31 May 2014

Thoughts on Math and Therapy

This post was originally published in my weekly newsletter about art therapy, running a private practice and overall wellness. To receive these post before anyone else subscribe here. 


Problem Solving

 I was never particularly good at math in school and thankfully my career has proven to be mostly math free. That being said I have always had a great respect for people with an aptitude for math, and I was reminded of this fact when I attended a lecture at New York’s Museum of Math. What I admire most is the mathematicians’ dedication to learning a numeric language and making sense of complex equations. Although the numbers themselves never quite stuck in my mind and formed any sort of meaningful connection, the concept of solving a problem (or should I say the process of studying a problem) relates. Are there any areas in life that are as definitive as a math equation?

People often think about therapy in terms of problem solving. “I have these problems and I want solutions.” How easy would it be if you could go to therapy for just that? In practice therapy is the process of analyzing the equation, all of the information, and then constructing and implementing methods that we look at and analyze. There is no “solution” necessarily, but rather a more complete understanding of the issues themselves. Like mathematics in its purest form, therapy develops an appreciation for the methods used and creates the ability and flexibility to construct new methods.

We see our problems as defining our situation. If I could just accomplish/change/overcome (insert obstacle here) than I would be ok. What is more powerful than solving our problems is the awareness of how we develop patterns in our lives. With the exception of tragedy, most problems are familiar. Relating to people and ourselves, financial issues, lack of time, stress, struggles with health etc. Our outlook, our response and our methods can fall into familiar patterns. This is not good or bad. It’s the repetitive way of looking at a situation that can become limiting. This is where we can gain insight and expand our methodology to include a greater variety of tools.

 It often takes much longer to do this work; there are no “quick fixes” in therapy (maybe there are some ‘not so long fixes’ but no quick ones). But you gain so much more from truly understanding you process. Just like in math, a solution is meaningless if you don’t know how to show your work.

Jennifer Byxbee

I am an art therapist and creative arts therapies supervisor in New York City. I have worked as an art therapist for over 9 years with children and adults in a variety of settings. Art Therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the creative process in order to promote self awareness, esteem and insight. I provide long and short term individual therapy, group therapy, and supervision for practicing clinicians at my Manhattan office. I also offer remote services.


  1. I like seeing what you are doing and hearing about your current happenings. I hope you are well, Jenn.

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