Reconnect your Brain and Body with Art! Creative Care with Andrea Krakovsky and Shoshanah Blaiss
We explore the benefits of art therapy and how it can benefit those with ADHD with artist and creative care facilitator, Andrea Krakovsky, along with one of her clients who happens to be a member of the Take Control ADHD community.
This episode was a delightful accident.
It started with a conversation with one of our fantastic community members, Shoshanah Blaiss, how casually mentioned that she was running late for her session with her art therapist, and ended with a connection to that very artist, learning about her work, her process, and the incredible value that comes with embracing art as a channel to connect with ourselves across the neurodiversity spectrum.
Andrea Krakovsky is a teaching artist in Georgia whose work helps her clients to heal through the creative process. This week, Andrea leads us through that journey of healing through creativity — whether you believe you’re creative or not — and how the physical connection with the media can help you learn about yourself while finding grounding in your ADHD, anxiety, and more.
Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon
Pete Wright: Hello everybody and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.
Nikki Kinzer: Hello everyone. Hello Pete Wright.
Pete Wright: Hi.
Nikki Kinzer: Here with me.
Pete Wright: Hi. Hi. The chatroom has distracted me now because Brian. Brian, come on, you’re the one … He posts, "Let’s get ready to podcast!" And now all I can think about is welcome, let’s get ready to ADHD, and I don’t care for that but I’m such an anchorman. Like I see text and I read it.
Nikki Kinzer: Yes.
Pete Wright: So that’s just how I am. How are you? You good?
Nikki Kinzer: I’m doing great.
Pete Wright: You feeling good?
Nikki Kinzer: Yes.
Pete Wright: We’re wrapping up May. Still feels like New Year was just a few days ago.
Nikki Kinzer: I know.
Pete Wright: Not sure how this is going so fast. We are talking about art therapy today on the show and we have two people who are joining us. Shoshanah Blaiss is a member of our … A fantastic member of our community and she tied us into an artist that she works with for creative care sessions, Andrea Krakovsky, who is also a delightful artist and a thoughtful, thoughtful practitioner of using art as a way to better integrate our emotional regulation, neurodiversity, all of these things.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah.
Pete Wright: And so we’re very excited to have them on the show. And we talk about all of the great arts. I’m curious, Nikki, what do you … Do you have an outlet right now? Do you feel like you have an artistic outlet?
Nikki Kinzer: Well it goes back and forth.
Pete Wright: Yeah.
Nikki Kinzer: It’s puzzles or watercolor. I don’t … But I’m not doing either one right now, so …
Pete Wright: You know you really need to be creating a puzzle.
Nikki Kinzer: Right, right.
Pete Wright: You paint a watercolor and then make the puzzle. I can see you with a little jigsaw making all the curves.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Yeah.
Pete Wright: You could do that. That’s your next thing.
Nikki Kinzer: But I will tell you, Pete, after talking with Andrea and Shoshanah I am inspired. I’m going back and I’m going to pull my watercolors out, and I’m going to just be in the moment and paint.
Pete Wright: Yeah. Good for you. Good on you.
Nikki Kinzer: What about you?
Pete Wright: We talk a little bit about in the show, about my pottery, and I don’t … Like I used to spend a lot of time in the studio when I was in high school and have a bunch of finished work that I really am quite proud of. And I didn’t touch it for years and years until very recently. I went back into the studio and got some little classes, wheel classes, to get you back integrated into the clay and it’s been an extraordinary experience. And we talk a little bit about this, the act of creating not to finish some perfect thing but just to create and throw it away. Just the act of moving your hands. I find that an incredibly powerful and grounding exercise, so I’m really excited to talk to these folks. To let you all hear what they have to say because whatever your practice is it lines up with the intention, which is to better ground and better align yourself inside your skin. And I think that’s a really powerful message, so I’m excited to talk about it. Before we do that head over to TakeControlADHD.com to get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest @TakeControlADHD but to really connect with us head over to our ADHD Discord community. Super easy to just jump right into the general community channel, just head to TakeControlADHD.com/Discord and you will be whisked over to the general invitation and login page. But if you’re looking for a little more, particularly if this show has ever touched you or helped you understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, you can support the show directly through Patreon. That is our listener-supported podcasting landing portal and with just a few dollars a month you can help guarantee that we continue to grow this show, have great guests, and continue to invest in features that really are dedicated to the community. Visit Patreon.com/TheADHDPodcast to learn more. And, you know, when you hear Pete’s voice get a little bit giddy, maybe a little chocked up, it’s because he’s about to talk about his favorite invisible productivity tool. It’s TextExpander! TextExpander