In my recent work on Coaching and Mentoring I have begun to use creative/ visual methods in order to explore the feelings and emotions that arise from the mentoring experience. Here, I made a piece of textile art to depict a particularly emotional mentoring session with one of my mentees. She is usually a rather closed book or someone who appears in control, someone who is happy and listens to others. In our first session there was an outpouring of emotion. I made a pocket from felted fabric to symbolise how, in our session, we drew out emotions from an otherwise ‘closed’ space. I attached ribbons and threads with found objects attached to the ends to symbolise the complex mix of tangled threads of thoughts that overflowed and hit us both: issues to do with her passion for teaching (acorn) but how this passion can become all consuming (red bead)…time pressures (clock and bell)…how work can interfere with those closest to us (white heart)…being busy all the time (bee)…and how this can leave us feeling trapped (heart inside a cage). In making this it helped me to reflect on what key issues we had talked about and what specific areas of my mentees life we might work on together in the future.
My mentee has also used visual methods to reflect on her patterns of behaviour and to help her pinpoint areas for exploration. She has taken photographs of spaces and places that are meaningful to her and where she wishes to spend more time. She has used online mind mapping tools to help visually represent her thought process and make sense of her development.She has used visual metaphors in her reflections, taking photographs of trees and filing cabinets to make sense of her frustrations.
This emergent, creative way of working together has made me think more about the role creativity plays in the mentoring (and perhaps coaching) relationship. It seems to be able to help make the intangible thing like emotions and observations more tangible, more visible and thus, certainly in this case, more accessible in terms of further exploration and sense-making.