Day 7 – Art Therapy with Kat Johnston

by Kat Johnston

So far in this series, this has been the most insightful and emotional session I have received.  I was given a chance to glimpse at a piece of myself, the one most hurt by my eating disorder, and how I relate to it.  Part of Anorexia is a distorted body image, and another is the feeling of emotional powerlessness.  In this session, I was able to look at both of those things side by side in a way that made sense to me and gave me something to work with in my continued recovery.

Kat is a Certified Art Therapist with her Master’s from Drexel University, and energy healer as well. She was a student in my first ever Reiki Master Teacher class, and a co-student in my IET Training with Kelly Morton. We started by discussing my intentions, and I told her how I was nervous about sharing things that have not worked for my recovery-namely Yoga-in this blog (more on that in the next few days).  I’d also started to feel self-conscious about the things I do to adapt to my skewed self-image, like not having a full length mirror or scale in my bathroom.  In retrospect, I think I was beating myself up for not being “better” or “farther along” in my recovery. Not that that is really how it is, just how I felt at the time. Recovery is a life long process, but I was having a rough day-so admittedly, I showed up already somewhat fragile and vulnerable. A very down to Earth and approachable person, I truly feel comfortable with Kat.  We did this session at her apartment, a warm cozy space with a great cup of tea and thankfully plenty of tissues.

The session started with a guided meditation, where I was coached by Kat to visualize myself in a “pod”.  Then, walking up to that “pod” and tearing myself out.    I was shocked at how I saw myself.  I was nude, fat, and filled with shame.  Cowering, I was trying to hide myself with my arms.  I had the saddest face, and was crying.  It was so hard to see myself this way that I immediately visualized long purple shorts on myself to deal with it.   I began furiously tearing the layer upon layer of the pod away, eventually standing face to face with this other me.

The first thing I could think to do was to treat my pod self with Integrated Energy Therapy (IET) and only on the back of the shoulders-it felt like touching the pod me anywhere else would have been far too much for her to bear.  I was much smaller than the pod me, in width and height.  I saw myself as being in a position to do something to help this broken, hurting me; and even though it was difficult to face I felt empowered and helpful in doing so.  The powerlessness began to melt away.

When the meditation ended, I drew what I had seen for Kat.  There was a vast array of art supplies and collage materials for me to choose from and I chose crayons. When the thought crossed my mind to post this picture, at first I thought NO! HELL NO! But as I thought some more, I felt like I was ready to let this go.  That posting this is in its own way cathartic. And I feel good about it now.  Here is my drawing:

My Drawing from Art Therapy

First, please indulge my vanity-my boobs don’t really look like that.  Second-notice the hands on the pod me-there aren’t any.  Kat pointed out that the absence of hands and/or feet shows a feeling of helplessness.  By contrast, the “me” me has very defined feet (the hands are not seen as they are treating the pod me).  I was shocked and hurt by how sad the pod me looked.  As I explained my drawing and what I had seen to Kat I began to cry the kind of tears that make you feel better when you are done.  Kat cried too. I think that made me feel even better-I felt safe being emotional in her presence.  It made the idea of crying more…human.

We also discussed those adaptive things I had done to keep my illness at bay, the lack of mirrors and scales in my house.  Kat pointed out that hey, these things have worked for me-so what’s wrong with them?  She congratulated me on finding solutions that worked.  It totally changed my perspective on that aspect of my recovery-it’s about finding what works, and doing it; and finding what doesn’t, and changing it. I had done this successfully.  These things were not a symptom of my broken-ness, they were small victories in my overall recovery.  It was another way I was helping that pod me, by being compassionate to her needs.

In the days following the session, I’ve reflected on it a lot.  While the drawing shows a very sad, hurting part of me, it also shows a part of me that has made progress, and continues to do so.  I like to think that pod me is sitting up a little straighter, and is a little less sad, than she was when I first met her.  And it feels good to know that I have been the one healing her.

Thank you very much, Kat.  This session was truly powerful for me.  You are GREAT at what you do, please keep doing it!

Kat Johnston

Special thanks to Kat Johnston for this session. Kat is a Certified Art Therapist, Reiki Master/ Teacher, and IET Practitioner.  She received her Masters in Creative Art Therapy from Drexel University in 2007.  She is also an artist and regularly has openings in the greater Philadelphia area.  Kat occasionally holds art therapy group workshops as well. She performs in home sessions in Philadelphia and on the Main Line on a sliding pay scale.

Kat says: “I’ve personally experienced the healing potential and benefit to creating art. Words alone are so limiting. It has been my experience that they do not fully capture nor describe adequately ones inner experiences. It was due to my personal experience of using art in a therapeutic way that motivated me towards becoming an art therapist. I wanted to spread the knowledge and introduce art to others as a tool for their personal growth.”

To schedule your appointment email or call 215.806.5844.  You can visit Kat’s website with a list of art openings as well as services by clicking here.


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