is back y’all. Truly one of my favorite, favorite tools in my tool chest. It is always there, running in the background, just waiting for me to type an abbreviation, or a snippet in TextExpander speak, and when it sees that snippet it goes to work instantly expanding from just a few characters on my keyboard to words, sentences, paragraphs, entire pages of text. Indeed, a manifesto, all erupting from just a few characters. This week we’re talking about art therapy and while I’m not much of a visual artist I do love the written word. I’ve written books for clients and fiction for fun. And here’s the trick I use every single time I start a big project, I build a snippet library of all the characters, people, terms, and places that will be used in the project and I assign quick snippets to each of them. That way I can be sure I will never misspell a single proper noun in a large project because TextExpander has my back. Constantly adding too many Ss to Mississippi? No worries, TextExpander has it. Have a fantasy character name with lots of weird letter combinations and maybe a silent number too, I’ll never remember that. It’s okay, TextExpander has my back there too. But it’s not just for me, I’m on two teams that both use TextExpander and I hope you’ll explore the team features too. The way TextExpander says it, "Your team’s knowledge is at their fingertips," and that’s absolutely true. But you know what else? If I write something, and I put it in TextExpander for my team, frankly now I know that no one else will screw it up trying to recreate it, cobbling it together from old emails and such. It’s just it’s easier for everyone. You can get your whole team on the same page by getting information out of silos and into the hands of everyone who needs to use it. Share your team’s knowledge across departments so your team is sending a unified message to your customers and isn’t spending time reinventing the wheel. TextExpander is available on Mac, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, iPad, and for listeners of The ADHD Podcast you can get 20% off your first year of service. Just visit TakeControlADHD.com/TextExpander and you will be taken right over to our page on their site where you can get started. And if you get started right now you will save 20% off, don’t forget, that’s an important number, your entire first year. Make work work the way your brain works by saying more in less time and with less effort using TextExpander. Our great thanks to the TextExpander team for sponsoring The ADHD Podcast. All right, Nikki, let’s get started. Art therapy!
Nikki Kinzer: Here we go.
Pete Wright: Andrea, Shoshanah, let us begin. I am so glad that you both are here today. We have Andrea Krakovsky who is a teaching art therapist here to talk about art therapy and ADHD. And Shoshanah Blaiss, like fire, is here with us too, who is a … Not only a fantastic member of our own ADHD community but also a … I will say generously, a grateful recipient of the work of art therapy with Andrea. Thank you both for joining us here on the show.
Shoshanah Blaiss: My pleasure.
Andrea Krakovsky: Absolutely, thank you for having me.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, thank you.
Pete Wright: Nikki you got to set us up. This is … How this conversation came to be is a little bit roundabout and I’m very excited to hear the province of our art therapy conversation.
Nikki Kinzer: Yes. So Shoshanah and I were talking, and she mentioned that she was going to her art therapy appointment in the afternoon. And I’m like, "Art therapy? What’s that? I want to know more about what you do." And so she explained a little bit of what she does and how it’s helped her a little bit. And, of course, the podcaster in me was like, "Oh that would be a really good show," because it isn’t something that you hear a lot about. You know you hear about coaching, and you hear about traditional therapy, and everything else, medication and everything else to help manage ADHD but you don’t necessarily hear a lot about what she’s doing. And so that’s why I asked her, I said, "Hey, do you think … Would you want to be on the show? And do you think that your …" And I want to be very clear, Andrea, is it … Do you consider yourself a therapist?
Andrea Krakovsky: That’s a great question. So the word therapy I think has a lot of connotations for people. It’s not … The reason that I kind of steer away from it is because I think when people think of therapist they think of something specific. And I really do like to set people up with a framework that sets them up for success and give them a little bit more of an expectation, which has been challenging because this is a practice that I’ve kind of been, as I say, working towards my whole life. So I have done a lot of caretaking and a lot of care work, and that’s really led me to where I am today, as well as my life long kind of identity as an artist. So this practice is, I think, unlike other things that currently exist and also very similar in some ways. For instance, it is a confidential space in which I’m offering emotional support to people one on one. But unlike other therapists like the information that I’ve gathered and the ways in which that I’m bringing forth activities, and tools, are from my own experience, both in and outside of classrooms working with children, and now working with adults one on one.
Nikki Kinzer: Why-
Pete Wright: But not as a licensed practicing therapist-
Andrea Krakovsky: I am not a licensed therapist, no.
