On Our Mind: Thoughts from Mark & Michelle Dean

Integrative Therapeutic Arts Training Presented in China

by Michelle Dean 01-10-2018 | 10:21PDT | Comments (0)


Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP and workshop participants in Beijing, China.

September 15 – 19, 2018  Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, Board Certified Art Therapist, was invited to be a guest presenter in Beijing, China by representatives of China’s top-ranking University, Peking University and The China Institute of Psychology. The five-day workshop provided education and training about art therapy so therapists in China may be able to provide psychological support to their clients through the arts. The forty participants were from Beijing and surrounding areas, including several participants from as far away as Shanghai. As a result of her innovative teaching methods, her original contract of instructing three levels of therapeutic arts for mental health clinicians in Beijing has been expanded to include additional speaking tours in Shenzhen as well as several other engagements in China.

Folded books

Ning, the translator, and Michelle

Jonathan, the translator, and Michelle with a departing gift from the participants.

Exploring group dynamics through art.

Jungian Analyst: Mark Dean Graduates

by Michelle Dean 12-07-2017 | 7:50PDT | Comments (0)


Recent graduates of the Inter-regional Society of Jungian Analysts (IRSJA). Pictured above (left to right): Laura Chapman (Pittsburg), Mary Cody-Leeper (Omaha), Renee Cunningham (Albuquerque), Mark Dean (Philadelphia), John White (Pittsburg)

Congratulations to the recent graduates, including Mark Dean, from the Inter-regional Society of Jungian Analysts (IRSJA) and the Philadelphia Jung Institute (PAJA). As a new Jungian Psychoanalyst, Mark will be taking up the development of his analytic practice, teaching, and lecturing on analytic psychology, conducting supervision, and writing.

Mark’s graduating thesis was titled, Instances and Aspects of Image: A Fairytale Example, which utilized a well-known fairytale to discuss how aspects of image interface with consciousness and direct it towards a deeper understanding of the psyche. Mark passed his cases exam, “with distinction.” In the three case examples offered within the exam, Mark emphasized the central role of image in comprehending the core issues. A number of perspectives were utilized including dreams, fairy tales, film, and poetry as well as the dramatic enactments within the transference and countertransference field.

Why Analysis?

What makes analysis so unique is the emphasis placed on the individual nature of life’s struggles and an understanding of these as potential calls for greater growth and self-realization. Life consists of more than outer circumstances, symptoms, and conditions to overcome. An inner universe exists that asks something of each individual, which is to live more fully and authentically. The analyst is trained to be able to enter into the unique world of the individual, to understand his or her outer experience, and listen carefully to the expressions of their inner nature. The analyst does not judge but engages in discovering the intrinsic meaning and purpose of the individual experiences.


Jung coined the term, “individuation,” to describe the process of growth and self-realization that arises when we take up the task of living a more authentic life. As each of us attempts to find a more fruitful marriage between our outer and inner experiences, it is almost inevitable that conflicts will arise.

Growth Often Begins with Painful Experiences

Analysis teaches us that while conflicts are often experienced by the individual as evidence of failure, personal defect, or weakness, these same elements reflect the stirrings of a birth of a new attitude towards life. A process of renewal and growth, as well as the evolution of a new sense of meaning and purpose almost invariably begins with a painful impasse, an interpersonal conflict, a loss, or debilitating anxiety. In line with Jung’s views,  the individual’s psyche is always striving towards a greater sense of wholeness. Inner resources exist, which are often invisible to the struggling individual. Through the process of analysis, these resources are made more accessible and may be capitalized upon through a relationship with them so that they may find a natural place in life, leading to a more authentic and full life. Rather than erecting barriers to the growth that difficulty often heralds, analysis allows one to embrace his or her nature and to come to know it more fully, thus, reducing suffering.

Analysis is a Unique Process for Each Person

The process of analysis is not a predetermined one but varies with each individual that enters into it as each brings with them their unique history, personality, and means of self-expression. All expressions of psychic life are taken into consideration, such as dreams, fantasy images, life events, relationships, emotions, as well as other factors. The psyche utilizes all of these factors to articulate its nature and purpose. Careful attention to these expressions consistently draws attention to what matters most, the development of a fuller and more deeply meaningful embrace of life. The well-trained analyst assists in this process of growth and discovery, which is, no less than the building of a new relationship to life and oneself.

About the Analyst 

Mark Dean, MFA, MA, ATR-BC, LPC is a Jungian Psychoanalyst and co-founder of The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC with offices in Lansdowne and Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Mark is also an art psychotherapist with credentials as a Registered, Board Certified Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor (PA). Mark has over 25 years of psychotherapy experience and has been active as an educator and lecturer. His work extends well beyond the visual arts, which formed the basis of his early development, to include literature, dreams, mythology, and archetypal patterning in everyday life. He is well versed in a range of theoretical perspectives with an emphasis on a depth orientation.

