I didn’t know art therapy existed until I had already completed my undergraduate degree.
It was 2010 and my sister was in nursing school. She had to interview an alternative practitioner for one of her classes. I was in Americorps, unsure of my career path since discontinuing my education toward becoming a medical doctor (that’s a story for another time).
I’m not sure how my mom found the art therapist, or even how she knew art therapy existed in the first place. It’s one of many mysteries I wish I could ask her about today (she passed in 2014, which you can read a little about here).
Regardless of how the interview originated, all three of us had no idea what an art therapist was. We were intrigued and happily went to the interview together.
The art therapist welcomed us into her private practice studio. We couldn’t believe her warm, welcoming space filled with so many materials.
The art therapist demonstrated a few different techniques and told us about the underpinnings of the field. We were mesmerized. I couldn’t believe there was a field that blended art, soul, and psychology (If you’re unfamiliar with art therapy, you can read more about it here).
When the three of us walked out of there, my sister turned to me and said, “Jackie, that is so you.”
And I felt it too.
I had always made and loved art since I was a kid, but didn’t want to solely be an artist. I didn’t enjoy creating art on commission or for others. I also loved science, but was dismayed by how little attention was paid to the soul and mental health in medical training.
Art therapy offered a way to combine my passions. I could continue to learn more art techniques and do art with others. I could also learn the science behind improving mental health. I was in.
That was the beginning of me becoming an art therapist.
It took me five additional years of education.
I had to return to college to complete the necessary prerequisites in art and psychology, and then complete my master’s program while working full-time.
Furthermore, I spread my education out (instead of cramming all my classes into packed semesters) because I wanted time to absorb and truly learn the material.
I’m glad I did.
It’s still a little hard to believe I’m an art therapist.
There are so many things I love about, and here are just a few:
Walking into my art therapy studio every day
Getting to move around with clients and not stay static in a chair
Never knowing where the art will take us (you can read about what an art therapy session is like here)
Always having the art to rely on
Seeing clients be struck by new understanding
The art providing a safe container for heavy emotions
Many different material options for expressing and processing
The chance to co-create
I can fidget while I work with clients
Getting to go deep through talking and creating
I now own an art therapy studio. Every day when I walk into my studio, I experience the same sense of awe I felt when I walked into my first art therapy studio. It feels like a wonderland and I'm grateful I get to be there.
Are you interested in experiencing art therapy?