Pete Wright: That, I think, is … In the space of words matter there is a … Art therapy, the way I’ve understood it, it is something specific. It’s just it unlocks kind of a different part of you. And I’m bullish for art therapy. I think it’s fantastic but to me, and stop me when I start lying, it is about unlocking parts of yourself through predominately the art, not so much like talk therapy, right? That’s not what we’re doing here?
Andrea Krakovsky: So I would say there’s a lot of cross sections in that I hold a lot of space for what folks are going through emotionally. And I want to create a container that allows people to work through those emotions and have, as I say, a soft landing spot for them. So there are people who come in and they have something very heavy that they want to work through or talk through. And what I usually do is I sit down with folks, and Shoshanah will be the first to tell you … Shoshanah what’s the first thing that we do?
Shoshanah Blaiss: We look at the feelings wheel.
Andrea Krakovsky: Yes, exactly.
Pete Wright: There’s a feelings wheel?
Shoshanah Blaiss: Yeah. Have you never seen it?
Pete Wright: No, I’ve never seen a feelings wheel.
Andrea Krakovsky: The feelings wheel is used by a lot of different practitioners and it’s quite literally exactly as it sounds. It is a chart that depicts … Some people will be like, "Can I use a word that’s not on the feelings wheel?" Yes. So-
Pete Wright: There are so many feelings on the feelings wheel.
Andrea Krakovsky: There’s so many feelings and I believe that giving words to what we’re feeling is one of the most crucial ways we can help process them. And so being able to give language to that is one of the first steps.
Pete Wright: Wow!
Nikki Kinzer: It is so interesting. So on your website you call it creative care sessions, right?
Andrea Krakovsky: Mm-hmm.
Nikki Kinzer: So what is it that you do in these sessions? We know that the first thing is you’re looking at the feelings wheel and then what happens?
Andrea Krakovsky: Mm-hmm. That usually leads us into conversation. It doesn’t for everybody, right? Like we all have different needs, we all have different sensory needs, we all have different capacities for conversation. And so for some folks it will look like being in conversation for perhaps 15, 20 minutes. My sessions are 50 minutes long. So we may be in conversation. From that conversation I’m going to find something, a question that comes to mind, that helps us dig into what need can we address, right? So when we’re feeling all kinds of different emotions … And our feelings are usually layered, we don’t just feel one thing at once, and recognizing that our feelings are morally neutral, so being angry is as morally neutral as being thrilled. Allowing space for that feeling to occur. And then investigating what need is this pointing to? How might I be able to address that? How might I be able to give some attention to the part of me that’s asking for that, whatever that thing may be? So I’ll usually give people a 10 minute section of time. I’ll keep the time, I give them a two minute notice, and they will use whatever materials that are calling to them. Sometimes I may say, "This really lends itself to writing," or, "This may lend itself more to illustration," but whatever comes out on the paper is wonderful. I call these prompts because they are exactly that. My goal is to prompt you. If that means that you are led tangentially into a different direction that’s okay. And one thing that I think is important with neurodiversity and ADHD is that there’s not punishment for not answering something a specific way. I’m not looking for a specific answer and it’s important that that remain true when I’m receiving that information. So if I give somebody a prompt and it leads them down a different road let’s, without punishment, look at where that road went.
Nikki Kinzer: Mm-hmm.
Pete Wright: I’m stuck in dismayed and detestable on the feelings wheel.
Nikki Kinzer: Oh no.
Pete Wright: I know. I don’t know what to do about that. Do you find that … I mean, when you talk about materials do you find that materials align in any way loosely with different issues? Like so let’s say I’m dismayed and detestable am I more likely to be able to unlock something by throwing some clay down on a wheel or starting to collage work, or you know?
Andrea Krakovsky: I would say that’s really personal and there are ways that you can get out … So I do really like somatic experiencing, so in the body. I do love clay for that reason, that you mentioned, is you really get to throw it down and that can be wonderful. I will sometimes have people tear up a sheet of paper or scribble scrabble, or I will have us shake our hands. And so there are tools, exercises, and materials that I think lend themselves to allowing emotions to process through the body. Do I think that there is a specific … Like watercolors are good for anger or pencils are good for sadness?
Pete Wright: Yeah, right. Right.
Andrea Krakovsky: No.
Pete Wright: Yeah. Okay.
Nikki Kinzer: Kind of defeat the purpose of what you were just saying, that there is no right or wrong way of doing it, right? Yeah. Yeah.