The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC is an organization devoted to the promotion and understanding of the importance of the arts and imagery in psychological life and work. Mark is taking new clients interested in Jungian Analysis and is currently enrolling group supervision participants.

Art Therapy in the Workplace: Art Benefits Workers

by Michelle Dean 29-05-2017 | 2:24PDT | Comments (0)


Art can be used to enhance the quality of the workplace for individuals as well as teams of professionals, including utilizing art in the workplace as a means of motivation and inspiration. Taking time to doodle, color, or create images can reduce stress, promote relaxation, and help solve problems. Group art therapy assists individuals in better understanding and valuing their peers. While it takes a trained professional to facilitate group therapy, utilizing art in the workplace among teams or departments of workers can help build connections, partnerships, and morale. Art making becomes a means of getting to get to know one another, identify strengths, and build collegial relationships while honoring individuality. Making art in groups may lead to a greater personal investment in the common goals of the work-group or company as well as the development of enhanced cohesion within the workplace, which may result in higher job satisfaction and increased employee retention.

Art Benefits Workers

For some of the same reasons art therapy is an effective treatment for helping clients improve psychological health, cognitive abilities, and sensory-motor functions making art may be utilized in the workplace to reduce stress and anxiety while increasing energy and focus. Time to engage in art making also assists with being able to recognize alternative perspectives, including identifying new problem-solving solutions. As C. G. Jung said, “Often the hands will solve a mystery (problem) that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” This is why art therapy is especially useful in cases where traditional “talk therapy only” psychotherapy has been ineffectual. This is because art involves the brain and the body in ways that verbal language does not.

When work teams get stuck solving a problem or need help with inter- or intra-personal conflicts, the aid of a qualified art therapist can be an useful investment for a company. For example, helping employees connect with others in a meaningful way, see their importance, and feel their value to the company may lead to a greater sense of satisfaction, self-esteem, and pride in their work while decreasing isolation as well as reduce feelings of depression or burnout. Good work alliances lead to great cohesion and more productive group functioning.

Ways to Incorporate Art into a Workday 

Because creativity is an innate drive, in most workplaces, one can observe creative expressiveness among workers. For example, it may be the nurse that adorns herself in the charms of femininity that expresses her capacity for grace and compassion, the cubicle art that evolves into a personal statement, even the garbage truck adorned with the sanitation workers’ found treasures in a portable shrine. All of these betray the need, and an attempt, to bring humanity into what may be at times an alienable work environment, by necessity or design. Employers are wise to draw upon such creative inclinations by inviting staff into creative decisions about the work setting and to provide opportunities to utilize the natural urge to experiment and create a synthesis of new and diverse ideas. After all, creativity is the germ that sparks new ideas and great inventions, which can be very profitable for some companies.

With regards to bringing art into the workplace, it would vary depending on place and situation. For starters, don’t frown on workers doodling at the next staff meeting. Research has shown that doodlers were able to recall 29% more than their no-doodler counterparts. “Drawing, even in a primitive way, often triggers insights and discoveries that aren’t possible through words alone”. As a daily practice, spending 10 – 30 minutes a day, drawing as an opportunity for mindfulness and relaxation can be helpful as it helps to lower blood pressure.

Additional Ways to Bring Artwork to the Workplace:

  • Before the next sale pitch meeting – visualize and depict the meeting in storyboard fashion (with a beginning, middle, and end goals) so clear communication can happen among the sales team. This will increase the likelihood all sales members are on the same page, both figuratively and literally in the artwork.


  • Before entering the meeting with a potential client, your boss, or your employee – Draw what your ideal outcome of this meeting will be. This work prepares you mentally and allows you to focus on what a successful meeting will look like.


  • Utilize a group art project to build better relations and work teams. For example, take a large piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle and let this represent an island. Have the team problem solve what they would do to survive being shipwrecked on a deserted island if each person could only bring three things. This provides an “out-of-the-box” way of looking at a problem and lets each person bring something valuable to the situation, ensuring the group’s survival. Repeat this but instead of bringing survival items, bring each persons’ strengths. The discussion that ensues may reveal untapped resources that would be helpful in increasing productivity.


  • Make a keepsake for a departing staff member – while having the office sign a card is great, creating a collage that reflects the departing member’s strengths and what will be missed added another layer of personalization to the milestone. This can also be done for work anniversaries and for jobs well done – no need to wait until the staff person is leaving to acknowledge how important they are, let them know today.


These suggestions can serve to enhance the workplace experience and bring more humanity to our daily work and does not require special art skills or talent.

Displaying Art in the Workplace

Public art and having quality art in the workplace are about more than just having pretty pictures on the wall; it can be a form of self-help. Alain de Botton said, “Art helps us suffer more successfully.” What he meant by this is life is full of struggle and suffering; it is an inescapable part of our lives. Art offers us a means to hold the beauty and the ugliness of life simultaneously. It allows opportunities to reflect, understand, grow, and hold hope.

