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Iryna Natalushko. Experience of Integrating Counseling Models Cross-Culturally: Eco-Centered Art Therapy, US-Ukraine
27.09.2010, 15:36
My return home to Ukraine this summer presented an exceptional experiential opportunity. I was at the cross-roads of Slavic mentality and current integration into the American. Bridging academic and experiential training at the GWU art therapy program with Pavel Lushyn’s counseling program in ecofacilitation in Ukraine, I paused to become fully present and aware of nonlinear quality of my educational path and the intensely personal nature of my professional development. Pavel took on the role of a catalyst. He spontaneously suggested I do a demonstration session in a group of third-level students as a visiting guest to his program.

This was my first counseling experience in Ukraine after two years of studying American art therapy as a Fulbright grantee. Feedback from my colleagues who observed the session was controversial, ranging from “Good job at preserving the core of ecofacilitation,” to “Now I see why Americans are more likely to seek help, it is so different.”

A further workshop was suggested, and I defined the boundaries of my style of practice as eco-centered art therapy. Eco-centered art therapy is using art therapy’s healing logics and tools within a broader eco-centered frame of reference. Aspects of eco-centered facilitation that I integrated are (1) development through crisis, where the latter is not pathological, but is a transitional formation targeted at creating new resources on both the individual and the systemic levels; (2) counseling as a systemically-distributed process of generating new self-regulating options for the client, the therapist, and the systems they are part of; (3) the content of change is shaped by the law of spontaneous self-development and self-regulation; (4) individuals are responsible for choosing whom they ask for help and what speaks to them in the response, thus, help is embedded in the presenting problem. Additionally, mindfulness influences my practice and life-style through yoga and awareness, and I am wide open for further explorations. I extend words of appreciation to the dedicated professors and supervisors of GW art therapy program, particularly to Heidi Bardot, Lisa Garlock, Jean McCaw, Ezekiel Rothman, Tally Tripp, and Elizabeth Warson who I learned from, for nurturing this incredible experimental spirit in the program.

In a small group of ecofacilitators and colleagues, I did a demonstration deeply rooted in the eco-centered model of transition. A short warm-up in group work was followed by two demonstrations of individual sessions. Art-making was unquestionably ecological.

On a personal note, working in Ukraine this summer, I witnessed how the parts of my undetermined, unclarified, and unintegrated past, connected and completed each other. Two semesters of training at the school of ecofacilitation were applied to practice. American art therapy rested, looked around and justified its flying economy over six time zones. Visual art resonated cross-culturally. Yoga and awareness strengthened their presence.

Extracting the juice of this experience and channeling Mahatma Gandhi in turning to my past, present, and future self, I’d like to say: “Be the change you want to see in the world, speaking from the heart of ecofacilitation – “Be the change,” and the sound of awareness – just “Be.”

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