Ability Awakens Podcast S1 E6 Q&A Clay Art Therapy and Spirituality

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Ability Awakens Podcast S1 E6 Q & A on Clay Art Therapy and Spirituality

Welcome to Ability Awakens, a podcast about provocative insights in the arts of therapy, behaviour and spirituality as meaning making, with Doctor Joseph Bowers and Doctor Dwayne Kennedy.

Hello, this episode is going to talk about a book that we’ve written, Clay, Art Therapy and Spirituality. Before I get into it, I might say that if you want to hear a bit of the book being read, you could go to our YouTube channel which is also called Ability Awakens. Look for a video clip on the book Clay Art Therapy and Spirituality. You could look it up that way on the channel or on YouTube generally, or under my name, Joseph Randolph Bowers. You’ll find it, I would imagine, quite easily. And it’s a beautiful video with a lot of original pictures and whatnot, and I think you’ll enjoy it. I read the preface of the book during that video, and it could give you a bit more of an introduction to it.

In this talk, I’m going to be answering a few questions that people have given to me, who have mentioned these questions. And I thought it might be a nice introduction to the book in one way. In a more informal way. And if we have time, I might do a bit of reading from the first section of the book on Embodiment and Place in Art and Life. [Editor’s Note: This did not happen as the talk flowed into a reading of the book description instead.]

The first question I had was, can you tell us a bit about the book? What’s it about?

Well, the title is Clay Art Therapy and Spirituality. And the book I think is at one level, fairly scholarly. At another level, it’s an exploration of spirituality, in how people make their sense of meaning.

At another level, the book explores the history of clay, working with clay and its cultural and spiritual roots and implications. The emphasis of that historical review I think was kind of unique in the sense that it briefly dipped into a sort of ancient history of pottery and clay making. And quickly enough sped up to the mediaeval era because our particular interests, I think, were more in the mediaeval movements that related to the Franciscan earth-based spiritualities.

An earth-based spirituality is a way of making meaning of life. This is a very significant, important theme, I think, in in my life personally, but also, I think, historically and related to contemporary issues in today’s world where there’s so many challenges around our ecology and the planet is in a dire situation, humanity is in a dire situation, and coming back to an earth based values and ethics, I think, really factor large in my life generally.

I think I also use a frame of reference in therapy and psychotherapy called human ecology. The field of human ecology is basically the study of the human being within systems, and within those systems there’s a sense or a value that everything is interconnected, that we live within a web. And when you strike one thread of that web, the rest of the web is going to quiver.

And if you strike hard enough, you’ll break the web and the overall result of that one seemingly minor change has a ripple effect throughout the web of life and this is a basic principle in, I think, my approach to behaviour support and counselling therapies that I see people as within an environment where there are many inter relationships that are going on all at once simultaneously.

In that the, the way of helping an individual is not necessarily finding the blunt edge of the sword, but more so in finding the smallest change that makes the biggest difference. In order to do that effectively, you really have to understand how human systems and how the human system itself, our psyche, our body, our emotional being, our spiritual being – How, how this functions in unity and how it functions when it is fragmented and seeking unity.

So, understanding all these different layers, I think that the book attempts to weave together a very large web of interconnections that come together in the symbolic way through clay art therapy. Not only in the life of the people that I work with. But also in my own life. I think that the book was a deep personal reflection and a pivotal moment, sort of reflecting on changes in my life up to this stage, and also I think coming out of or, or still being within the Covid 19 phenomenon and seeing how this has impacted on people’s lives and so we all in one sense or other seek to explore what what is life all about? What is our core sense of meaning? How do we make sense of these changes that we’ve been facing and how do we make sense of the experience of solitude?

In isolation, socially, historically, in this moment, through the pandemic and, and coming out of that. So, there’s there’s also a sense that clay in art therapy are really and truly experiential methods in therapy. And I think this has always been my emphasis. Because I’ve always believed that we can’t just talk about our problems in therapy. Talk therapy only goes so far, really, in what people seem to need more is having an experience of change. That experience of change may not be related to their specific issue or problem that they bring into therapy or that is the predominant issue that they’re dealing with at this time. But the experience of changing, and what you learn through that, gives you that potential. Also, a capacity and a skill to render that change in other ways. And apply it to your problem areas as well. I think these things have crosscurrents and when you’re, when you’re helping so many to learn and experiential change in their life, that change really does have ripple effects.