Andrea Krakovsky: Right.
Pete Wright: Well-
Nikki Kinzer: So Shoshanah I see you shaking your head a lot when she’s talking, so I’m curious like are there certain forms of this that have helped … Like how has it helped you?
Shoshanah Blaiss: I think for me the thing that has helped the most is being able to have this variety of materials. And sometimes I do ask her, I’m like, "What do you think I should use for this because I don’t have any idea where to go?" And I have collected a lot of materials, as we all tend to do. But I personally find like when I’m having one of my super frustrated days and I really want to get something kinesthetically I guess … Is that the right word?
Nikki Kinzer: Mm-hmm.
Shoshanah Blaiss: Out that I actually go towards my oil crayons because I can color with them. There’s like a feeling to the actual coloring but then I can literally get my hands in there and mess with them, and move them around, and blend them together, and almost finger paint like a kid. And that … So that tends to be where I go with those. When I’m having like more sadness I go to watercolor because it feels very like tears. So there’s a lot of that kind of stuff. And sometimes I’m really happy and then I occasionally go for markers. But I’ve learned what materials I personally like and what sort of feels more like an extension of my body versus … Like I really don’t like colored pencils like I thought I would. My husband loves them. My husband also does art therapy with her. So he loves his colored pencils, and I love my watercolors and my paintbrushes. I don’t know.
Nikki Kinzer: Now do-
Shoshanah Blaiss: That’s sort of the big thing for me.
Nikki Kinzer: Do any of your children do it too?
Shoshanah Blaiss: They used to.
Nikki Kinzer: Okay.
Shoshanah Blaiss: That’s actually how we met her. It was suggested … She was mostly working with kids, I think, at the time and so two or three of my kids were doing sessions and they were helpful. And we were like, "Hey, do you do adults? Like I’m kind of jealous." And that was how we got started with it, so it’s been a while now. I don’t even remember how many years. Two years? Something like that.
Andrea Krakovsky: It’s been maybe two years.
Shoshanah Blaiss: Yeah, since we started and it is probably … I mean, I do all kinds of different therapy and stuff, and this is the one that I talk about in my other therapies. Where I’m like, "I had this breakthrough this week. Like we did this activity and I got to show it to you." Kind of like I was telling you on Monday about the one we did last week and you’re like, "Don’t tell me anymore." But when I have those moments like … I have a lot of ah-ha moments working with Andrea a lot more than I have had in like decades of therapy because I’m going to that subconscious place. That I get out of my thinking brain and into like … I don’t know. She’ll give me a prompt and most of the time I will get an idea in my head instantly, and be able to just go straight to it. And the times where it’s not, those blocks that we have, like something always comes. And I have it all in a notebook and I can now look back, and review, and I write down the prompt at the bottom of the page with the date and so I know exactly what we were doing that time. It’s really helpful.
Nikki Kinzer: Interesting.
Pete Wright: Have you found any sort of trends in … And it feels like you’re going to hear this and it’s going to sound like I’m really hammering home trying to align emotions to specific art-
Shoshanah Blaiss: No, I did.
Pete Wright: … but I’m really curious like the idea, like when you’re feeling pressured, rushed, distracted, like the ADHD side of you, do you have a go-to that connects to your brain that you find allows you to settle?
Shoshanah Blaiss: Yeah, I think when I’m feeling that kind of like baseline anxiety and that not grounded kind of, "I just need to get back in my body," I tend to go with the oil crayons-
Pete Wright: Okay. Yeah.
Shoshanah Blaiss: … or the things that are much more textural. And I actually had a six-week period about a month or so ago where I did writing. Every week it was something with words, it was all black and white, and after like-
Andrea Krakovsky: You were writing a lot of poetry.
Shoshanah Blaiss: I was.
Andrea Krakovsky: It was really cool.
Shoshanah Blaiss: I had like poetry … I was like, "I don’t have an image but I just have things I need to get out," or I was really into lettering for a little bit and doing like perspective stuff. And when I looked back at it, because I didn’t realize I had done this for like weeks in a row, I found that there was … Like the right and left sides of my brain were competing at that time, and there was like these conversations in my head that needed to get out. And so it was one of those reflective things that after a couple weeks I was like, "Oh, well that’s interesting." And could kind of look back at it and make even more sense out of what was happening.
Pete Wright: So we’re recording this on video, for those who are listening, and so we happen to have the benefit of being able to see where everybody is. And so Shoshanah the stuff behind you are those … Like is that stuff you’ve done or are you … Are those your sketches or …
Shoshanah Blaiss: This one Andrea … Was one of the very first ones we did.
