Season 3, Episode 11: Nicole G. - Emotions Are Not Our Enemies

Nicole Gfeller, an art therapist shares her story with us today. She dives into some of her childhood experiences and talks about how she went from being shut down emotionally to re-integrating her body and feelings. Nicole also gives us some amazing practical ways we can start doing art therapy on our own if seeing an art therapist isn’t quite in the budget.

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Show Notes


Topics We Discussed

  • Nicole’s work in Peru with children (trauma from abandonment, neglect, abuse, witnessing violence)
  • Nicole shares her story of being adopted from Peru to being raised in Switzerland
  • Her two siblings (also adopted from Peru, but not biological), and the compliant vs rebellious adoptee stereotype
  • Nicole love working with youth and finds it easy to connect with them
  • How the movie Lion inspired her to start writing her book and the way in which externalizing her story was like therapy.
  • How art therapy works, why it is important to work with the body (somatic therapy) since the trauma is located in the body, and what art-based activities you can do on your own to begin your healing journey
  • Before you begin self-directed art therapy, establish some resources - like drawing or imagining of a safe space
  • For self-empowerment or self-esteem
    • drawing a tree or flower, where each leaf/petal are positive attributes about yourself
    • you can write self affirmations on note cards and post them up where you’ll see them regularly
    • a word on a stone to carry with you, to tangibly hold in your pocket
  • Finding hope:
    • drawing where we are currently, drawing where we want to be in the future, and visualizing how we can move from one side to the other
  • Addressing emotions:
    • draw different parts of ourselves and naming them eg. sadness, anger, joy, abandoned
    • What do they look like? What colour? What shape?
    • If it had a voice, what would it say?
  • Nicole explains explicit vs implicit memory and why it’s important for us to use different methods to “unlock” and process our implicit memories
  • How Nicole found her birthmother and what reunion looks like for her


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