And it’s much like the notion of, of ecology that we’ve been talking about in the web. That sometimes it’s the smallest area that you can teach somebody to change in their life that gives them a sense of skills and accomplishments that enables them to apply that skill in other ways. Change builds a sense of self-esteem or a sense of ability.

Ability in this way really does lead to awakening.

The next question was how did you come to write the book?

Well, the opportunity to actually do a doctoral degree in divinity as a post-doctoral project, as my first PhD, or I should say my first doctoral degree, was finished back in 2002 when I graduated. And that was a four-year PhD that was done under a scholarship that I was able to acquire. And the PhD was a difficult, challenging experience on a very challenging social and political problem at the time, and led to a number of years of writing and publishing from that, and teaching from that, doctoral research over about 10 years.

You know, zip to the current time, I felt that my PhD in some sense over all of these years was a bit disappointing, just personally to me, because I came to Australia to take up this scholarship and thinking, feeling, being drawn to do a PhD that had some implications in the field of spirituality. It’s just kind of been a passion of mine most of my life and my first degree was in spirituality and philosophy and during that first degree, a bachelor degree, in back in Canada, I did a sort of third year research project on Mediaeval spiritualities and focusing mainly in on Francis and Clare of Assisi and the Franciscan spirituality that grew from the 1300s onwards. And I really loved that earth-based spirituality that I learned and studied during that time.

I felt intuitively that there was an arc, a cultural arc, in our era, where people are moving beyond religion and moving beyond science, and in many respects to a new place, a new sense of making meaning and that the notion or idea of spirituality is central to that. And I think this intuition or feeling or sense led me to seek out opportunities.

But it took a long time to manifest this doctoral degree in divinity and I decided to focus that degree on clay art therapy and spirituality because I needed to make a bridge between science and spirituality, between my work as a psychotherapist and counsellor and my sense of spirituality as making meaning.

 It’s a very scholarly definition of spirituality, by the way. And it’s probably contrary in some ways to a lot of people’s definitions of spirituality. Where they might want to tie that to more of a religious sensibility. For me, I’ve kind of stepped back from that religious sensibility formally, and I look at spirituality from the perspective of a psychotherapist. And that means for me, that the structure of a person’s belief system can be resourceful or not resourceful, and that in therapy we have the opportunity and space to explore a person’s beliefs to render them more resourceful. In a sense we can work to change, to orient us toward capacities, personal strength, personal growth. This can orient our belief systems towards problem solving and towards gaining life skills, you know, and capacities to deal with the challenges and problems that we have in day-to-day life, and in a larger sense, we can reframe our sense of meaning.

We can make our sense of meaning. Personally.

Through a conscious choice and effort, and through a way of mindfulness meditation that allows us to go deep into our unconscious beliefs that we’ve inherited values, attitudes that we’ve inherited from parents, from culture, from society, from history. And transform that unconscious level towards a belief system that is more functional, more unitary, and more in tune with our own personal sense of where we want to be in life.

So, I came to write the book, the thesis basically, as an expression within this doctoral degree at this particular time, because it seemed to weave together almost all of these, you know, strands and pathways that I’ve been walking for quite a number of years.

The next question that was put to me was, how does that fit? How does this project fit with your work as a psychotherapist? I kind of answered that in one way. It’s a really interesting question because it depends on how we define a lot of these terms.

Part of the reason why I say spirituality is making our own sense of meaning is that the challenge there is that we don’t receive our spirituality, our sense of meaning in life, from external places or sources, even to the extent of saying that we don’t receive our innate spiritual sense, our innate spiritual meaning from scriptures, or from church traditions, or from religions, or from family heritage, or from culture, or from our heritage, or from gender identity or sexuality identity. We don’t, we don’t inherently receive or make our sense of meaning from external places.