Pete Wright: Okay.
Andrea Krakovsky: Mm-hmm.
Shoshanah Blaiss: Yeah. That was one of the first ones we did. This other thing was a COVID art project with my children.
Pete Wright: Well I’m actually-
Shoshanah Blaiss: But I actually-
Pete Wright: Go ahead.
Shoshanah Blaiss: … have a ton of them right here.
Pete Wright: Okay. Look at that.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, they’re all hanging.
Andrea Krakovsky: Oh it’s so cool to see them on your fridge [inaudible 00:21:51]-
Pete Wright: It really is very cool.
Shoshanah Blaiss: I have a bunch there and my book is over there but yeah, I mean I could … Like these were some of the ones that we did when she was teaching me how to do more realistic stuff because sometimes I ask for a lesson. And we did like a mandala. So this one was really fun, her … She said, "Go around the room and find like three different size circles," and we traced them. And then you focus on like the activity of coloring them in. So I challenged myself and I colored it in with watercolor. But like this is a oil crayon one. I don’t know that that … What that prompt was but there’s others where it was more focusing on the process of like making a certain type of pattern and then really kind of going to the … I don’t know, less out of the … Out of the thinking brain and more into the subconscious, and seeing what happens.
Pete Wright: Yeah. I’m interested in both of your thoughts on this, and it’s something that I have struggled with all my life, which is the idea of creating a work for the act of creating the work and not for the finished product.
Andrea Krakovsky: Yeah, that’s one of the biggest things that people struggle with. So I work with folks who are artists and identify as artists, in that they are like, "I have this skill and I show my work at these different events, and this is a part of my life," and they particularly struggle with that. And I like to emphasize it even more. And I really … It’s okay for us to create art that doesn’t match our aesthetics. It’s kind of my way of saying you can make ugly art, right? Like I make art that I do not enjoy. It is simply for the sake of it and it is challenging. It challenges the part of us that feels a desire to be perfect, that pursues perfectionism as it could be a possibility, and it challenges that part of our brains that’s telling us that we’re only worth what we can produce.
Shoshanah Blaiss: I think one of the things that’s been really big for me is learning how to let something be unfinished and that’s a really big thing.
Pete Wright: Oh god! I’m like-
Shoshanah Blaiss: Right?
Pete Wright: My anxiety’s peaking just hearing those words.
Shoshanah Blaiss: Yeah. Exactly. So, I mean, I can show you one right here. So I don’t even think I put the date on it but like I said I was going to finish it and I never did. And I have several of those because we only get 10 minutes, mind you, right?
Pete Wright: Yeah, right.
Nikki Kinzer: Right. Right.
Shoshanah Blaiss: She’s really … She’s strict on the time. And sometimes I’m like, "I got to get it finished!" But one of the things that I think has been sort of a subtle lesson that I didn’t really think of until this week is learning to let it go and learning to be okay with how it … Like this is what I was able to do and that is okay. And that’s hard. That’s a really hard one, especially for the perfectionist in all of us, right?
Nikki Kinzer: Oh for sure, yeah.
Shoshanah Blaiss: And we’re all like, "I got to do it right and if it’s not perfect …" But-
Andrea Krakovsky: It’s that all or nothing mentality, right?
Shoshanah Blaiss: Exactly.
Pete Wright: Yeah.
Andrea Krakovsky: That black and white thinking that either it’s going to be perfect or I’m not going to do it at all.
Pete Wright: Right. Right.
Nikki Kinzer: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Shoshanah Blaiss: And I think that’s been one of the greatest lessons. And, I mean, I tell Andrea all the time, I’m like, "So you were in my head the other day and telling me like that I deserve to do this and I deserve to take that extra time." Or if we have a day where I’m extra upset and I spend more of the time talking, and don’t really get to whatever the art was, she’ll remind me like, "Stay in your space 10 more minutes and do something for yourself." And there are times that I have done that and I have gone into the whole situation like feeling anxious, completely ungrounded, like I can’t make a decision left or right and I can feel like a physical difference at the end of it. Where my hand was shaking from the anxiety and now I can draw a straight line. So it’s big-
Nikki Kinzer: So I’m curious because you mentioned a few times prompts. What’s a prompt?
Andrea Krakovsky: So a prompt is a question.
Nikki Kinzer: Okay.
