I began my journey as an art therapist many years ago when in my art studio one afternoon I discovered how the power of art as therapy works with kids. Being a parent, I was keenly aware of how a heavy focus on grades and testing can sometimes suppress a child’s natural creativity, and often lead to impulsive, and inattentive behavior which can also lead to acting out and defiance. I decided to host art workshops in my studio offering school age kids a safe and open environment where they could express a range of emotions through art making.
My decision to become an art therapist began after one intense afternoon when six kids came into my art studio complaining about a “bully” at their school. It was obvious to me that the kids needed to express themselves and I needed to provide a safe place to do so, with art materials on hand. As the kids started to sculpt, using clay, they began to share their experiences, and together they decided to create a sculpture of the bully. The sculpture, however, became a representation not of the “bully” per se, but of the kids’ collective emotions about her. On reflection, the kids noticed that the girl that they attempted to create looked more like a monster than a girl.
The “monster” they decided, was how they felt about the girl, and did not in fact represent how she actually looked. They discovered that her bullying behavior made her look “ugly” and that the way she made others feel made her look “like a monster”. They talked about how the girl was “pretty” in real life and not a monster at all, and in that discovery they had increased insight into their emotions. By using clay they were able to express themselves creatively. The experience of manipulating the natural material provided tactile involvement whereas by scratching, prodding, clasping, squeezing, smashing and stabbing the clay, their anger, confusion and frustration was released in a healthy and productive manner. It was a perfect example of art as therapy and facilitating these moments became my calling.
So, after that very emotional and cathartic day in the studio, I decided to enroll in the Masters degree program at Loyola Marymount University and graduated three years later with a dual degree as a Marital and Family Therapist and a Clinical Art Therapist. I have worked with various populations including Veterans, homeless youth, in addiction centers, as well as with children, couples and families.
Art therapy has been proven to result in significant positive behavior change in both children and adults. Learning to express and release emotions in a healthy and positive manner can help people of all ages avoid emotional flooding. Emotional flooding is the result of unaddressed emotions, which can feel like a flood in a sense, and it can be overwhelming. This overwhelm can lead to unsafe behaviors such as self-harm due to unaddressed depression, or aggression due to unaddressed anger. Art making offers a unique language in which one can understand and master their unique expression of emotion.
The art therapy group setting provides an awesome opportunity to improve social skills, gain self-confidence, and have some fun using various materials such as paint, clay and collage. In a group, people collaborate and join together to solve problems through art making, like the kids in my studio who learned about their emotions through creating a sculpture. The sensitive content that arises during group art therapy offers unique opportunities to connect on a deeper and more personal level without social media pressure.
For further information on upcoming art therapy groups, or for individual art therapy services, please contact me directly at 818 324 6319
Looking forward to working creatively with you!