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The Artistic Dance of Therapy: My Journey with ADHD and Art Therapy

Since embarking on my career as an art therapist, I've grappled with the delicate balance between art and therapy. It's a unique duality: being both an artist and a therapist. Often, these identities seem to clash, tempting me to lean towards more traditional therapeutic interventions over art-making. Yet, time and again, the profound impact of art in my work reaffirms its indispensable role.

My personal revelation of having ADHD came after I stepped into the world of art therapy. It was hardly a surprise. This discovery illuminated my struggles in choosing between art and therapy, revealing what I initially saw as a career-long conflict to be more akin to a dynamic dance between the two.

When I opened Kindred Art Therapy, I did so with a commitment to this intertwined identity. This decision has been immensely rewarding. Art, coupled with therapy, has not only been fulfilling for me but has also resonated powerfully with my clients, particularly those navigating ADHD, autism, or anxiety.

Art-making is often an unconscious mirror of the mind. Each image, unbeknownst to the creator, carries associations and reflects thought patterns that extend beyond the therapy room. This microcosmic view of a client’s world through their art offers insightful gateways into their thinking patterns and narratives, revealing areas ripe for change or acceptance.

Take, for instance, a recent breakthrough in an ADHD art therapy session. My client, previously experienced in therapy and seeking deeper insights into his patterns and a more joyful life, engages in virtual therapy. He presented a landscape of mountains during our online session, symbolizing 'insurmountable' challenges. The arid nature of these mountains, a detail he hadn't consciously intended, mirrored his emotional state more accurately than he realized. By dissecting each element and choice in his artwork, we could validate his experiences and uncover underlying perfectionistic tendencies. This session wasn't just about understanding his drawing; it was about reimagining his narrative, reducing self-imposed suffering, and discovering new perspectives.

Another enlightening experience this week involved a different virtual client. Following my instructions for a mindful ritual to start, she chose a color and allowed shapes to develop naturally, guided by automatic thought. The image she created was a vivid representation of her emotional state and her fear of the dark. Through the art-making process, she engaged with this emotion in a safe context, learning that it was manageable. Since our exposure-based sessions, she has reported a significant decrease in her fears of the dark and being alone at home.

These stories highlight the versatility of art therapy, even in a virtual setting. It demonstrates that the therapeutic power of art is not confined to the studio; it can be profoundly effective from the comfort of one's home.

Art therapy, especially for individuals with ADHD, is more than a therapeutic tool. It’s a medium of self-expression and self-discovery, a space where mental hurdles can be visualized, understood, and reinterpreted. In the dance of art and therapy, each step is a move towards understanding, acceptance, and change.

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