Andrea Krakovsky: And it’s a question … Sometimes I write my prompts or my prompts are just coming abstractly from, "Here’s a question that I think could be helpful to us." Like, for example, one of the prompts I’ve been working with is what ideas, people or thoughts am I putting on a pedestal? Perhaps without realizing it. So that’s something that I think can be helpful for any number of people. I often take my prompts from where that person is at. So sometimes people will sit down and they’re like, "Everything’s okay." And sometimes people sit down and they’re just like, "Here’s everything that’s going on and I’m so stressed out, and I’m so anxious." And after listening to them I’m able to pull out a question that I think could lead us to a helpful place. My goal is not to find out if something’s the right or wrong thing to do but to lean into could this be more helpful or less helpful? Is it more helpful when I do this or is it perhaps less helpful? And looking at things as less … Especially with ADHD, especially with neurodiversity, especially with like task initiation and moving through the world, and figuring out how to structure our days, looking at the things that are truly morally neutral and recognizing that the shame is not actually a helpful motivator for us. Shame may light a fire under our buts for a couple minutes but it doesn’t keep it there. And so finding out ways that we can navigate with compassion. So the more time we … I spend a lot of time asking people, "Why does it make sense? Why does …" So I’ll give you an example. I’m a messy person. I have always been super messy. I’ve really struggled to keep things organized. And when I ask myself, "Why am I like this? Why can’t I just clean my room? Why can’t I just pick up a dish and put it right in the dishwasher like I should?" That’s a question from shame. If I say, "Why is it challenging for me to pick up an item and put it away?" I may come to the conclusion of, "Well it doesn’t have a place to go and I have so many other things like it. And I also am really stressed out and it makes sense that this would be challenging." When I give myself understanding I give myself compassion. With that compassion comes room to navigate, "What might be helpful here?"
Pete Wright: That’s the ADHD brain answering. You know the need to know why. And I think we stop … It’s easy to get stuck in the distraction, frustration, overwhelm, and forget-
Nikki Kinzer: And just the shame. Yeah.
Pete Wright: … that we need to ask why.
Andrea Krakovsky: Yes!
Nikki Kinzer: Right.
Pete Wright: I think that’s a really valuable lesson. And getting back to this idea of unfinished work like I .. It took me a long time to start embracing this question and I ended up going to a pottery class. I haven’t done pottery in … You know I lived in the studio when I was in high school. That was my thing. And I haven’t done in it decades. Went back to this class and the class was only throwing. Like there is nothing after that because it’s like a different … You have to sign up for weeks long class. This was only wheel time, which means everything you create you throw away. Everything you create in five minutes it goes back into the pile to be reused. And it had not occurred to me, until then, that there was this act of creation not to finish, glaze, fire, that kind of a thing. That the act of just moving my hands was enough to ask the question, "Why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I’m developing a new connection with my brain." It’s kind of the same thing. Like, "Why can’t I put this dish away?"
Andrea Krakovsky: It is similar to how we dance or how we might do yoga.
Pete Wright: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrea Krakovsky: We don’t have a completed project at the end but we do have a transformation.
Pete Wright: Yeah, right. Why do we do yoga?
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Right.
Pete Wright: Well it’s a side hustle, obviously it’s for my YouTube channel. Smash that like button. Yeah. No, I totally get that. That whole idea. Do you do … Or do you have any sense of … What is the breadth of media that you tackle? And I’m asking this as a nerd, first and foremost, because I had what I like to call a transformative experience in VR and I’m curious if you’ve ever thought about that sort of work in art?
Andrea Krakovsky: I have not thought about VR. I’m not super familiar with it, to be frank with you. I like to go for whatever’s accessible to people, so I will tell people a pencil and paper is wonderful. And if you have other materials you enjoy working with that’s great too. Most people will eventually like to get colored pencils or usually already have some but I don’t want people to ever feel like they have to go out and buy a bunch of things in order to do this. You don’t. You may find that you enjoy watercolors or as we do this you’re like, "Huh, I would like to invest in a set of markers." But it’s not necessary-
Nikki Kinzer: So do you do this over Zoom then?
Andrea Krakovsky: I do.
Nikki Kinzer: Okay. Interesting.
Andrea Krakovsky: I am looking to … Initially I wasn’t but then the pandemic.
Nikki Kinzer: Right, right.
Andrea Krakovsky: I am looking to move back to in person and I’m figuring out some ways to make that possible right now. But I have found that it offers a lot of accessibility to people, especially to my clients who live an hour away from me and have kids, and have jobs where they need to be kind of on-call or they need to be within like 20 minutes of their work, or whatever it may be. This allows people to be in a separate room while their kids are doing something else. It gives a level of accessibility that I’m really thankful for.