Bringing an Art Therapist to your Workplace

I am frequently called upon to help new professionals start their business or make a transition. As a part

 of this consultation, I have clients draw themselves in their ideal business situation. This includes ideal clients, office space, and what it looks like when they come to work. I am always surprised by the number of people who forget to include themselves in their picture of their ideal business situation. As we talk more about their readiness to start their own business, the omission of themselves in their picture often relates back to their fears or inability to be prepared to launch their careers at this time. Our consultation work then continues to be supportive in putting the pieces together to help them succeed and overcome their fears.

I have used art therapy in the workplace to help resolve interpersonal conflicts among team members and well as promoting self-care among nurses and other healthcare professionals who were faced with stressful work situations.

My husband, business partner, and art therapist, Mark Dean, was a consultant for a

postvention situation in which a workplace experienced a violent crime (fatal shooting). Making art with the guidance of a credentialed art therapist helped employees feel safe again by connecting with one another, share their experiences, and feelings about what had occurred. This intervention led to a sense of renewed trust and safety.


If you think your stress or workplace may benefit from professional help, you can find an art therapist through the American Art Therapy Association’s Art Therapy Locator, or your local chapter of the American Art Therapy Association.


About the Author:

michelle-l-dean-photoMichelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP is an art psychotherapist and has over 20 years expertise in treating individuals who struggle with addictions, eating disorders, relationship issues, and traumatic experiences. She co-founded of The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC with two locations in the Philadelphia area. In addition to her clinical practice, she is an author, artist, supervisor, educator, and consultant. She has several publications her credit, including Using Art Media in Psychotherapy: Bringing the Power of Creativity to Practice (Routledge). Her clinical work has been recognized through many distinguished awards but this is the first time she has had her photographs published in a literary-arts journal. She currently serves on The American Art Therapy Association’s Executive Board as Secretary.

© 2017; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM

Visit our website for more information about our servicesworkshops, and training opportunities. Sign up to receive blog posts and newsletters directly to your inbox. Please share this post with anyone who may benefit.


Re-Membering: Putting mind and body back together following a traumatic brain injury

by Michelle Dean 17-01-2017 | 11:50PST | Comments (0)


Book Review

Re-Membering: Putting mind and body back together following a traumatic brain injury

Written by Ann Millett-Gallant

Published by Wisdom House Books

Pb; 111 pages

Reviewed by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP

Re-Membering: Putting mind and body back together following a traumatic brain injury by Ann Millett-Gallant is an honest account of her unabashed and unapologetic determination to recover from a potentially life-threatening brain injury. Ms. Millett-Gallant, a congenital amputee and long-time advocate for disability rights, draws from her persistent desire to not be hemmed in by any physical or societal limitation about what she may accomplish. Her story is as much about overcoming real and perceived obstacles, as it is about trusting her body, and her therapeutic use of art, as it is about her journey to recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Her love of the arts and their integral role in the reconstruction of her life are apparent in her book, as demonstrated by the use of art as a means of piecing, or collaging, the fragments of her life into a cohesive self over time. The inclusion of color illustrations created both on her own and in art therapy sessions with her art therapist, and my friend and colleague the late, Ilene Sperling reflect the careful re-collection and mirroring process of her transformation. Ms. Millett-Gallant draws from her background in Art History to find inspiration from such historic artists who have overcome physical suffering as Frida Kahlo but sadly does not include these paintings in her book when she speaks of such works.

As many as 1.6 million people suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury every year (CDC, 2017a). TBIs cause 30% of all injury deaths and in 2010, 2.5 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations, or deaths were associated with TBI – either alone or in combination with other injuries in the United States (CDC, 2017b). Ms. Millett-Gallant’s memoir, told from her perspective about her experience, could have been made stronger by the inclusion of her family member’s emotional experiences immediately after her injury and during her early recovery. As cited by Ms. Millett- Gallant, “When one member of a family sustains a brain injury, the treatment, and rehabilitative process inevitably becomes a family affair” (Cassidy, 2009, p. 12). Because she was unconscious much of this time, she relied medical records, photographs her mother took, and accounts made by her friends and family of her treatment to describe the procedures but these accountings seemed sterile considering the emotional volatility that often follows in the wake of such a life-threatening event. Understandably, Ms. Millett-Gallant does not have memory of the accident or her initial recovery as she was in an induced coma or her memory was impaired by the injury.

