Art Therapy: How It Works, the Benefits, How to Start
Art Therapy: What it is and isn’t
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Today we’re talking with Raquel Farrell-Kirk, MS, ATR-BC about art therapy: What it is and isn’t. Raquel has been a professional art therapist for 17 years. She’s worked in a variety of settings where art therapy can be found; in psychiatric settings, outpatients, also in educational settings with children with special needs.
Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the arts, art-making, and the creative process as the core of how we do our therapy. It is how we affect change, how we treat clients and explore their issues and give them new skills. We do that all through art and art-making.
Read More: Anxiety in Children and Adolescents
How can art therapy be used in the aftermath of a traumatic event like the shooting at Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High School? What was the goal of art therapy for that purpose? At that time?
In the immediate aftermath of an event like that, you are really doing a lot of support. You’re not really trying to unpack details or ask people to rehash details. You’re doing a lot of support, a lot of psychoeducational approaches and implementing some coping skills: “Here are some things to do when you feel overwhelmed” type of things. We did a lot of things like open and close our sessions with deep breathing, with information on trauma and stress, and we did a lot of art activities designed to give people some flexibility.
As an example, we worked on mandalas (an ancient practice). Mandalas are a very intricate pattern, usually contained within a circle. It’s used for meditation. Coloring and drawing a mandala can be very relaxing. We would try to do activities like that so that we were giving people a place to come for some respite; a place to come and not be alone; a place to come and get some information and to do an art activity that would help bring those anxiety levels down and bring people in the community together in one place.
How do I find an art therapist?
If you are already seeing another mental health professional, you can ask them if they know art therapists in the area. Most states have an art therapy chapter. For example, where I live in Florida, we have the Florida Art Therapy Association. They all have websites and Facebook pages so you can look up (Google) art therapy associations wherever you live. You can also go to the American Art Therapy Association (arttherapy.org) website and they have a locator function on their site where you can find a therapist in your area.
In Conclusion: Final Message
Art Therapy is about the process and self-expression. And, it’s also about the freedom to explore. It is NOT about what it looks like.
Racquel’s easy challenge
Go to the art museum and look at all of the different things in there. You don’t have to go there with answers and knowledge in your head. Go there together with your child and say, “Let’s go look and see what we like. And if you find one thing that you like, then talk about why you like it.” It is that simple to do. There’s no need to feel intimidated by art or to feel intimidated by how you choose to bring that into your child’s life.
Links mentioned in this episode:
ABOUT: Raquel Farrell-Kirk, MS, ATR-BC has been an art therapist for seventeen years. In that time she has worked in a wide range of settings, including inpatient psychiatric facilities, outpatient substance abuse treatment centers, nursing homes and educational settings. Raquel is past president for the Florida Art Therapy Association and has served in a variety of roles for the American Art Therapy Association. She has been featured in radio and print interviews and has presented nationally and internationally on art therapy for a wide range of audiences. Raquel is a proud homeschool mom of three boys and the Program Director at Evolve Learning Community, an alternative education and resource center specializing in children with special needs.
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