Genoa Hamiel, a graduate student in the Somatic Psychology program at CIIS, is currently exhibiting her artwork in the lobby of the Mills Building, where the Institute’s Center for Somatic Psychotherapy is located. Hamiel’s sculpture, entitled “Holding Space,” appears in a juried show at 220 Montgomery Street in downtown San Francisco. The artwork is made of white pipe cleaners, shaped into a form that Hamiel compares to a cocoon or an egg. “I see the sculpture as a remnant of something that was once alive and is now decaying,” she explains, “like a coral that’s been taken out of the sea.”
Hamiel feels there is a parallel between her artwork and her practice as a psychotherapist in training. “There’s something about the process of letting a piece take shape, instead of ‘making it,’ that reminds me of sitting in therapy sessions with clients,” she elaborates. “The more I can let both those processes take shape organically, the better they both work. When you sit in the room and hold space for someone else, you become a container for what that person has experienced.”
Hamiel notes that both therapy and the arts involve spontaneity: “I didn’t realize how much my years of doing different arts—sculpture, writing, painting, singing, improv theater—how much they prepared me for the ultimate improvisational act of being a therapist.”
Rebecca McGovern, director of field placement and clinic sites for CIIS, sees a similar parallel: “For me, Genoa’s piece is an elegant reverie on the web of connections and supports that are critical to the experience of therapy and training therapists. ‘Holding space’ is a term used as shorthand for the complicated and difficult process of attending to and being with clients. And we can even see that as a new tenant in the Mills Building, CIIS’s Center for Somatic Psychotherapy literally holds space for the therapeutic process to occur.”
The Center for Somatic Psychotherapy, where Hamiel is a therapist in training, has provided counseling services in the Bay Area since 1991. The center is one of the few body-oriented therapy clinics in the U.S. For more information on the center or to make an appointment, view their website.