Peter S.

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Containment Containment
Credit: Peter S.
Artist Statement and Bio

At the age of 15, during what may have been the most challenging time in my mental health journey, I was fortunate enough to take a ceramics class that profoundly impacted my life. I found myself drawn to the fluidity and plasticity of clay as a material and spent more and more of my time in the studio. Over time, I began to realize that as I worked, my mind seemed to clear temporarily, giving me some distance from my thoughts and feelings. In this sense of cognitive spaciousness, I was able to examine those thoughts and feelings and see patterns in how I reacted to the world around me. I began to understand the complex systems that were my inner world. I continued to take ceramics classes and spend time in the ceramics studio, seeking the calm clarity that clay brought me, and my mental health became considerably more manageable. About a year later I learned about art therapy and, given my recent transformative experience with clay, began to consider this field as a possible career path.

I went to undergrad at Dickinson College and continued to explore my interests in art, primarily ceramics, and psychology as I pursued a double major in studio art and psychology. My artwork became an exploration of the concepts and themes that interested me in my psychology classes. For my senior show I focused my artwork on concepts of identity and memory. As I continued to explore these areas of interest, I became more confident in my pursuit of becoming an art therapist.

Throughout this program, I have grown and explored different aspects of my identity through the development of my identity as a therapist and my exposure to different theories of counseling. My primary theoretical orientation is internal family systems therapy (IFS) which focuses on seeing the mind as being comprised of distinct parts with their own beliefs, emotions, and reactions. These parts are seen as having an overall intent of protecting ourselves from pain or harm. Often these parts cling to roles that may have served us once, but no longer serve us now and cause things like anxiety or self-deprecatory messages in an attempt avoid some kind of pain that we have previously experienced. A large part of IFS is centered around expressing compassion and gratitude for these parts of us and really trying to understand their perceived purpose. As we have transitioned over the last few months to practitioners as well as students I have felt anxiety, imposter syndrome, frustration, and many other emotions from parts who are trying to keep me safe. These pieces are a reflection of the fears, goals, and needs of these parts.