But this implies that we are doing the work of generating an authentic, integral personal meaning within ourselves. That we’re going within to find this ability to not just come to terms with the terms themselves, not to make our sense of meaning literally and figuratively, but also that we are doing the work of self-awareness, of awakening, that brings us to a place of an authentically independent and interdependent meaning-making, not just for ourselves, but in relationship to all of these sources that I’ve, that I’ve mentioned or listed.

So, the sources in a sense are like mirrors, but they’re not, they’re not emphatic places that force on us our sense of meaning. Our sense of meaning in that way cannot be imposed from an external place.

And when we awaken to that idea that I am responsible, I am personally responsible for what I believe, for what I value, for my attitudes and my actions, I am personally fully, 100% responsible. That when we wake up to that, we go, wow.

How much of my life have I been living based on assumptions, based on what I have unconsciously sort of received or learned from external sources, from other relationships? From what I’ve read or learned or, or saw or heard in the past, that was given to me as a child, which I don’t consciously remember now, but also is integral to who I am, to my sense of myself, my identity? How much of that has been received from outside of myself, and it’s just an assumption I carry around?

But I haven’t worked through that. I haven’t, I haven’t done the hard yard of, of exploring that, deconstructing it, allowing myself to disintegrate a bit in order to reorient my life towards a more mature, more aware, more awake sense of consciousness.

And to me, the metaphor of clay and clay therapy brings this all out because, you know, we’re all kind of lumps of clay early in life, being moulded by a lot of external forces. We go through the fires of change and of transformation, which are events for a lot of us that are very disruptive, like the death of my father, for example, or the death of my mentor who taught me and introduced me to the field of Counselling Psychotherapy. Or the crisis that somebody might face through years of dealing with unemployment, job searching or the issues of not having enough money to pay my mortgage and struggling to make ends meet to feed my children.

All of these kinds of major sort of challenges in life force us back within ourselves to find meaning, to find a source of strength within us, because the strength can’t be found really externally. When you realise that life can either become very lonely and very disconcerting or, or eventually you come to a place where you begin to awaken to the power of self.

This is not the small self, but I’m talking about the large self that is aware of the process of life. The self of us that is aware of the emotions coming, like coming and going like clouds in the sky. Aware of the thoughts that come and go in our minds all the time, but not being so attached to them, letting them happen, letting them flow. That self is getting closer to a level of conscious awareness. The ‘I Am’ awareness that is spoken of in the scriptures. ‘I Am, that I Am’ is an awareness of what they call in the East, the Atman, the, the Higher being, the Higher Self that is aware of being aware.

When you come to this place, the clay has gone through the fire and it’s come out of the kiln and the clay body has been transformed into beautiful colours, the colours of the rainbow are there that that are the clay body now. A vitrified body that has been changed into, in some sense, pure glass. And in that way, the clay is become a work of art and, I think there is parallels in our lived experience, in our sense of awakening in everyday life, and these are aspects or pathways towards spiritual attainment and what’s called enlightenment in the Eastern philosophies.

Again, this fits with my sense of being a psychotherapist, because we’re talking about human growth and transformation, and that’s really at the heart of psychotherapy.

I think the next question gets more down to the point. It was that you know, how does this fit with your work as an NDIS therapist?

That’s the National Disability Insurance Scheme and that’s much more pragmatic. My work in that field. As in the sense that I’m helping people with profound disabilities to deal with everyday concerns and to facilitate a behaviour support planning process that works on and is based on the persons own strengths and limitations and appreciating and celebrating their strengths while at the same time helping them with their limitations.

In a sense, this ability requires the people around that person to compensate for their weakest element. For example, if they are not so good at financial management. In that area of financial management they need to help. In Australia we set up financial planning for people through the Public Guardian. That is one mechanism that is commonly used that gives a financial security for the individual so that their Disability Pension and their monthly and weekly income is stable and it can be funnelled into the necessary areas like rent and food etc. That covers the basic needs of the individual and ensures that their life remains stable overtime. And then then they can enjoy their life more, have a higher quality of life, and receive other services and engagements within the community that build on that foundation.