As a legal guardian of a family member who suffered a TBI, whose outcome was not as favorable as Ms. Millett-Gallant’s, I found her characterization of her family’s reactions to her struggle a bit wanting. She comes across as lacking empathy for the way her own injury impacted those around her, particularly her father. I found myself reliving the pain, fear, and real financial burden of being the caretaker for a TBI survivor: an all-consuming responsibility that swallowed not only me but also other family members including my spouse and young children due traveling, months spent in hospitals and brain injury rehabs, and ultimately nursing homes as well as the time spent navigating the medical and legal systems associated with a suddenly, disabled person. Managing one’s life while picking up the pieces of someone else’s was like running at a full sprint while spinning plates on sticks. I found myself especially moved by, Ms. Millett-Gallant’s conflict with her father over his need to know if she had been drinking when she fell from her scooter as she toured wine country in California with a friend while uninsured and wanted to hear more about the heartfelt struggle that she and her family grappled with adjusting to a new normal. It is without a doubt that her loved ones fought their own battle through the labyrinth of hospitals, healthcare, disability, legal, and insurance agencies on Ms. Millett-Gallant’s behalf, while she fought valiantly and courageously for her life and ultimate recovery.


Cassidy, J. W. (2009). Mindstorms: The complete guide for families living with traumatic brain injury. Philadelphia: PA, DA Capo Press.

Center for Disease Control (2017a). Basic Information about Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion retrieved on January 14, 2017 at

Center for Disease Control (2017b). TBI: Get the Facts. retrieved on January 14, 2017 at

TBI Resources for Health Care Providers:


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© 2017; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM


Book Arts as a Therapeutic Tool

by Michelle Dean 05-12-2016 | 2:15PST | Comments (0)


“Writing books is better than planting vines, for he who plants a vine serves his belly, but he who writes a book serves his soul” — Alcuin (ca. 735–804), an English scholar, poet, and teacher

Artist's books © Michelle DeanBooks have been deemed one of the most valuable kinds of art objects in the history of mankind due to their ability to contain some of our most cherished cultural and personal thoughts and ideas. The value of books has been evidenced by their ability to command extremely high prices at art auctions, including the c. 1180 Gospels of Henry the Lion, an elaborate work made for the Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, which sold in 1983 at a Sotheby’s auction for a record £8,140,000 (approximately $15,000,000) to the German government. It held the world record for the highest price ever paid for an art object until three years later when Van Gogh’s Sunflowers was sold. It was the Leicester Codex, a bound manuscript of Leonard da Vinci that fetched a record 30.8 million dollars, the highest price ever paid for a book when it sold at auction to Bill Gates in 1994 (Baer, n.d). The value of books transcends their material worth and ability to command high prices at art auctions. Books are highly valued because they provide spaces for sacred texts, illuminated scriptures, transfers of knowledge, and recordings of personal and communal narratives across generations. They hold individual, community, and cultural legacies and create cultural bridges over time and people.

Myths are collective stories; myths are our personal stories. Myths carry historical knowledge and personal details. The stories we tell about our lives, of the events and people, of the sensations and emotions, are the myths we create in order to tell us who we are. Narrative is how we understand the world as it is intertwined with emotion, context, and imagery. Memory is construed and recalled through a narrative framework and is plastic and flexible in the telling and retelling of a story. Emotion, memory, and story combine to create a truth, even if it is a fictional truth. Body sensations are empathically experienced when telling or listening to an experience, even if not as profoundly as originally experiencing the event. We have visceral reactions to the telling and the witnessing and re-witnessing of a story. We create internal images for the story as it is told. Author Siri Hustvedt (2011) said, “Writing fiction is like remembering what never happened.” Memory and imagination partake of the same mental process as emotion and are central to storytelling in literature and psychoanalysis (Hustvedt, 2011).

Memory and art are inexorably entwined. Remembering is not the same as perceiving because we need concepts, context, and language to name and to bring to mind images. These mental images are now popular in neuropsychological vernacular and are called neural representations.

Within the image are mythical stories. Myths create balance, clarity, and adjustments, making events correspond to the inner necessities of things. The tension between dichotomies—good/evil, black/white, positive/negative, active/passive—gives ambivalent power. The psyche is often invisible without awareness of mythological images because, without them, we are unable to manifest the psyche’s origins, structure, and transformations. The myth, or story, gives voice to the psyche; the book provides a vessel for the voice. “Great books endure because they help us interpret our lives” (Olmert, 1992, p. 299). They offer solace by our knowing so many have come before us and written down their experiences. 

Nine Therapeutic Applications for Book Arts:

  • Containment
  • Ordering & organizing – chronological order 1
  • Myth-minding – refers to the ability to think freely, to know what we know, and to know what we do not yet know. 
  • Recollection
  • Mirroring
  • Memory – Recall & life retrospect
  • Recreating a narrative
  • Permanence – can be retrieved years after its creation
  • Objective – creates distance to reflect upon


Books have the ability to promote myth-minded thinking and development. Like other forms of art, they provide a place for projection and objectification. Books provide a place for recollection, mirroring of life’s events, and memories, as in their unwavering ability to concretely recall past events and provide a life’s retrospection. Through creative narrative picture making and writing, a book can tell and retell a part of a life story. The value of a book that has endured the ages remains unfettered by time; it is a permanent record, an archival account, of aspects of the psyche that live on beyond the life of the individual. In addition, books offer containment. They have covers and pages that can be opened and closed as one desires. Contents can be revealed or concealed by a flip of the page. Additionally, books offer order and a built-in organizing device as most books move in a sequential fashion. Pages turn, one preceding after another. The complexity of order can be increased by adding pockets or additional foldout flaps and signatures to the book, but it still has an order.

