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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

I Want to Show the Messy Humanity behind the Therapist

I did not know art therapy existed until my mother, sister, and I went to interview an art therapist for my sister’s college assignment. She needed to interview an alternative practitioner, and my mom happened to find an art therapist for her. My mom and I tagged along for the interview out of curiosity.

At her art therapy studio, we were in awe of the environment. The art therapist demonstrated a few art therapy techniques and assessments. She also explained some of the history and academic underpinnings of art therapy. She made art therapy come alive, and I knew I wanted to be an art therapist.

Ever since this initial experience, I’ve continued to crave more real perspectives and voices on art therapy. I want to know the human behind the professional.

When I began graduate school for art therapy, our education was based primarily in academic books. I found myself reading more and more on my own time, seeking out therapists and authors who brought humanity and vulnerability to their words. I was pulled to therapists like Yalom, who openly discusses his internal thoughts and opinions as a therapist. I loved hearing what therapy was actually like for him.

I wanted more voices like this. I wanted more people who went beyond academic theories and explanations. While object academics has its place, I wanted people who captured what it was like to put those theories into practice. I wanted to hear what people were thinking and feeling. I wanted to hear the struggles of and the joys. I wanted to know what it actually means to live and breathe this profession. My mind was full of curiosities.

What happens when you get tired?

Do you have trouble setting aside your “therapist mind” outside of work?

Do you actually enjoy what you’re doing?

How do you decide what to do when the pay isn’t enough?

Do you dream about your clients?

What if you don’t like one?

What does it mean that you were drawn to a helping profession?

Therapy is a profession of secrets. We hold others secrets, and we often keep our internal world a secret. It’s a strange profession.

Am abstract finger painting of a circular messy garden by Art Therapist Jackie Schuld
"Messy Garden" Finger-paint on Paper by Jackie Schuld

I don’t want to be a plastic flower that someone comes and whispers secrets to. Immovable, unresponsive. I am a messy garden. I want to be alive. I want to nourish and be nourished. I want to be interactive and part of the ecosystem. I want to discuss and interact and play. I want to encourage growth and also grow myself. I want to showcase the realities of being a therapist. The ups, the downs, the random thoughts, the things to be worked through, the real joys witnessed.

In my writing, I seek to provide the aliveness I craved as a graduate student. To showcase what it is really like to live this profession. What it is really like to run a business - and not just the glossy “success.”

It’s why I write about my fears. My opinions. My ups and downs. How I structure my business. My mistakes. My changes. My tough decisions.

My evolving, delightfully messy garden.


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