Therapeutic Tetrad

 In art therapy, or any therapy, Nature is an important element - working with and for nature. 

Just working in or with Nature is insufficient to promote health and well-being in a sustainable way, we also need to be working for Nature - promoting a more caring reciprocal relationship with and for the rest of Nature. We can't have well people on a sick planet in a sick eco-system. As art therapists and psychotherapists, we have a role to play to employ art therapy / psychotherapy FOR and with Nature for the health and well-being of our planet and all Nature. Therefore, a call is made to apply arts therapy and psychotherapy for Nature (Sibbett, 1997). Richards (2010) makes a call to arts, advocating that exposure to artistic living and its benefits would better prepare our children for life. Arts therapists and psychotherapists can play a vital role in applying therapy to promote the well-being of our planet Earth (Gaia). In art therapy, this might be termed "eARTherapy" (Sibbett).

In art therapy, there is a potential for a “therapeutic tetrad” (Sibbett, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001) or “therapeutic quadrad” (Sibbett, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001) that involves a relationship with four inter-relating components: art therapist, client, art/creativity and nature.

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Therapeutic Tetrad - rotation of the elements (c)CS
Green man, foliate being
Green Man
Green Man

The Green Man - nature and art - rites of passage and creative liminality

For many years, I have been exploring ideas and experiences related to art therapy / psychotherapy, wellbeing, rites of passage, ritual, liminality and nature.

The Green Man, an archetypal figure, symbolises nature and life (Anderson, 1990). In art and architecture, typically the Green Man takes the form of a foliate face. The figure has ancient origins and appears in various forms in many cultures. Lady Raglan coined the name the "Green Man" in her 1939 article 'The "Green Man" in Church Architecture'. Clarke (2005) proposed that the Green Man is linked to Osiris and argues that Osiris, as "the Lord of Green Vegetation" equals Mercurius as the Green Man or Kernunnus. Carl Jung (1981a, CW13, para.243) describes Mercurius (or Hermes) as the “numen of the tree, its spiritus vegetativus” and as “the life principle of the tree… The tree would then be the outwards and visible realization of the self.” Perry (1997: 149) describes Mercurius as “he who abides at the threshold (of change).” Mercurius equates with Hermes who Stein (1983) regards as the guide of souls through liminality or threshold situations. Liminality involves the use of symbols such as trees (Turner, 1982: 27) and such symbols can appear in clients’ and therapists’ artwork. 

Trees have symbolic importance in many cultures; in Celtic belief trees “particularly the oak… were believed to contain great power and were thus sacred” (Probyn, 2005). Jung (1981a, CW13, para.316) discusses how “the tree and the snake are both symbols of Mercurius… The tree symbolizes earthbound corporeality, the snake emotionality and the possession of a soul… The union of the two… would mean the animation of the body and the materialization of the soul.” 

Ritual and rites of passage involve an experience of liminality: being betwixt and between when moving across a threshold or when in limbo. Writing about rites of passage, Turner (1967; 1982: 27) comments that trees are liminal symbols. Trees are also symbols of the self and of Mercurius (Jung, 1981a, CW13) and, similar to the caduceus, act as a guide through liminality (Stein, 1983). Trees can be symbols of trauma (Rankin, 1994). There are correspondences between skin, paper and bark and so the tree can symbolise our condition (Cohen and Mills, 1999) and trees are metaphors of identity that are part of material culture (Garner, 2004). However, a rhizome, not a tree, is a more relevant symbol for between states (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). In the Celtic tradition, Mistletoe is associated with “twi-states” as it is neither ordinary plant nor tree (Sutherland, 1985).

                                                   (Sibbett, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2014)