Drawing the Line: Art Therapy with the Difficult Client is intended for all who have felt frustration when faced with a resistant or difficult client. In my experience as a practicing therapist, supervisor, and lecturer I have had the opportunity to listen to a myriad of clinicians discuss this very topic. What defines the difficult client? Is there a set of criteria that can be applied to the whole of the population? One common definition that fits each individual?
In fourteen years of clinical practice that singular definition has remained elusive. Instead, what I have found is a common reaction or affectladen response centered on the therapist’s exasperation. A feeling of helplessness sometimes embedded in anger, at other times couched in pleas for assistance. A threat to the clinician’s own confidence. At this point, we have become not only the transference object but also an object of countertransference: A response to the patient-therapist interaction based on emotional feelings.
So now the question takes on further complexity. How can we as clinicians provide opportunities of growth for both our clients and ourselves? One answer is art psychotherapy.
As a psychodynamic therapist I believe development is epigenetic and take note of the unconscious processes that drive the individual as he or she maneuvers through his or her environment. As an art psychotherapist, I have learned to interpret these unconscious and repetitious symbols. Thus, the visual experience takes the place of language as a nonverbal means of communication. A picture always speaks the truth. Regardless of age or ability, art never lies. It may reveal only one side, one moment within the here and now, one facet, but that facet is the truth.
To that end I invite each reader to participate in a brief and very personal expression, for without looking within ourselves how are we to help others? Without understanding there can he no growth.