Is the Holding Space Practice Really Effective? : A Firsthand Observation
My oldest, a daughter, just finished her first college semester. As a mom, this has been very satisfying to observe on a few levels.
We have homeschooled our five children from beginning to end. I remember when Kyra was five. I told my mom that we were going to homeschool. Homeschooing was so new at that point of history in our society that it was a very bold move and my mom must have thought I was kidding or it was a passing phase.
I recall her asking her five-year-old granddaughter if she was excited to start kindergarten. I had never said the word ‘kindergarten’ to my girl and she had no idea what her grandmother was asking her.
Although nothing was said, I sensed my mom’s concern. To her, only crazy, reclusive people “homeschooled”.
I did not take the decision lightly. I did a lot of research of this new idea (it was not yet a trend) and was convicted in my heart. I simply knew at a gut level it was the right choice for our family. (See this post for more details about why we chose to homeschool.)
In my mind, I was sure it was the right decision, but I knew it would be years before we would have “proof” of it. I now have magnificent “proof”. She will have earned an A in every class, but I don’t put much stake in grades per se. I loved the way she went about learning the material, organizing her time, communicating with her teachers and using her available resources like her younger brother to go over her math with and me to proofread her papers. I love how she read some extra things because she wanted to and attended classes and completed projects that she didn’t “have to” to get a better grade. I love how she expressed appreciation for her teachers and what she learned from them by observing how they are and who they are not just what they assigned.
She took some “basics” for her first semester. Algebra, humanities, composition 1 and intro to psychology. The combination of the last two classes led to the reason for this post.
As part of her psych class, she was to write reviews of four articles she chose from professional journals. She found a topic that sounded interesting to her: the treatment of depression using art therapy. As part of her composition class she had to write a research paper. It only made sense to pull together those summaries from her psych class to create her research paper.
She has given me permission to publish her paper which can be found here. It is academic with a lot of footnotes, just as it should be for a *research paper.
Besides the four journal articles, one of the resources she used and sited for her paper was The Holding Space Practice. This is a little awkward, as she states in the paper, since it is written by her mom. It is awkward (like this blog post might be) because it could be mistaken for “tooting my own horn”. We are trained that academia is not supposed to be personal. But her analysis and evidence is honest and compelling and frankly irrefutable because of its personal nature.
I have this funny tightrope in my mind. I know the principles and modules in the Holding Space Practice changed me. I am sure that anyone that practices and applies them will find greater peace. Despite my passion and conviction about this, I shy away from “advertising”. I recoil at the word “self-promote”.
Like no other time in history, our world is full of self-promotion. The noise is deafening. As my email contact-list has grown, so has the volume in my inbox. Like stereo speakers set near the maximum, I have no choice but to turn it down to a reasonable level by deleting many emails without opening them. The ones seeming to “self-promote” get deleted first. I shrink away from joining the cacophony found in our technology-saturated lives.
Then I remember the occasions where something I click on “hits the spot”. It is an answer I have been searching for and, at times, I didn’t know I was searching for it until I open up an email or link. Occasionally, the writing or image or video profoundly touches me. And I change. And I am grateful for that person who took time to join their voice to the chorus. He or she will never know me personally nor that his or her voice touched, helped and changed me.
So, at the risk of self-promoting horn-tooting I am going to give you excerpts from my daughter’s research paper.
She lived, first-hand, the “before and after” of a depressed then healed mother. She was on the inside of this action like no one else could be.
Thank you, Kyra, for writing your observation and experience. If you, your siblings, your dad and I are the only ones to benefit from the Holding Space Practice; if our story never extends beyond the reaches of our family and small circle of friends; if the quiet peace of our private world is never loud enough to rise through the cacophony, it is OK. I feel compelled to try to share, but it is OK if my grateful heart is the only one that changes. Thank you for holding up the mirror so I can see the truth—the beautiful truth—through your honest experience. Thank you for being brave with me to “put it out there” where a stranger who is searching might find it.
Depression and the Arts (excerpts)
Can using and participating in the creation of art (i.e. listening to music, drawing, writing) be used to treat depression? If so, how is this form of therapy effectively used?
Several elements in my life have brought me to these questions. The first being my fascination with psychology and how the brain works. Some of that curiosity, I believe, comes from my mom, Carol Webster, who loves and has studied the topic and has passed that fascination on to me.
Another reason that this question hits close to home is that I have watched several of my loved ones struggle with depression and its effects. Those effects have ranged from poor moods to an inability to fully complete daily life tasks and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. I have watched these people become frustrated with traditional forms of treatment (mostly medication and verbal counseling) when that treatment seemed to do very little in the way of helping with their illness. I have a strong desire to figure out how to effectively relieve them of that pain so they can live happier lives.
And finally, I have found much peace and enjoyment in “the arts” throughout my life; I especially enjoy photography, videography, and video editing. There is a satisfaction that comes from the process of creating personally meaningful creations that cannot be replicated by any other activity. It is a way to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a verbally silent expression that I would not normally communicate through words. Creation and enjoying other people’s creation seems to bring hope and happiness to me as well as many people that I know. So, could “the arts” break some barriers in depression therapy?
Interestingly, my mom experienced depression for about 25 years and through several modes of healing, including art and creativity, she was able to fully overcome that depression. She recently wrote a book about this healing process and guides the reader to follow those same steps which largely include creating meaningful art.
All of these factors started to come together for me as I began my introduction to psychology class this semester. The first assignment in that class was to find a psychology research journal article that seemed interesting and write a review about the article. As I filtered through the many journals and articles available, I saved the ones that particularly caught my eye. After over an hour of scrolling through articles, I stopped and looked over the ones that I had saved, several of which were about the arts in psychotherapy.
With all of these interconnected topics on psychology and depression, I’m really curious how all of it is put together and can create a therapy program that actually helps people with depression.
Honestly, my mom’s book, The Holding Space Practice, was the only resource that I felt fully explained the whole process of a therapy that has been shown to work. I feel funny saying that because it makes me looked biased, but I have personally watched my mom change in amazing and positive ways through this process. When I was a young child, my mom worked hard to cover up her depression around everyone outside our family. But she could only use that cover up for so long which resulted in her being a grumpy, short-tempered person around me and my family much of the time. Not because she didn’t love us or want to be the best mother that she could be, but because she didn’t know how to manage the mental anguish she was experiencing, and it would work its way out through visible anger and sadness. Over the last 10 or so years, I’ve watched my “mean mom” transform into a generally calm, unflustered and happy person. Not only is she mentally much healthier but she is physically stronger and more active as well. All of this gives me confidence in supporting my opinion of her method being a very viable option in depression therapy.
* I did plenty of research papers in my college years. I had to unlearn how to write like that, but it is a trained style that makes sense for the careful science-world. Even when it is sometimes wanna-be science.