And the behaviour support is kind of like that in another sense that it’s a foundational approach that sets up a plan that helps the individual, their family, their staff, and the organisations, managers, and whatnot, from the system to understand more in depth who the person is, what their strengths and what their needs are. And how to help them with those needs. And I think that this works is really pragmatic and at one level the book on clay art therapy is really helpful because it provides, it provides for that higher quality of life, an opportunity for therapy that the person with disability ought to have within society.

And it’s kind of exciting in Australia that we have this system which would enable individuals with profound disabilities, in some cases to access clay art therapy from their homes and that they could link up with a therapist at that level, and you know, play with mud, work with clay with their hands, and how therapeutic that is.

The literature is really robust in positive outcomes that working with clay has for people with disabilities, but also for everyone you know, in in one sense or other. The literature suggests that there are a range of physiological, neurological, mental, emotional and even spiritual levels to clay work that are very therapeutic and, you know, there’s other levels too. Of course, clay brings up stories when you’re working with clay, it brings up funny stories and interesting stories.

And one individual I worked with in clay work made little statues of family members in a fairly, what was a very fragmented family, with about three distinct different family groupings. And by the time the individual was finished in the therapy process, they had created three different family groupings and we’re playing with the, with the interactions between individuals across these family groupings. And as the individual was working through all of that I could see patterns, emerging questions, and issues that were arising in the individual’s sense of their identity and their struggle to find their identity in the midst of growing up with three distinct different families that they wanted to belong to, and relate to, but yet they felt disconnected from at some level as well. And working through those issues were really critical for the individual to, to get a sense of themselves, but also to make sense of this, this dynamic as well as confusing sort of family that they, that they lived with and needed to reconcile with at some basic levels.

So that’s just one example, but the clay work provided a space for us to do that, and it was one of those pivotal moments in my life when I kind of went, my gosh this is such a simple process to be working with, to be working with clay. And this was air dry clay you know. So the objects that the individual made were completely dry within a couple of days. We could work with them and touch base with them in the following weeks for example and paint. Painting with acrylic paints or whatever. But the story grew overtime as we worked with the medium and the medium itself and the tactility of that was really therapeutic for the individual, gave them a sense of accomplishment on self-esteem and was very enjoyable and fun.

At that level, I think therapy ought to be, at some level, fun.

When learning is fun. You know when experience of change in therapy is fun, it opens up a whole range of possibilities and changes our awareness, gives us a sense that we’re not so stuck as we thought we were. And we’re not as limited as we thought we were in our disability. It doesn’t define us. You know, our limitations don’t define us. And this is a human theme, and it’s not related only to people with profound disabilities. This is a very universal human theme.

The work is kind of deeply related to the work I do with NDIS with disabilities, and yet there’s layers to it that are fairly distinct. Not everybody will go as deep as I’m talking about. Of course, not every case will even get involved with clay in art therapy.

A lot of the cases I work with in behaviour support as a specialist will not go into this domain at all. And in that way, I’d say there’s a correlation between the work that I do and really highly complex cases of disability and mental health and chronic illness and disease where an individual will have all of those elements. That for me, personally, as a therapist, the clay art therapy experience within my awareness gives me new insights, creative insights, an ability within me to step away also, and find a deeper analytical self that is able to take in the complexities of an individual’s life, and find a way through that that is good for them, that they can manage, that the people around them can manage. And, I guess, in that way, clay therapy is therapeutic for me as a therapist, and it enables me to do the good work that I do with other people. And I say, well, that’s good. That’s, that’s a good outcome, and I guess that’s enough for me at the end of the day because it’s functional, it’s helpful, and it’s, it is contributing to, not just to myself but to other people in quite a dynamic way, and to society at another level.

What is the main message or theme of the book?

That’s, that’s a really huge question. I think that. The first small sentence of the description of the book probably says it all. ‘Clay art therapy inspires awakening.’

