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REINVIGORATING THE SPIRIT

The quest for beauty/truth is a path to liberation and joy. Early existential analysts sought an "aesthetic dimension" in their relationship with patients. Here aesthetics refers to how someone with a love of beauty or the fine arts goes about their business, e.g., sensing, feeling, etc. As when we first share part of our deeper selves, then are privileged to see and hear the client undergo a sudden, unexpected transformation, it is what ultimately enables healing to occur.

Art critic Harold Rosenberg described the canvas in Action Painting as "an arena to act in." In the aesthetics of healing, the image of the client is also an arena for action. Moreover, many of the same kinds of considerations apply, e.g., "How does this client appear to me at this moment?" "What can I do to modify that appearance?" etc. Techniques include taking your body with you, looking for presence, staying on the surface, asking "obvious" questions, working all over at once, creating a feedback loop, risking, teaching the client to play, paying attention to small details, yielding, allowing something to emerge, "getting it right," etc.

The aesthetics of healing represents the integration of such arts in therapy as painting, theater and dance. It enables the therapist to engage clients, then mentor their progress. At the same time, it is a way of bringing about significant changes then and there, and of being absolutely certain those changes have occurred. It epitomizes the author's "artist-therapist."

This approach is particularly effective in working with adults suffering from psychosomatic illness; artists and other extraordinarily creative people who may be somewhat isolated in their creativity; those who are anxious, depressed, emotionally blocked, or socially inhibited; and young people prone to violence to others or themselves.

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Written by Steve Ross, PhD, Certified Expressive Therapistreg

2002, 2003
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