Creative Supervision: The Use of Expressive Arts Methods in Supervision and Self-Supervision

By Mooli Lahad
(Jessica Kingsley Publications, Philadelphia, Pa., 2000)

Reviewed by Kate T. Donohue, Ph.D., REAT
Poiesis. Vol. 4, 2002

Tending the Garden: Mentoring the Future

Tending the garden of Expressive Arts Therapy with supervision has become one of the most important training issues in the healing arts field today. While there are many books about clinical supervision, only two focus on the use of arts in supervision: Supervision and Drama Therapy edited by Elektra Tselikas-Portmann and Creative Supervision by Mooli Lahad. Both books are very useful. The latter book, Creative Supervision is the only one whose approach is truly from an expressive multi arts perspective. As an expressive arts therapist, educator and supervisor, I appreciate both books in helping define the arena of supervision, differentiating it from therapy, training and education and accentuating the skills that do not overlap with the other endeavors. But as a strong advocate of value of multi-arts approach to supervision, I was thankful for Mooli Lahad beginning the exploration of the use of various different types of arts in supervision.

Lahad expands the definition of supervision by emphasizing the importance of using the arts, multi-arts images and the creative process in the supervisory relationship. He defines Creative Supervision as “using the right hemisphere and the analogical dreamlike mechanisms in the service of understanding the process of therapy, intervention and support. (P.13)” Lahad attempts to bridge the imaginal and linear worlds by exploring how each art form can expand supervision. He suggests that supervision is deepened by the marriage of the imaginal, clinical and cognitive, emphasizing the power of images to help truly understand what is happening in the therapeutic process. As I always use the arts in my supervisory relationship, I can attest to their value in enhancing the depth of understanding of the client, his/her creative process and images, the co-transference and the parallel process between the supervisory relationship and the therapeutic one.

In each chapter, Lahad investigates a different modality and how one might use it in supervision. The processes explored are visual arts, letter writing, use of sandplay objects, role-playing, guided fantasy and story telling. With the description of each process, Mooli provides an actual supervision session in which he used this process. Chapter Two is a great example. In “What is so fishy with Judy?” (p.25), Lahad takes us into a supervisory session with Gabriela an experienced social worker who is upset about her work with a teenager named Judy. Suggesting they use the “Color, Shapes, and Lines Exercise” (a very structured visual arts process), they explore the family dynamics and what was fishy about Judy and her mother became clearer. In this process, one picks a color for each person in the family system, including yourself as the therapist. Using these colors, the supervisee paints them in any shape. In a very collaborative way, both the supervisor and supervisee explored their associations to each color/person. In the associations, Gabriele began to see a fish like quality to Judy and began to see what was fishy in the family system. While I appreciated this in-depth presentation, I wished Lahad had given more follow-up information. What happened with Judy and Gabrielle after this creative supervision? I think expressive arts therapists may want to research the idea, as it would help us better demonstrate the effectiveness of expressive arts in supervision.

The international flavor of this book was inspiring, as Mooli is an expressive arts therapist from Israel and a consultant to UNICEF. He has worked in Israel and Northern Ireland. Besides having a chapter on each modality, Lahad also presented his supervisory work with crisis intervention teams. Here he deals with the phenomena that Judith Herman coined in Trauma and Recovery, the secondary trauma of the therapist when providing therapy for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress. In this chapter (pp.103-105), Lahad describes the very sensitive process he created for these workers. First he explores their emotions of hope, despair fear and courage through movement, and ends with their poetic response to kinesthetic explorations. His approach very sensitively utilizes solid trauma theory. However, Lahad never weaves this theory into the text, which could have expanded and deepened the readers understanding of the perfect marriage between trauma work and expressive arts therapy that Melinda Meyer has developed. This chapter intrigued me, but also disappointed me, as it was so slim. Lahad seems to have a great deal to offer in this arena, and perhaps will expand on this in later publication.

In chapter eight, the author applies his“ Basic Ph Mode” (Lahad’s multi-modal approach assessing how one copes with life) to help the supervisor understand how the supervisee perceives the world. I liked the idea of using this model in supervision. It seems to have a strong cognitive base that can be interwoven with an arts process. Exploring the parallel process between the supervisory relationship and the supervisees’ therapeutic presence could be strongest use of this model. This would allow the supervisee to see their intersubjective experience, and how they bring this to each relationship, in a non-defensive way. Bringing in this theory and perhaps one more investigation of the intersubjective relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee and how this may parallel the therapeutic relationship, would have deepened the book.

Lahad is a very skilled and intuitive supervisor. His discussion of his supervision sessions is easy to read and understand. He is skillful in describing how these arts processes aided the therapist in a problematic situation. Many times I wanted to follow each of the supervisees he presented and know more of what happened with their clients after these supervisory interventions. As mentioned, this would be a good area of research in expressive arts therapy.

As I stated, this book is long overdue in our field and is great for a beginning supervisor to gain ideas and ignite their creative process in supervision. However, I do wish that Lahad had deepened each chapter by presenting a stronger theoretical base on trauma or the intersubjective field.

This book is greatly needed in our profession and will help us “tend the field” and supervise creatively. I appreciate Mooli Lahad’s endeavor by creating a book that bridges the multi arts processes with the theoretical world of supervision. I think this book is a must for the beginning supervisor and can stimulate the seasoned supervisors’ creative process on how to keep the arts an integral part of the supervision process. I hope to see more and deeper explorations like this in the future!