Clay art therapy inspires awakening. The inspiration of working with clay as a therapeutic medium, in other words. Working with clay can be therapeutic, you know, at the best of times or the worst of times. But working in a clay studio, working in an art studio, pottery studio can be therapeutic. Yeah, it can be a lot of hard work too and can at times be extremely frustrating and even emotionally debilitating because you know you fail. You have to put your ego aside because clay really is, funny enough, a levelling experience.

It brings you back to the dirt to the lowest level, to, to the mud that is under our feet.

At that level, boy, it pulls us out of our ego and brings us back to earth. And that might be therapeutic at some level it might help us to grow as an individual, get us beyond our ego identity, you know, but might also be extremely frustrating.

But Clay, art therapy, yeah, there’s a level of therapy that is also intentional, so. I think that’s the space that I explore in this book. And that’s the intentional therapeutic goals or outcomes that we might seek through working with clay as an art form. As an artful way of understanding ourselves in our lives. And these layers are aspects of clay and art and therapy as three elements come together to be inspirational.

That’s my experience, I think, that’s, that’s the experiential method, is that experience inspires new awareness and experience, experience of change. Experience of something new and fresh and something that hasn’t been there before, of creation, of being part of creation, of being a creator, is an inspirational process.

Inspirational in that sense is a word that means, if you look at the roots, the etymology of that, it means that to have the spirit embodied. Inspiration. To have spiration is to have breath. That’s the roots of the word. There is our breath, Spirit, and in the ancient languages like Hebrew and Sanskrit and other languages around the world, the notion of breath and spirit are usually intertwined, usually interrelated, if not completely, as you say, overlapping. And integral to one another, breath, and inspiration, breath and embodiment.

The clay metaphor in all of these different traditions of the East and the West are related to the body of humanity that are our bodies are vessels of clay that are inspired, that is, given spirit or given breath, given life. So, clay as art in therapy, inspires, they inform, they help create new awareness, new learning, new experiential knowledge, and awakening.

Awakening of consciousness, awakening of a new way of looking at life, a new way of understanding the universe, the cosmos that we live in.

The next sentence. It’s a little more complicated in the description of the book, but it’s equally profound. ‘Earth infused and experiential methods are relational, self-reflective, and transformational.’ Earth infused. Isn’t it beautiful to talk about earth infused. We often use the phrase in psychotherapy, ‘culturally infused.’

Here we’re saying earth infused. Again, inspires, infused. Earth based sensibilities, that is experiences of working with clay as a, as a form of Mother Earth, is an earth infused method. It’s an experiential method and it is relational because we are shifting our ego at the same time as we’re working with a lump of clay. The clay is like a mirror again, that informs our sense of ourselves, but also teaches us. It becomes our teacher. It becomes our leveller, you know, and brings us back to earth. It diffuses the power of ego. We go to, to sort of override our sense of meaning and allows something new to breakthrough.

Working with clay is self-reflective because of that process. It’s like a spiral of reflection where we work with the clay, reflect on that experience, step away, think about it. Learn. Live our life. Have a cuppa, have a meal, have another day, get involved with relationships, come back to the clay and there it is, as it was when we left it and yet asking us to continue that relationship, to continue that reflective work. So, there’s an ongoing relational aspect there with the clay and within therapy of course you’re working with yourself as a client, your therapist as a guide or mentor, and the clay. So, there’s a triangle going on. All of these self-reflective levels are truly transformational.

When we allow yourself to take that, to take that journey, that pathwork, and, and work that through and see where it leads. ‘Clay therapy provides documented outcomes in healing, anxiety and stress reduction, trauma recovery, as well as in reframing, beliefs and identity. The approach builds skills in daily living in relationships.’

So, I’m talking there in the description of the pragmatic. You know the practical levels of this. Seeking A holistic perspective to inform play therapy, ‘the project follows decades of research into the healing of trauma in minority cultures, revealing the hidden power of spirituality is meaning making’. Really, clay and art therapy process can open up and provide commentary on spirituality as a meaning making process in a really organic way that is connected deeply to the objects that are created in the therapy process, which become beautiful metaphors. I think rich with story and meaning.