In telling our story in a book created in therapy, through images and words, we make the truth of our thoughts, our words, and our images known and seen by us. This is a way of recollecting and retelling our struggles and triumphs. It is a way of mirroring our life contemporaneously and a way to be nostalgic about memory that we recall from the past.

Using Art Media in PsychotherapyFor more information about using book arts in therapy, see Using Art Media in Psychotherapy, Bringing Creativity to Practice.

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© 2016; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM



The 2016 Expressive Therapies Summit

by Michelle Dean 29-11-2016 | 3:56PST | Comments (0)


Mark and Michelle have been teaching in NYC! The 2016 Expressive Therapies Summit was held November 10 – 13 in New York City. This conference addressed the healing arts in art, drama, music, writing, psychodrama, dance, sand and play therapy. This rich format included daylong intensives, master classes, workshops, community events, symposiums, and papers. Mark and Michelle were both honored faculty at this year’s Summit. Mark co-lead a panel presentation, and Michelle facilitated a workshop and a master class.

On Friday, Mark was a part of a day-long panel entitled Jungian Archetypal Approaches to Creativity and the Arts for Healing. His co-presenters included the esteemed Jordan S. Potash, Ph.D., ATR-BC, REAT, LCAT, Chair, Fanny Brewster, Ph.D., MFA, LP, Mark Dean MA, ATR-BC, LPC, Sondra Geller, MA, ATR, LPC, LCPAT, and Maria Taveras, LCSW 

In this daylong symposium, Jungian analysts and art therapists discussed their work as it relates to Jungian psychology. Ther focus had an emphasis on making this information relevant to clinical work with clients in the expressive therapies. The panel speakers and the topics were selected to appeal to those who are new to Jungian ideas as well as those with more advanced training. Although primarily didactic, the day included some hands-on exercises and small-group discussions. Participants were encouraged to identify how they can incorporate the concepts presented into their daily work in clinical, educational, and community settings. 


On Saturday, Michelle facilitated the workshop entitled, “Sacred Creations: Ex-votos and 

img_5102devotional art in psychotherapy,” in which participants explored devotional paintings and objects, in historically and culturally sensitive ways. The ex-voto and its significant ability to express gratitude for surviving traumatic events were given particular attention as participants engaged in their devotional art experience.

In the day-long master class on Sunday, “Cultivating the Quest: Embodying the Hero of Your Life,” Michelle led participants on a journey of exploring the iconic elements of the Hero’s journey, as described by mythologist, Joseph Campbell, and other storytellers. Participants utilized this framework for writing a personal Hero’s Journey informed by image-making through writing and art. Michelle said, “It was truly an honor to hold the space for these mystical and transformational spaces and the inspirational work done within the context of these workshops.”img_5109

Mark and Michelle were sincerely appreciative of the opportunity to be faculty members at the 2016 Expressive Arts Therapies Summit. If you would like Mark or Michelle to visit your area for an educational experience, please contact us at 


© 2016; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM

Visit our website for more information about our servicesworkshops, and training opportunities. Sign up to receive blog posts and newsletters directly to your inbox. Please share this post with anyone who may benefit.


Art Therapy and Adolescents

by Michelle Dean 15-11-2016 | 6:43PST | Comments (0)


Adolescence can be a challenging time in a child’s development, but when losses, adjustment issues, or trauma affect the child, it makes it all the more difficult. Teenagers often feel self-conscious, under stress, and shut down. Sometimes teenagers in traditional talk therapies fail to feel engaged. Imagery and art tap into our earliest ways of understanding the world, they invigorate and give a voice at times when language is inaccessible. Art combined with an empathic therapeutic relationship can bridge resistance and offer outlets to painful emotions and provide creative problem solving to life’s challenges.

Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor, Michelle Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP was recently invited to speak to clinicians at Reading Hospital about her use of art therapy and adolescents. Her presentation helped clinicians understand critical developmental issues of adolescence and how art and imagery-based interventions support the sometimes, rocky transition from childhood to adulthood through a powerful means. Below are some of the discussion points that were shared. 

Critical milestones of adolescence include:

  • Time of transition and individuation
  • Time of self-absorption and self-reflection – a part of identity formation
  • Increased dependence on peers
  • Pulling away from parents
  • The ability to understand abstract concepts – Starting around the age of 12, the cognitive ability to think abstractly forms as result of brain development.


