Therapy and Nature

by | Jun 14, 2019 | Discover Your Happy

We had the opportunity to meet with Art Therapist, Leara Glinzak of I Light LLC in Grand Rapids, MI. We learned about how she incorporates nature into her practice and her personal life. Stay tuned as we hope to do more with her in the future, but in the mean time, learn more about her studio and how nature has played such a huge part in who she is and what she does.

If you were to enter the studio you would notice this space is influenced by nature. It was important to have intention behind the environment of the space because after I did some research on the affects of environment within a therapeutic context the outcome indicated the environment may have had a direct impact on those receiving therapy services and ability to progress in therapy. When I Light LLC was looking for a space I, art therapist and owner of I Light LLC, knew I would have to take into consideration how the space would potentially affect the therapeutic relationship and progress. The space needed to be comforting, relaxing, validating and also needed to deviate from a stereotypical therapy/counseling office and art therapy studio. When I Light agreed to a space in downtown Grand Rapids area I Light was blest with the possibility to create this space how it saw best fit because there was no floor, half

the trim was up, lights weren’t up yet, the walls needed repainting, and the list goes on. O the possibilities!

Since I am a mental health professional I also recognize that I must take care of my own mental health too. Throughout life, I noticed the patterns that helped me to refuel my own joy and have increased self -awareness and this was combining nature and creativity. I also noticed after going for a hike I had better relationships with others, better listening skills and after my hike I became more present and mindful. I also found that aspects of the human experience as described by my clients were comparable to aspects of nature.

Mountains: The pulse of the Earth

A client once shared how nervous she was as she explained how her heart raced the first time coming for counseling services. I listened to this phrase and thought, how can I bring that heartbeat into this space. At this same time another client in later stages of life would sing about purple mountains. Thinking of life and a heartbeat I recognized a heartbeat looks like mountains and I needed to bring the pulse of the Earth into this space. After thinking of the purple mountains this brought me back to a sunrise hike up Mount Ryan in Joshua Tree where the mountains looked purple and so they became an integral part of the experience here in the studio.

Trees: Pieces are strong

When clients come to therapy it is common to hear people share how they don’t feel whole anymore and they are trying to piece things together. Taking what people were sharing helped to evolve the next steps in the studio which were pieces from a whole. During this time shelves were needed for the space and it was important to keep the theme of nature as an integral part of the space but after looking for anything close to this theme of “pieces from a whole” it was not found. I went back to nature to get inspired and while walking through the woods noticed several trees down with pieces dispersed from the fallen trees. More importantly these pieces that were now separated provided noticeable growth sprouting. From there I chainsawed wood into fragments and installed them in the studio, pieces that were from a whole-something that once felt rooted, grounded and strong are still strong and hold weight to them serving a purpose.

Rain and Hail: Growth from a storm

In therapy a lot of emotions can arise and someone once told me, “I’m tough. I can’t remember the last time I cried.” The truth is it’s natural to experience tears and anger, even Mother Earth cries and has hail stones, we need to have our own version of releasing our own sadness and anger too. I have compared emotions to visitors making camp in our lives before and they come and go and yes at times feel as if they have overstayed their welcome too, but we need to learn to greet them like old acquaintances because they will come back and we need to work with them to make their “visit” the best for us and our own growth that it can be. This concept of

sadness and anger is embodied in the studio through the plants that grow within the tear shaped vases and hail shaped plant holders. From the release of the rain and hail stones growth will appear.

Breathing Corner: Sense of belonging and internal home

Everyone that comes to this space has a story and can feel displaced as they find their way home to themselves. A box of fabrics found their way to the studio space and this corner held a lot of potential that could be its own separate space for comfort within the studio. When looking at our country, historically the Native American people and their culture were constantly displaced and carried their homes with them. While this space is not a tipi as it does not follow the same traditional methods and purpose, this is an installation art corner piece inspired by a tipi. As fabric found it’s way to the studio, I took the pieces and built a space as representational of every person that comes into this space is creating their own internal comfort. The fabric of our lives becomes the holders to our internal home and each person as a fabric no matter how diverse it may be, can come together to create a safe community. Sometimes in therapy we learn to take the fabric of our lives and find a way to piece it together

and carry this story as a holding space within ourselves as we continue our journey in life too.

Fairy lights and stars: Every piece no matter how small matters

Sometimes people question “what does it matter?” Or say “someone else has it worse.” The truth is no matter how small something may seem it matters. The small things should not be compared to the larger and everything holds value. If we don’t focus on situations in our life because we think someone else has it worse we devalue our authenticity, feelings and ourselves. Everything matters no matter how small or large we conceive it to be in our minds. This is seen by the fairy lights strung within the ceiling and the stars hanging over the breathing corner. When we look up at the sky at night it doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal if one star went away, and if that is the mentality we would have and another disappeared and this

continued over time the sky would be dark – that one star does matter, that little light contributes to the greater whole. Just like all the things we think are the “little things” in our lives or “not a big deal” still contribute to our whole being too.

Everything in this studio is intentional with its relationship between nature and the healing process. It’s the hope that this space breaks down stereotypes of what one would envision as a stereotypical therapy and counseling office. Rather it becomes a space that builds connection as it matches or validates what someone may be experiencing through their healing process and fuels inspiration, as well. When you arrive at I Light’s art therapy studio you would notice a light in a lantern that can be seen whether you enter the studio or not. We know that first step can seem hard, whether it’s getting outside or coming to therapy. The light is here for you when

you may be feeling dim and you need some light. And when you’re ready to open the door to rekindle that light we will be here just like nature is here for us too.

Alison Glowinski

Alison Glowinski

Alison is a co-founder of Happy People Hike, THE Head Happy Hiker, usually lost, and always hungry.

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