‘A person-centred method,’ it says, ‘reframes minority identity within a postmodern psychotherapy.’ Person centred methods are really central. We get these from Carl Rogers in many respects who founded the person-centred movement in psychotherapy. But we’re saying that this this is a powerful approach because we’re not just working with clay as a levelling medium that gets us beyond the ego.

We’re also using a person-centred method that intentionally, therapeutically reframes our sense of identity within a type of psychotherapy that is postmodern. And that means effectively that we’re always asking questions, we are deconstructing our experience intentionally and creatively to find new perspectives to reorient ourselves towards a universe that is discoverable. That, that science is still emerging. That meaning is still emerging. That the universe is a place to explore. It’s not fully defined. This is the essence to me, of what a post-modern psychotherapy is all about.

These experiential methods in therapeutic art as life and life as art embraces this scientific evolutionary sense of human development. ‘Cooperation, ascent, and convergence.’

Development is a sort of a temporal concept. We all develop overtime from infancy onwards, becoming adults. We grow then in relationship in cooperation. If we don’t, then, we remain kind of isolated and we remain in conflict within social relationships. But the trajectory of human development towards maturity and growth and wisdom is about cooperation. The qualities of ascent, that is, of agreement, finding compromise and finding experiences of convergence, where people come together, where our identity comes together in a meaningful way.

‘Clay based psychotherapy is informed by culturally infused methods reflecting on western minority and disability experiences.’

So, there we have individual narrative’s and stories that emerge out of clay work the minority experience. The disability experience. The experience of living and growing within the Western deserts of materialism and of Western individualism that a lot of us are struggling to work through and find a new path towards something that’s more authentic and integral. W

‘We explore our therapy studio productions in the book as well alongside of looking at the works of contemporary sculpture on Andrea Martini.’ Andrea Martini was a Franciscan brother and he was a very, very talented, very amazing sculptor that is not well known within the English speaking world. He’s more known within Italy, within the Italian universe. And he is also in some sense known but not really, not really well known within the Roman Catholic world. I think it’s more limited to Italy and the Franciscan movement, of course, given that he was a brother and a lot of his works ended up in different Franciscan shrines throughout Italy and in the Middle East.

We also explore the works of Andrea della Robbia, who worked in the 15th century in an amazing process of transforming Terracotta clay into incredibly beautiful instalments within various churches and holy places. Particularly Franciscan locations. And so, we study his works in the book, looking at how clay as an arts and therapeutic form within the religious traditions of the west, within those cultural and religious traditions, were points of transformation. And moments of cultural change in revolution, in a sense, in how we look at where, how we look at art, but also, how art itself informs our emerging identity.

So, our approach in the book provides for opportunities to reflect on the nature of clay art therapy in healing. In capacity building and skill building and in identity formation and also more extensively in how clay in art therapy facilitate transcendent outcomes and how clay and art and therapy as a process possibly lead to and open up the pathway towards awakening and transformation and enlightenment, perhaps even a sense of salvation.

The next question we had is, who would want to read the book or who would you suggest might read the book?

Well, I think if those themes interest you in peak you, and it’s really interesting and may help you on your path in life, and lead you to open up your sense of your awareness and consciousness, I think then it’s a book that could be really helpful for you.

Again, creating a project like this is pretty dynamic and it’s relational and social. And I don’t think I would have done this if I didn’t feel at some level that I was giving a gift to the world, to other people and that that gift was important and relevant and could help people at some level.

It’s a beautiful artistic presentation. I think the book, and I love how the printer has rendered the artwork.

I think Christians would get a lot out of this book. I think that it would at some level be incredibly challenging, perhaps mind opening and mind altering for a lot of Christians to read this book because this was again a doctoral degree in divinity. But my sense of spirituality as I said is, is informed by the secular traditions and the scientific traditions. And in that way, my view of religion is very different in my view of Jesus and in my relationship with Jesus, is unique to how I’ve come to define my spirituality myself. I haven’t allowed myself to stop with the scriptures or with Christian traditions to define that meaning. Within me, I have taken that a lot further and I’ve literally climbed the mountains of the Himalayas to find my own sense of meaning, and I’ve travelled across the planet, and moved my life from one country to another, uprooted myself completely and taking the journey very seriously to come to this place.