Often teenage development is asynchronous, with varying degrees of maturity in interpersonal relationships among peers, teachers, and parents. Although the adolescent may appear physically developed, emotional or cognitive development, especially judgment, may lag behind. These differences are normal and usually temporary but become intensified under pressures of academics, peer and family relationships, and stressful situations such as conflicts and trauma. The difference between expectations for the young adult and his or her capabilities can lead to frustration for the adolescent and for those who care about him or her. The struggle for independence and individuation is real with frequent vacillations between wanting to take care of things independently versus having support or being cared for by others. This is often confusing as loved ones struggle to find how much and when to help the adolescent.

Art therapy is a good development fit for adolescents because:

  • It can be a pleasurable experience
  • It stimulates a desire to express – “Make their mark.” This can be seen in the repetition of writing’s one name as well as in graffiti often done by young adults. 
  • Imagery is an extension of memory and conceptualization processes – If we can see it, we can better remember it.
  • Metaphoric and mythical language is crucial – it allows for fantasy and role-playing. With increased abstract abilities, language and imagery can be metaphoric and no longer literal. Art created in therapy can hold many meanings simultaneously. 
  • It is a way of communicating that, which is both objective and subjective. It is a way of seeing both the external world and one’s inner world and helps facilitate understanding of the intersection of the two experiences. 
  • It represents multiple perspectives and relationships at once – It is a polyvalent method.
  • It is both tangible and permanent – growth can be seen and recorded over time and is undeniable due to the permanent nature of the work. It can be visited again because it is tangible and concrete. 
  • When combined in a group context, it assists with interpersonal relationships and absorbs the sometimes, angry, and at times, defiant stance that is common in adolescence.
  • Art making in therapy provides structure so the adolescent may thrive.


Art Therapy: When to refer an adolescent

Knowing when to seek help through the specialized care of an art therapist, includes: 

  • When concerns about abuse, depression, lack of self-esteem, eating disorders, social or academic struggles or failure
  • When there is limited abilities or resistance to verbal interventions
  • When a more action-oriented therapy is needed


About the Author:

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 12.06.47 PMMichelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP is a board certified art therapist, licensed professional counselor, and certified group psychotherapist who co-founded of The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC (, a clinical practice and professional continuing educational center, with two locations in the Philadelphia area. She works with individuals who struggle with addictions, eating disorders, relationship issues, and survivors of traumatic experiences. In addition to her clinical practice, she is an author, supervisor, educator, and consultant. She has been an Adjunct Professor at Arcadia University since 1997 and has several publications to her credit, including her book, Using Art Media in Psychotherapy: Bringing the Power of Creativity to Practice. Her work has been recognized through many distinguished awards, including the prestigious Honorary Life Member Award from Delaware Valley Art Therapy Association and the American Art Therapy Association’s 2015 Pearlie Roberson Award. She serves on Executive Board of The American Art Therapy Association as the elected Secretary.


Blos, P. (1962). On adolescence. New York: The Free Press.

Dean, M. L. (2016). Using art media in psychotherapy: Bringing the power of creativity to practice. New York: Routledge.

Dean, M. L. (2008). Preserving the self: Treating eating disordered individuals who self-injure with art therapy (pp. 56-82). In Brooke, S. (Ed). Creative arts therapies with patients who have eating disorders. New York: Charles C. Thomas.

Isis, P. (October 2007). Using Art Therapy with Troubled Adolescents. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Arts Therapy, 2, 1, 1-33.

Riley, S. (2001). Art therapy with adolescents. Western Journal of Medicine, 175, 1, 54-57.

Riley, S. and Malchiodi, C. (1994). Integrative approaches to family art therapy. Chicago: Magnolia Press.

Rubin, J. A. (1984). Child art therapy. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.


© 2016; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM

Visit our website for more information about our servicesworkshops, and training opportunities. Sign up to receive blog posts and newsletters directly to your inbox. Please share this post with anyone who may benefit.


Memorial Day: Families and the Silent Sacrifice of Suicide

by Michelle Dean 30-05-2016 | 11:57PDT | Comments (0)


Some injuries sustained in war are not immediately fatal; instead, they linger and fester like a parasite consuming its host and infecting those closest to him.

This Memorial Day, as we remember and give thanks for the great sacrifices our military and their families have made, I would also like to remember those who have fallen not just by active duty but also from suicide. Servicemen and women who have taken their lives, leave a complicated wake for which there is no monument or recognition of valor but instead leave a ghostly vacuum in which families often grieve alone, isolated or ashamed, and its effects can last for generations. This has been shown in research related to veterans and survivors of war and trauma. I also know because my family is one such family that has experienced the intergenerational effects of suicide.

