Northwest Indiana News: nwitimes.com Healing artwork speaks to counselor
ART THERAPY: Art therapy allows troubled clients to express hard-to-articulate feelings
BY JERRY DAVICH
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Monday, July 24, 2006 12:11 AM CDT
One colorful collage shows an image of a rifle shooting a bottle of alcohol. One screams out in bold print, “Let’s talk.”
Another shows a car hitting a tree, killing the driver’s girlfriend, followed by images of drugs and booze, then the word “sobriety.”
These crude yet insightful collages — cut out of magazines and pasted together by local residents — are just one form of art therapy. The field is being used more commonly to help people struggling with mental illness, emotional problems, or other traumatic experiences.
“These pictures really do say a thousand words,” said Amanda Wyatt, a licensed mental health counselor with Porter-Starke Services, in between clients.
“They are snapshots of where these clients were at a certain point in time,” said Wyatt, one of just 16 board-certified art therapists in the state.
Art psychotherapy emerged as a medical profession in the 1940s, but such forms of visual expression have been used for healing throughout history, according to the American Art Therapy Association.
In the early 20th century, psychiatrists became interested in the artwork created by their patients with mental illness, and also with war veterans who couldn’t express themselves in words and children who turned to art to vocalize their feelings.
Since then, the field has evolved into a distinct yet still fledgling medical discipline, which is still fighting for legislation in many states to be recognized as a valid clinical study, according to one national advocacy group.
“More professionals such as social workers, counselors and school counselors often refer students and children to an art therapist,” said Gayle Sutch, president of the Art Therapy Credentials Board.
Wyatt’s art therapy clients, who wished to remain anonymous, said art therapy is a way of speaking more than 1,000 words without ever opening your mouth.
“Art therapy helps me realize all the things that I am when I tend to think of all of the things I’m not,” one client said.
“Art therapy helps me express feelings when I can’t find the right words to express them,” another said.
Wyatt sees between 45 and 60 clients a week in her Valparaiso offices, some who first think it’s a silly notion to create artwork to help solve deep-seated problems. But then they begin to understand the healing aspects of visual expression, Wyatt said
She typically tells clients that she carries two suitcases — her traditional counseling suitcase and her art therapy suitcase, borrowing from each throughout each session.
“Art therapy doesn’t give my client a voice, but let’s their voice be heard,” Wyatt said.
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