The way that I define that is unique, I think, and in that way, I don’t think you’ll find a book like this out there. I don’t think there’s quite anything like this that exists. It uniquely expresses that dynamic journey and vision and sensibilities of an individual who’s, who’s taken this path towards enlightenment.

Obviously, counsellors and psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, other therapists, and those working with clay as art and play therapy, I think that this, this collective of individuals is a very dynamic group.

And I think that you know, as the western therapeutic traditions have grown out of a secularised view of the world, particularly since the Second World War, but certainly before that, well into the 19th century, there is a very strong emphasis on the scientific method and framing things through a secular psychology. And within that there’s different areas that percolate through that provides some commentary on spirituality and the transpersonal psychology movement has certainly been one of those. But we’ve not really been exposed to a lot of discussion about spirituality and what it means and the reflective work there that needs to be done is quite extensive in the way that it applies across the fields of our practice. And this book contributes a lot, I think, to that, to that discussion. It makes a bridge between a lot of different conceptualizations of counselling and psychotherapy, and art therapy, by illustrating the work with clay and as a form of play therapy draws synergies really that I don’t think really exist in the literature very much yet.

And in that since you know, most of the books that I’ve read throughout my professional life in western psychology and counselling have listed a sort of range of areas and tack ‘spirituality’ on the end. For example, you know people will say, their personal emotional sense, in their relationships, and their relationship with the environment around them, with their embodied somatic and feeling sense, in their psychology, and spirituality. And they’ll kind of put the word spirituality tacked on the end of a long list like that and that’s about all you get in most mainstream textbooks. I think that it’s unfortunate. I was, I’ve always wondered when people do that, that it makes sense that they value spirituality. But it’s as if they don’t know what it is, or it’s that there’s a taboo within the profession.

In discussing these issues quite a while back, I remember reading that when they decided to call transpersonal psychology that very phrase, the reason behind that was because to use the word spirituality within psychology was basically taboo. It’s unfortunate, you know, when we have such great minds and theorists like Maslow even saying that modern psychotherapy is the new priesthood of our secular age. And in that sense, we can’t avoid the most fundamental areas of human life, which is how people make their sense of meaning, which is spirituality.

In any case, I think that therapists will get a lot out of this book.

I think that people that are engaging in clay work and pottery and ceramic art will also tremendously benefit by this book. This is a very dynamic cohort of people as well. Potters love to share knowledge and information openly and freely, and this is part of the reason why I feel compelled to share this material through podcasts or YouTube videos or mediums or media where people can access things more readily and more freely and discussions can be entertained, and people can learn and grow and reflect on that.

I think that this book has had a profound influence and impact on my studio work. The book really dove in and focused on the ancient bowl form, and I contained myself and intentionally limited myself to study that form in depth, and through this, through this postdoctoral research, in order to contain my reflections on one simple form that I could come to terms with and also practice at the wheel, learning how to work with the clay, and more so through the contemplative awareness and mindfulness practice that clay work engenders.

And allowing time for those insights to percolate and grow within me has been a really important process. I think that that process reflects itself throughout the text and provides a framework that other people could follow potentially, to engage more deeply in the reflective process that is found within pottery and ceramic art.

And with that, I think I’ll leave you with a few of the keywords that might resonate with you…

Clay. Clay work. Pottery. Art therapy. Clay therapy. Psychotherapy. Counselling. Disability. Minority. Sculpting. Philosophy of Art. Spirituality. Franciscan. Eremitic. Solitude. Healing. Trauma. Transformation. Personal Development, and Spiritual Growth.

I’m your host. Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers. We are Ability Awakens Podcast. A provocative, insightful show about the arts of therapy, behaviour and spirituality as meaning making. Thank you for welcoming us in, for listening, and being with us today.

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