It is estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide each day according to a report from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, ABC reports. While veterans have a suicide rate 50% higher than those who did not serve in the military, the rate of suicide was, as the LA Times reported, “…slightly higher among veterans who never deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, suggesting that the causes extend beyond the trauma of war.” The rates were highest during the first three years out of the military; this was assumed due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was not identified until after the Vietnam War but other contributing factors impact the transition to civilian life. One such example that Junger identifies in his book, Tribe: On homecoming and belonging, is the abrupt transition combat veterans find themselves missing the incredibly intimate bonds of platoon life. He says that it is the loss of closeness that comes at the end of deployment may explain the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today even if they have not experienced active combat. I suspecIMG_4325t, it was the adjustment and loss of tribe, coupled with early childhood trauma that contributed to my uncle Dale’s death in 1972; suicide is always a constellation of complex factors.

Dale came to my grandparents’ home as a scrawny, boy dressed in a threadbare, cowboy shirt at the age of six. Taken from, or surrendered by, his biological mother as a very young child, he spent much of his early childhood in foster homes until he was placed with an elderly couple in a nearby town in western Kansas. Shortly after coming to live with them, they died, within three months of each other, right before Christmas. He was placed again, this time with my grandparents who were seeking a boy to round out their family of two girls, one who was also adopted. He arrived at my grandparent’s home only with a small parcel of belongings that included a tiny suitcase and several Christmas gifts that had been carefully wrapped by his late parents before their sudden deaths. Over the years, his petite frame grew into tall, lanky teenager who was to carry on working the family faIMG_4327rm. But when the Vietnam War started he enlisted in the Navy.

Dale was stationed on a battleship but what happened during his tour of duty is unknown to me; he didn’t talk about it or if he did, not with anyone that wanted to discuss the “ugliness of war.” Like many men returning from Vietnam, he was met with confusion and misunderstanding. Confusion about the political and cultural unrest that accompanied it and misunderstanding about the complexity that many returning vets faced in their struggle to reintegrate into society and deal with their post-traumatic stress, a nascent psychological disorder at the time.

After months of struggling to fit in and return to farming life, Dale was unable to stay focused, find meaningful work, adequate support or happiness. So one bleak, winter day as the blanket of the north artic wind of swept this small, rural community, he drove his car IMG_4326to an empty field near the country airstrip, placed a gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. He was 23.

As a result, my grandparents buried the only son they had known and his sisters were devastated; they could not speak about their pain due to the shame of the suicide they experienced. One of his distraught sisters was my mother. I, an infant niece, lived with the reverberations of these events. I tell this story as means of remembering my uncle Dale, and all the men and women who have so bravely served our country and for the sometimes silent, scarifies they and their families have made.



About the Author: Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM is a Board Certified Art Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Certified Group Psychotherapist in the Philadelphia area working with families who have been affected by trauma, addictions, eating disorders, and suicide. The effects of trauma do not know intergenerational boundaries, nor do they have to be loved ones’ burden to carry alone.

© 2016; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM

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Printmaking and the Psychological Aspects of the Reflective Process

by Michelle Dean 19-10-2015 | 6:05PDT | Comments (0)


HiResPrintmaking can be a source of fascination and challenge that requires an indirect way of working (Hurwitz & Day, 2001). To create a print is to weave the artist’s experience and perception, insight, and differentiation into one (Neumann, 1974). In order to create a print, something must be done to one substance in order for another to emerge, like an alchemical process, there is a series of steps that must be undertaken that lend themselves to the process to a ritualistic method. These steps also help to create distance from the final outcome, so many times, the self-consciousness of the accuracy of a shape or object to be portrayed is minimized during the process due to the seeming disconnect from the final picture. The details associated with shading, more appropriate to drawing, are not needed in the print-making process, but in the place of this perceived limitation comes the power of strong impact images made through simplification and contrast (Hurwitz & Day, 2001).


Many printmaking processes employed in therapy result in reversed images. This reversal may Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 8.40.24 AMchange or distort one’s original composition, intentionally or unintentionally (Dean, 2016a). When one is printing letters and words, reversals can lead to illegibility or a kind of coding. The image is printed in reverse, “so any handwriting has to be done backwards and thus already feels as if one were writing in secret code” [italics original to source] (Nissen, 2008, p. 19). This secret code writing can be seen in many of Leonardo da Vinci’s journals, which was meant to be both a challenging mind exercise and a protective measure to keep his inventions safe from potential theft (Chastel, 1961). Reversed writing in a print can be seen in a mirror, setting the writing into a legible form.

Reversal is also considered a defense mechanism; its primary purpose is to defend or hold emotional and cognitive dissonance. The dissonance arises when there are two or more conflicting beliefs and results in exceptional discomfort because there is often no way to reconcile these states of being. For example, in Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Grapes, the fox rejects the grapes after being unsuccessful in obtaining them. In this retelling of the tale, one can see how the rejection of the unobtainable is illustrated (Dean, 2016b).

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 9.03.23 PMA fox, feeling very hungry, made his way to the vineyard, where he knew he would find a hearty bounty of grapes. In the vineyard, the glistening grapes cascaded in the sun and made him all the more hungry.

