Creative Healing at the City Arts Centre

When you walk into Edmonton’s City Arts Centre there is no sense of self-importance or pretense among what appears to be an entrance filled with second-hand furniture and the smell of coffee coming from a stained pot. However, the talent and the skills realized within the paint and clay splattered walls can be remarkable. A person might even get the sense here that talent is less important than creativity. One does not have to be an accomplished artist to see and feel freely. And this sets the stage for a truly unique new program.

The Progoff Intensive Journal Method is described as “inherently organic” and set in a meditative, mindful environment. The course is for everyone. Not just the artsy and certainly not just those looking for healing (yet, who isn’t?).

Carol Ladas-Gaskin will facilitate the workshop at the City Arts Centre in Garneau this June. “Intent on reflective, non-critical self discovery, it is not a diary but a medium through which we understand our experience,” Gaskin explains. “And a valuable tool for gaining access to energy, creativity and a deeper than personal connection in one’s life.”

Participants in the workshop are gently guided through non-judgmental entries in provided notebooks. The books are divided into four main sections: Life-Time, Depth, Dialogue and Meaning. Gaskin says the sections provide scaffolding for 19 other subjects such as the Life History Log, Dream Log, Dialogue with Persons and Dialogue with Works. During each section and sub-section facilitators like Gaskin encourage participants to shed any notions of capturing a right or wrong answer, even the instinct to be logical. These are not autobiographical entries like in a diary. They are often images, feelings or ideas based on memories during what is called an “underground stream of recollection”. Many of the entries are meant to outline life events under very personal, often quite visceral, designations. The Oprah Winfrey “ah ha” moment happens when the realization of a pattern takes shape.

“Each corresponds to one’s inner and outer life experiences, thereby, allowing for cross fertilization and a feedback system of self discovery and transformation,” says Gaskin.

Dr. Ira Progoff developed and refined the Intensive Journal Method in the mid-1960s and 1970s. The method is a great case study for the school of humanistic psychology (Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow) embedded in the belief that human beings are designed to constantly develop and better themselves.

One of the pillars of humanistic psychology is the idea that spirituality and self-actualization comes from within. And journaling is a vehicle to get inside. The Intensive Journal process helps students realize links to events or memories or feelings that may be hidden unconsciously. The images are like breadcrumbs leading us to some destination, or clues to the realization that what is going on beneath the surface has a connection to what is taking place out in the world. “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside of you as fate,” wrote Progoff’s mentor Carl Jung. Progoff says “dreams reach back into the past and call out attention to those experiences that give us a clue with which to solve our present problems,” writes Robert Blair Kaiser in a 1981 Psychology Today article.

My critique (and every journalistic writer should have one) would be around knowing for certain that these images, interpretations and meanings have any real grounding. If Freud says sometimes a cigar is just a cigar then maybe sometimes a mental image is just an image, which could be based on something as arbitrary as a poster hanging on the wall or a mood. Humanistic psychologists would disagree saying everything has a meaning and every person has a purpose. Plus, when it comes to giving something a shot for general wellness or stress relief, I would put more stock in this method, even though it’s a bit heady and intense.

Humanistic psychology is a lovely way to think about what is at the root of being human, mainly because the school of thought is adamant that human beings are inherently good. Not only that, but constantly strive to be better. It is very much like the mindfulness movement, in which spirituality and a connectedness to the world comes from within. Whether you believe god put it there or not isn’t the point. The point is to first, trust it’s there, and then to reach deep and find it through a creative form that is unique to each individual.

If you are interested in the Progoff Intensive Journal program you can sign up using the information below. This program is just one of many at the City Arts Centre with a focus on well-being and makes the Way We Live in Edmonton just a little more interesting. “Within each of us is an underground stream of images and recollections that is nothing more or less than our interior life,” according to Kaiser.

I’d say good luck but Progoff would probably say luck has nothing to do with it. So, just have fun!

Workshops take place at the City Arts Centre (10943 – 84 Avenue). Log on to eReg or call 311 and use course numbers to register.

Progoff Intensive Journal Workshop (Life Context – Level 1)
Course number: 488522
Friday, June 21, 2013 2:30 – 9:30 pm
Saturday, June 22, 2013 9 am – 4:30 pm
Progoff Intensive Journal Workshop (Depth Context – Level 2)
Course number: 488595
Sunday, June 23, 2013 9 am – 4:30 pm
Monday, June 24, 2013 9 am – 4:30 pm
Progoff Intensive Journal Workshop (Life Context & Depth Context Workshops)
Course number: 488599
Friday through Monday
June 21 – June 24, 2013


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About the Author
Dawn Ostrem
Dawn Ostrem works for the City's department of Community Services on projects related to making life better for residents of Edmonton by partnering with citizens and communities committed to creating a safe, healthy, and vibrant city.
  1. Dani Pahulje
    5 years ago


    I am interested in the two-part Progoff Intensive Journal Program. I am, however, confused as to when this will take place. When one searches the Progoff Intensive Journal Program website, it indicates that these sessions will be held in Edmonton on March 21-23, 2014. Your website indicates that this will take place on June 21 – 24, 2014. Could you let me know which dates are corret?

    Thank you.

  2. Teresa Simonsmeier
    5 years ago

    Hi Dani,

    Thank you for your interest in this course! The next Intensive Journal Writing Workshop will be held Friday, March 21 – Sunday, March 23, 2014. Course #509963. You can sign up by calling 311 or visiting


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