coming out tale in which I declare my two passions: creative writing, and psychotherapy. Where I discuss how one informs and feeds the other, while drawing a connecting thread between psychotherapy and my writing practice: the creative nature underpinning both endeavours.

I split my weekdays in halves. A typical working day starts early. Decked out in my oh-so-glamorous trackies, Iike Adam Ant, I’ll be up and ready for a 4-5 hour stint of writing which invariably includes at some point a forty-five minute walk by my local creek. While out walking, I’ll sometimes call family or friends, although usually the walk is the perfect means for teasing out elements of a story, or bits of life. At around 12.30pm, I tear myself from the laptop, dispense with the trackie splendour then quickly morph into my other guise as relationship counsellor and psychotherapist, and then zip across to the Hartington Centre where I’ll see clients until 8pm. For over twenty years I have worked with scores of courageous people earnestly questing insights into various pockets of their lives that are creating havoc or grief of some sort. Primarily I work with individuals most of whom would fit the definition ‘the worried well’ – every day folk like you and me – whilst approximately a third of my practice are couples. Each week I also spend time in a women’s refuge where I see young women from all walks of life who have been traumatised at the hands of others.

Some background info: In my late thirties before turning my hand to psychotherapy my income had been derived designing and constructing headpieces and matching neck-wear for the bridal market. Early in my career as a psychotherapist I recall walking through a forest with a close friend, also a therapist and in a past life a potter, which meant we both came from creative backgrounds. On this particular day as we made our way around the lapping puddles submerging a dirt track (deluges of rain weren’t unusual two decades ago), I asked my friend if she missed the creative life. Her adamant response? ‘Goodness, no! Every single session with a client is a work of art.’ Her words were a gift I have revisited many times, even shared them with my students during various counselling degrees. Therapists may not get to see the end result of their collaborative work – the gorgeous oil portrait on the wall; the chunky silver bracelet on a tanned wrist – nevertheless, every working hour with a client is unique. At the close of our work together we say Goodbye, I wish you well, and trust that what we have achieved together bears delicious fruit. Or some form of harvest. A reconciliation, or a recalibration. These levels of investigation require great courage and honesty.

People are sometimes intimated by the word ‘creative’ – especially if they don’t identify as creative. The I don’t have a creative bone in my body! scenario. Without a seemingly obvious ‘passion’ or creative expression or outlet they may feel deficient, inadequate, or wrong somehow. Preconceptions and biases around what it means to be ‘creative’ can often cause angst. It feels excluding. But what if the act of creativity could be redefined as our ability to be curious? After all, curiosity is one of the evidenced-based markers of brain health. In this scenario our willingness to stretch our current edges and limitations whilst simultaneously extending awareness renders creativity accessible and inclusive to all.

Both the art of psychotherapy and creative writing demand buckets if not swimming pools of curiosity, and a willingness to navigate unchartered waters. In psychotherapy it is the willingness to open our minds to tease out old paradigms and outmoded beliefs that – although the process can be challenging – is profoundly creative. Expanding our awareness and shifting our perceptions is akin to opening a doorway into our brain and allowing a whole new picture to drop into place. Like turning the lens on a kaleidoscope. These seismic shifts are the ultimate in creativity. After all, isn’t the goal and pursuit of the creative arts one of stretching our current edges and limitations? A psychotherapist is a craftsperson, continually honing their skill set.

Likewise, as a writer my task is to notice the ordinary moments that constitute a day: an overheard conversation; an intriguing or sad or challenging or frightening exchange. Of themselves such moments are mere anecdotes rather than conventional short stories with a beginning, middle and end. Donning my writer’s hat, my challenge is to exploit these observations (the extraordinary within the ordinary) and construct a way to embed them within a fabricated story thereby crafting a universally relatable narrative that aims to shift perceptions. In both writing and in psychotherapy the act of creativity might best be defined as tapping into something greater than our current reality.

And now it occurs to me that the reason until now I have corralled these two areas of my life is the underlying belief that the two are not unrelated. I no longer think this. In the spirit of transparency here is the link to my ‘other’ life (psychotherapy).

That’s it for now but do stay tuned as I will be adding to this page. If you have enquiries about counselling, please feel free to email @ julietwohig@iprimus.com.au

 

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