Upon this sight, he was overwhelmed with joy as he licked his lips, although his elation was short-lived. Try, Try, Try as he might, the grapes were just beyond his reach. At last exhausted by his efforts, he turned away in disgust remarking, “Anyone who wants them can have them; they are too sour for my taste.”

It is easy to disregard, strongly dislike, or hate what one is unable to obtain, which is both the moral of this story and the protective function of the psychological process of reversal. The reversal expresses the opposite of what is desired, calling the grapes too sour even though they were very much desired.

Jung stated, “There can be no doubt, either, that realization of the opposite hidden in the unconscious—the process of “reversal”—signifies reunion with the unconscious laws of our being, and the purpose of the reunion is attainment of conscious life or, expressed in Chinese terms, the realization of the Tao” (CW 13:30). Tao is considered the path or way of life and signifies the fundamental nature of the universe and its primordial essence. It is a part of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion and is a way of creating harmony with one’s will or nature, coming into being or enlightenment or experiencing an aliveness. This aliveness can also be experienced as the tension that is created in the printmaking process. By engaging in art making, such as one of the many forms of printmaking in a therapeutic context with a qualified art therapist, one can benefit from psychological insight into some of the many underlying processes that manifest in daily life because life is a creative process and art reflects life. 

Marbled cloth - printmaking technique

Marbled cloth – a printmaking technique done at a workshop offered at The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC


Chastel, A. (1961). The genius of Leonardo da Vinci: Leonardo da Vinci on art and the artist. New York, NY: The Orion Press.

Dean, M. L. (2016a). Printmaking: Reflective and Receptive Impressions in the Therapeutic Process. In D. Gussak & M. Rosal [Eds.]. The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Dean, M. L. (2016b).Using Art Media in Psychotherapy: Bringing the Power of Creativity to Practice. New York: Routledge. 

Hurwitz, A. & Day, M. (2001). Children and their art: Methods for the elementary school. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers.

Jung, C. G. (1967). Alchemical studies (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Series Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 13, 2nd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (Original work published 1957).

Neumann, E. (1974). Art and the creative unconscious: Four essays. Bollingen Series LXI. Translated from the German by Ralph Manheim. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Nissen, D. (2008). Stalking the feral artist: A series of monoprints in which the artist has an unforeseen encounter with Habuman. Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche, 2, 4, 17–33.


Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 6.02.36 PM© 2015; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM and is an excerpt from Using Art Media in Psychotherapy: Bringing the Power of Creativity to Practice

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Art as a Universal Experience: A Dichotomy in Art Expression

by Michelle Dean 01-10-2015 | 9:21PDT | Comments (0)


iStock_000005937140MediumArt is a universal process among children in cultures around the world and is something that all adults possess the capacity for into old age. All people may call themselves artists if they create artwork, reserving the term professional artist for those who receive money for their work. Developmentally, there is a universally accepted progression of art-making skills and schema that coincide with physical, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones; these include such typical shapes as a circle, cross, square, and rectangle (Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1987). The content of a child’s drawing often times focuses on certain motifs (e.g., trees, houses, or people) and is significantly correlated with gender. But equally as important as the content is the manner in which it is created.

It is accepted that exceptions or deviations from typical artistic milestones in children may be attributed to personal factors, such as the two psychological types: visual (ideoplastic) and haptic (physioplastic) types of creative expression (Read, 1966). Although one type does not create superior artists, it is important to note the type because it produces a significant difference in presentation and aesthetic.

Therefore, there is a natural dichotomy in art expression in children based on these two types. The visual type represents items in artwork close to the way they appear in space with attention to nuance and realism, much like a spectator, while the haptic type tends to display expressiveness, including exaggerations, related to internal somatic sensations and emotionality (Lowenfeld, 1965; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1987; Read, 1962, 1966). According to Read (1966) these types were first recorded by Vernworn in 1914, who noted correlations for the visual type with concerns about conceptualization, and for the haptic type with sensations of the body; this idea is similar to Kühn’s imaginative and sensorial types described in 1923.

So for parents, teachers, and those who work with children in helping professions it is important to understand that there are innate differences in children’s works of art and one type should not be valued over another type but instead appreciated for their unique attributes and qualities that they hold.


Lowenfeld, V. (1965).The nature of creative activity. London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Lowenfeld, V., & Brittain, W. L. (1987). Creative and mental growth (8th ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co.

Read, H. (1962). The meaning of art. London: Faber & Faber Limited.

Read, H. (1966). Psychology of art. Encyclopedia of world art (Vol. XI). London, England: McGraw-Hill Publishing.

Vernworn, M. (1914). Ideoplastische Kunst. Mill Valley CA: Enthnographic Arts Publications.


© 2015; All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLMScreen Shot 2015-09-13 at 6.02.36 PM and is an excerpt from Using Art Media in Psychotherapy: Bringing the Power of Creativity to Practice.


Visit our website for more information about our servicesworkshops, and training opportunities. Sign up to receive blog posts and newsletters directly to your inbox.