08/10/2011 04:14 pm ET | Updated Oct 10, 2011

Craft It Out

I had a wonderful moment on Monday in my consulting room. I had just finished a therapy session with a particularly creative child with whom I usually draw and doodle and talk and design and weave it all together as we work out important issues. I put aside our markers and paper, and welcomed my next patient in the room, a middle-aged Mr. M. M takes one look at the markers and paper and says, "Oh, so you were 'crafting it out' were you?" And we both had a smile and laugh as he went on to let me know, "I do that all the time."

And so with Mr. M's permission, I want to bring attention to the idea of "Crafting It Out." It may even be that M coined a fabulous new term. You heard it here first! To me, this just completely captures the value of 'crafting'! Whether it's scrap-booking, knitting, needlepoint, woodwork, cooking, collaging, photo-shopping, painting, coloring, doodling... it works to work out issues if we let it. I am not formally trained in Occupational Therapy (OT)... but I feel I have a handle on the basics of OT anyway, given what I do all day. All patients in the hospital, at least in the good old days when we actually had the time and funding to really do therapy with patients, had mandatory and particular type of Occupational Therapy... which was basically, "crafting it out." It is widely accepted that those therapies are essential as one works out inner pain, grief, and a hopeless destruction of self on the inside. Creating, crafting something that comes from our own hands, ignites creation within, defeating the self-attack that is grabbing hold. Something Prozac and Celexa just can't do. In the old hospital that I worked in, with kids and adolescents psychiatrically hospitalized, a whole floor was designated for sculpting, candle-making, weaving, collaging, painting... CREATING! Don't get me started about the "good old days" of psychiatric in-patient treatment. I may have to figure out how to get us all talking about that in a future blog where I can lament about the days where a patient actually got some decent treatment in a hospital. But I am getting off the topic. The topic being: parenting.

What does this have to do with parenting... ? ... Okay... well, I am thinking for those parents who just can't bear to play Barbie BUT love to press flowers and make a card... this Crafting It Out idea is a gem. It assuages a guilt that yes, working out issues is done through doll play, but we can make a Spirograph-decorated shoebox too and maybe accomplish another type of important play work. And for those of us that would rather bedazzle a box, or make a Popsicle stick barn, than do homework, the good news is, it can be really really great for your kids! Sprinkle a bit of loving, kind, connected, mindful, reflective, and consciousness magic dust in the moment, and it could be super great! Craft It Out.

Even if I want to get all neurotransmitter-y and brain anatomy and circuit-y on you... Crafting It Out makes hardcore scientific sense. Using our hands, and not our language, using our visual and spatial parts of our brain, using color and design centers in our brain as we are working out emotional conflict not only has scientific backing, but just plain old makes intuitive sense. How good does it feel to finish a needlepoint Christmas ornament? Even better to sit down and start a crocheting business as a friend of mine did after her third miscarriage and intolerable grief. She sat down and just started crocheting and crocheting beautiful scarves and blankets and hats. She swears it got her out of the pit of grief. "Needlepointing It Out" binds up my anxieties with each neat and beautiful little stitch and knot. I can order things neatly and put the knots on the canvas where they belong, not in me. It makes me a better parent. As I hammer a nail into a piece of wood on the way to making a cool Something or Other (is it a birdhouse?) with my son, I can hammer out my thoughts and feelings... just hammering. He and I get to share in that unspoken magic.

Craft it out. I just love it.