Nikki Kinzer: I’m curious what you think is the difference between when you work with children and when you work with adults?
Andrea Krakovsky: That’s a good question. I have really transitioned to working … So I worked with kids for a really long time. I was a Hebrew school teacher. I did a lot of similar things to what I’m doing now. A lot of social-emotional learning, a lot of art projects. And that’s where this started was I noticed this need for play, this need for experience isn’t ending with childhood. And we don’t often … So we talk about the unfinished project, that is play. The unfinished project is play and when we’re kids we don’t have capitalism beating down our throats in the same way, saying, "You need to produce something. You need to make something. You need to be productive." And we often feel a lot of guilt and shame, especially as neurodivergent people, about the amount we get done. It becomes all about how productive we could be and optimizing that. And it’s why I really encourage us to play. I think it’s one of the most beautiful ways we can spend our time. And, to answer your questions, there are a lot of differences but I like to bring … I will often do really similar activities with kids and adults. Depending on the biggest question that I ask myself when designing activities for adults or kids is, one, it’s very specific to the person, which is how much room for imagination is helpful to them? So some folks really don’t do well with, "It can be anything, make it anything you want. Get creative." They feel stuck. And so a much more narrow, "Here is the room and the container we’ve created for this. You can use colored pencils, markers or watercolors. What do you think?" So going through it step by step and smaller is going to be helpful. And I do this with kids and adults. With kids there is a lot less focus on talking because frankly most children-
Nikki Kinzer: They don’t know what to say probably, right?
Andrea Krakovsky: No, and it’s not the way they move through the world.
Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrea Krakovsky: And so, one, it is … I start off children, adults, teens all the same way. Though I am exclusively working with adults now. But when I work with … When I did work with kids and teens I also like to start them off with the feelings wheel. It’s really important to me that we acknowledge that not every day is a happy day and we talk about how … How much of a struggle the question, "How are you," is, right? Because it’s more like hello, right? It’s, "I’m good, how are you? I’m good, how are you?" And so [inaudible 00:35:41] not to ask people, "How are you?" I will often say, "How has your day been so far," or, "How are you feeling today," or, "Where would you like to start today?" Because, "How are you," doesn’t really lead us anywhere productive. And so with kids we will talk about … I will kind of let them steer the ship. So some kids would really enjoy like, "Can I show you this? Can I show you this? Can I show you this?" And I often wanted to provide that space for them and I would say, "We have five minutes. I would love to see you perform this song," right? Or, "I would love to see your new toy." Because I want to give them a space in which they are appreciated and where they’re expertise matters, right? They are an expert in so many things and they just don’t get the opportunities to show it, so having that space is really important to me to show them.
Pete Wright: That’s really lovely. So Shoshanah what is your … When you look at your sort of arc with art therapy is there ever a point where you feel like you have a practice on your own or is this a relationship that’s the most important piece for you?
Shoshanah Blaiss: I think it’s a little bit of both. I find that I have … What I have learned is to … That I deserve the time to practice on my own and so I have learned what things in my life are actually me doing these things. Like when we’re talking about unfinished projects I used to think, "Oh I can’t buy new stuff for a new creative hobby because I have all these unfinished ones." When actually what I discovered through all of this is I go through like a cycle. So I will be really into crocheting, I’ll be really into cooking, then rock painting, then coloring, then writing, and it’ll sort of just spiral around for a few weeks or months at a time. And so it has made me feel so much better about that because I don’t … Like my crochet I haven’t touched it in months but when I do I could just pick it right back up and keep working on whatever project I was doing. So I feel like it’s given me … Like I said, she’s in my head all the time.
Pete Wright: Yeah. Right.
Shoshanah Blaiss: But it’s given me that space and that, I don’t know, compassion for myself to give myself permission that I need to do these things and take that time for myself. So I have like a whole art section in my basement office, but I still … Like my Friday one-hour session it’s an anchor in my week. And it’s the end of like the school week. It’s not the end of my work week but it’s the end of like the week for my kids or whatever has been going on and very often it’s a, "I need to decompress about all of the things that have happened this week." And I’m so glad that it’s opposite of when my talk therapy is, which is on Mondays. And so it’s spaced out in a way that like it can meet that need and then I can go into the weekend a much lighter person, and be much more present for my family, which is what I want.
Pete Wright: So valuable.
