I am often referred to as “Dr. Deb” Laino, Delaware’s Premiere Sex Therapist. I am honored to have this title in so many ways. Since I will be a contributing writer from this point forward to this amazing publication, InRecovery Magazine, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. In the past I have worked in everything from women’s health clinics, community centers and drug and alcohol treatment, to teaching at a university, working in my present private practice and authoring numerous books.
I remember working in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility several years ago, not only doing individual and group therapy, but also exploring creativity through the arts. This was one of my favorite things to do with clients, as I believe using creativity – or learning how to tap into it – can be highly therapeutic and beneficial. It was most profound to see their transformation from using negative coping skills such as drugs, alcohol and sex, to learning how to use positive ways to express feelings – real and raw.
While there are many options for art therapy, I have found creative writing and drawing to be the most beneficial. A good example was my group on writing imaginary stories, describing where one would want their life to be in three years. I remember receiving some criticism based on the One Day at a Time mantra which is widely used in the field of addiction treatment and which I do agree with to some extent. However, I believe there needs to be a conscious look into the future of our lives. The therapeutic use of imaginary story-writing draws heavily from neuroscience theory and may actually change the direction a person wishes to go. You see, when we humans decide on a path and when we begin to think in a way that is progressive, we send messages to our subconscious mind, which in turn sends messages to our conscious mind, which are manifested in our outward behavior.
The stories written in my group were amazing. The participants wrote about real feelings based on real desires such as wanting to be a good parent, husband, wife or citizen. These were thoughts which many of these individuals were unable to contemplate while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If they had thought about real feelings and desires, those thoughts were fleeting. Individuals went from confused and agitated to crying to relieved and ultimately to hopeful and inspired; there was a creative transformation which happened right before our very eyes.
With help, group members developed a plan of action they could initiate to move towards these “imaginary” scenarios. Writing and thinking about what they wrote were the first and most important steps to their final transformation. A more detailed, step-by-step strategy kept them on the right track. When they felt lost, they could go back to their plan. This exercise, coupled with individual therapy, group therapy and Twelve Step meetings, initiated the most transformative works I had seen to date. I continue to use this technique in my private practice where I primarily counsel individuals with sexuality issues. I have found it to be one of the most beneficial, long-standing creative tools for growth and transformation.
If you have not connected to your sense of creativity – everyone has one, some just need to be nurtured a bit more – I invite you to try this simple writing activity and help clear a path to your future. It is simple to do; it takes a little time, some paper and a pen. Be the driver of your life – design your own future!