Therapist Yvonne Edwards – a journey with art and therapy

Yvonne Edwards
Transpersonal art therapy involves a creative expansion and transformational exploration of who you really are. It utilizes many different artistic means to help people tap into their imagination and inner wisdom. Yvonne Edwards is facilitating a workshop that will use guided imagery, painting and collage to help participants create their own Life Chart of the first five years of their life. Yvonne created the Life Chart in 2010 as a way to visually help her remember her own history. Instead of using words, the Life Chart uses photographs to “see” the significant events, people and places that have influenced the choices a person has made in his or her life.

“There comes a time in the spiritual journey when you start making choices from a very different place. And if a choice lines up so that it supports truth, health, happiness, wisdom and love, it’s the right choice. ” ~ Angeles Arrien

TRUTH. HEALTH.  Happiness.  Wisdom.  Love.  If we human beings are creatures of intelligence and free-will, would we not choose to have those five aforementioned things in our lives?   The answer may seem an obvious one, but consider how often our choices result in less-than-ideal circumstances and then consider this…are we, in each and every moment, capable of making “the right choice” or has a choice already been made for us a long time ago based on our personal and family histories?

The question of nature versus nurture has long perplexed geneticists, psychologists and the common man since Francis Galton (a half cousin to Charles Darwin) first coined the phrase almost 140 years ago. It’s one that hasn’t escaped Astoria-based  psychotherapist, Yvonne Edwards in her 30 years of working in the fields of marriage and family counseling and transpersonal art therapy.   How and why we make the choices we do in our lives are questions Yvonne has not only asked dozens of clients over the years, but has been deeply curious about in order to discover her own answers.

“The more aware you are of your history the more you have a choice in the moment  to not repeat the history.  Looking at the consequences of your behavior, you might finally see enough to make a different choice . The more you illuminate about your history and your issues, and the more you know what they are and understand how they work in you, the more choice you have,“ says Yvonne.

Yvonne’s history is a colorful and fascinating one.  Born in Germany in 1949, she attended military-dependent schools and lived overseas for the first sixteen years of her life.  With both of her parents working for the State Department, their jobs took them to many different places, such as Guam and Japan.  They retired to Hawaii just before Yvonne’s senior of high school.  When she graduated in 1967, it was the height of the Vietnam War and political activism was thriving across college campuses nationwide.   An international secondary education may have influenced her decision to major in political science, but wanting to be a part of a historical movement taking place in a state she loved, led her to choose Lewis and Clark College in Portland.

Perhaps that was then when Yvonne’s spiritual journey took a different turn and “the right choices” began being made.   She dropped out of college after a couple of years and returned to Hawaii.  The gentleman she began dating introduced her to a friend of his who had been a psychoanalyst in New York.   It was now the early 1970’s and communal living was at its peak.  When twenty-five of this man’s clients followed him to the island to continue their therapy, he rented a large house and Yvonne joined these two dozen people and moved in.

“It became a Hippy commune psychotherapy thing.  I needed to be there.  I started getting into therapy with everybody else, ” Yvonne reminisces.    “I ended up being one of the main people there.   I was there for five years.”

Those five years proved to be enlightening at times and excruciating at others.  Significant experiences of self-discovery aren’t all about finding  purpose and passion, fun and joy.  Intense therapy in a close-knit environment can be challenging as one’s issues are always being examined by members of the community.  Yvonne stayed on with this group as they moved to the Big Island and then onto San Francisco in 1979.

While living in a big commune in the Mission District, she went back to school and got her undergrad degree in Psychology at San Francisco State.    She then applied to grad school at the California Institute of Integral Studies and got her Masters.  It was while she was at C.I.I.S. that she met her future husband, Mickey, studied with many influential teachers in the transpersonal psychology field, and earned her doctorate degree.

Girl with basketYvonne states, “I’d spent the last ten years in psychology.  I might as well be a shrink.  It’s totally fascinating.”

She became licensed as a marriage and family therapist which is the work she did for twenty-three years while earning her PhD.   When Yvonne arrived on the North Coast in 2003, she became a member of the Trails End Art Association in Gearhart and taught art camps for kids for a couple of years.  For the past four years, in addition to seeing individual clients, she’s volunteered with Astoria’s Music Festival which has introduced her to many musicians and influential people in the community.

Yvonne’s work as a therapist has been influenced and inspired by teachers in the transpersonal psychology and art therapy realms; Stanislav Groff, Angeles Arrien, and Rowena Pattee Kryder. It’s not uncommon for psychologists to use a variety of therapeutic techniques and tools in order to determine what best supports each client’s exploration of self and their issues.  It’s only been within the last few years that Yvonne has chosen to facilitate workshops that use art to delve into the psyche.  As she says,  “I’m interested in using art to do serious work, not just to make pretty pictures.”

Yvonne continues, “ I’m really seeing from my own life, my friend’s lives, my clients’ lives, everything we choose to do unless we’re aware of our choices, aware of our history, we’re going to make the decisions that are bred into us unconsciously.  Someone has to help you make those connections for you and usually it’s a shrink. You can prepare yourself and maybe even help yourself in a lot of ways without a shrink, but I think it’s good to have one.  Instead of teaching history in school, they ought to make you learn your own history. This is one of the reasons why I’ve created the Life Chart and am facilitating this workshop.”

Yvonne firmly believes the more cognizant we become of our own patterns and behaviors as they relate to our personal and family histories, the more we’re at choice to make different, perhaps even better decisions for ourselves.

Making “the right choices” for ourselves and our lives is serious work.  Truth.  Health.  Happiness.  Wisdom.  Love.   These things are part of the ever-evolving, self-discovery process called life.  It’s been, and continues to be, an eye-opening  journey for Yvonne.   It’s a journey we’re all on and it’s one she’d like to help people explore more of through a fun and serious side of art-making; the art of knowing our own personal histories.

Exploring the Mysteries in
Your Life History

Saturday, August 20, 2011
Fred’s Farm– 201 S. Valley Rd. Naselle, WA

The ART & PSYCHE workshop led by Yvonne Edwards, Ph.D. will include CREATING a LIFE CHART as PART of a PERSONAL LIFE REVIEW in full color. In this workshop you will discover patterns, life-altering experiences, and other mysteries embedded in your family history through drawing a GENOGRAM. The day will be spent in the tomato greenhouse located in a historic dairy farm barn on the Naselle River.

In the afternoon, you will assemble the first five years of your LIFE CHART, using guided imagery, painting, and collage. You will create at least 5 categories that can be repeated for each year of your life. You will bring copies of photos of yourself, your family members, pets, neighborhood and homes you lived in, places you visited, teachers, etc. that were part of your life through age 5.

All other art materials will be provided, and you do not need to have any art experience. Workshop Fee: $100; Lunch and Farm dinner is optional and has a separate cost paid directly to Chef Fred Johnson.

Saturday, 8/20/11
10am    Your  Genogram
1pm      Farm Lunch
2pm    Assembling Your Life Chart
5pm    Painting and Collage

Registration is required by August 15. California MFT’s may accrue 7 CEUs. For questions, please call Dr. Edwards at 503 338 7202.