Nikki Kinzer: So if somebody that’s listening wants to try this obviously we’ll give you … Or we’ll make sure that they know how to get ahold of you, Andrea, but how would they also … I mean, you’re one person so you can’t take on everybody.
Andrea Krakovsky: Mm-hmm. Sure.
Nikki Kinzer: How can somebody find this type of work with someone else? Would they … Where would they start?
Andrea Krakovsky: That’s a really good question. I do think that there are art therapists out there. And I also recognize like a lot of my clients use the phrase art therapy because I’m still kind of looking for the language. I’ve landed on creative healing facilitator but I think it’s a lot easier for folks to say art therapy. I do think that art therapy does offer a lot of this and even though I’m not a licensed art therapist I do think there are licensed art therapists out there that would absolutely bring similar things to the table.
Nikki Kinzer: So how did you find out about Andrea, Shoshanah? Like how did … I know you said through your kids but like how did you find out that she did this work?
Shoshanah Blaiss: My talk therapist-
Nikki Kinzer: Actually referred … Okay.
Shoshanah Blaiss: … actually referred us over. Yeah.
Nikki Kinzer: Okay. So that actually might be something too that somebody could ask, "Do you know anyone that does something like this?"
Andrea Krakovsky: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.
Nikki Kinzer: And see if there’s anyone available. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting.
Pete Wright: There’s something so powerful about working with someone who is an artist because … And that’s kind of what I’m hearing in your relationship, like it’s both that the act of finding that kinesthetic release is one thing and the other is actually developing new skills that you’re learning in this relationship to become more confident in your ability to express that emotional part of yourself. Is that a fair assessment Shoshanah?
Shoshanah Blaiss: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, a lot of these things on my wall were like techniques that she taught me how to do. Like, "Today we’re going to learn how to draw a flower." We did like a autumn tree one time where we talked about blending colors and those things are the … Those are weeks when I’m like, "I don’t really have anything to talk about," which is not often. And so I take all of that and bring it into these other projects that we do because I’m like, "Yes, that’s what I see in my head but I didn’t really know how to do it." And so it takes some of that frustration out because I now have a little bit of a skill, or I have the permission or the suggestion of, "Well what happens if you do this?" And I’m like, "Oh I didn’t know I could do that."
Pete Wright: So cool.
Shoshanah Blaiss: "I didn’t know that was a thing."
Pete Wright: Yeah, right. "I didn’t know that was a thing." This is … I mean, the whole conversation to me is a celebration of the unknown unknown. "I don’t know how … I don’t know that I don’t know how to do any of this stuff. I don’t know that I didn’t know any of this stuff existed before I actually tried this technique or put this particular crayon to paper," or that kind of thing. It’s lovely-
Shoshanah Blaiss: My husband especially feels like that. Like my husband is a … He plays guitar and piano, and stuff, so he is a musician. He’s a speech therapist too, right? And so language and music is the only art that he ever thought he could do. And watching just the … Like I’m not … I don’t know what happens in their sessions but watching the transformation on the outside of him coming to me, just like my kids, and being, "Look what I made today. I can’t believe I could do this. I didn’t know I could do this." And I was like, "Well you’re great in the arts. Of course, you have it in you." Like Andrea always says, we’re all artists in our own way and so yeah, I think it’s been really fun to watch from the outside too of somebody else experiencing it.
Pete Wright: Well that’s just lovely.
Nikki Kinzer: Thank you guys so much for being here and talking about this.
Shoshanah Blaiss: My pleasure.
Andrea Krakovsky: Absolutely.
Shoshanah Blaiss: Thanks for having us.
Andrea Krakovsky: It’s an honor.
Pete Wright: Shoshanah Blaiss, grateful recipient of art therapy and practitioner extraordinaire, and Andrea Krakovsky both here with us today. Thank you guys so much for your participation. Links in the show notes. Andrea I … Make sure I have this right, AndreaKrakovsky.com is the best place for you?
Andrea Krakovsky: Yes. And stellar pronunciation of my last name I might add.
Nikki Kinzer: Nicely done!
Pete Wright: I doff my hat to you. Thank you. This has been really fun. And thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show, we sure appreciate your time and your attention. Don’t forget if you have something to contribute to the show please head over to the show talk channel in our Discord server and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member a the deluxe level or better. And thank you to the TextExpander team for once again so, so graciously sponsoring this show. We appreciate all of you too. On behalf of Andrea Krakovsky and Shoshanah Blaiss, and Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright and we’ll catch you next time right here on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.