I have over a decade of experience working with children and adult youth in many diverse settings. I first began volunteerinig as a mentor for community programs for foster children and working in shelters for battered women and children. My love for working with children brought me to begin getting involved with and traveling to help children and staff in international orphanages in countries such as Africa and Mexico.
In 2007, I began to utilize my love for art and channel it into my work and advocacy for children. I became actively involved in supporting, developing, and facilitating creative development in hospital settings, group homes for abused children, school based programs, and private organizations throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, California. In 2011, I completed my bachelors degreee in psychology. Shortly after, I discovered and pursued my passion for art therapy. In 2013, I completed my masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy/Art therapy at Phillips Graduate in Chatsworth, California.I am currently registered as an MFT Intern and working in private practice in Laguna California, utilzing art therapy and other modes of treatment to meet the specific needs of each client. I am looking forward to utilizing and advocating art therapy to help children and adults discover their inner strengths and reshape their lives.
I am currently registered as an MFT Intern specializing in using art therapy as a mode of treatment for children and adult youth. I have approximately 2 years of experience working with children in a school setting and adult youth in an outpatient clinic for co-occurring disorders. I have had extended training in trauma focused treatment for adults and children from my traineeship working with transition-aged adult youth and through additional workshops.
Working in a school-based setting for elementaray school aged children, I have gained experience and specialization in working with children with anxiety disorders, Selective Mutism, AD/HD, and Adjustment disorders. In addition, I have strengthened my skills working with children with learning, neurological and developmental disorders. This additional experience has helped me to combine the use of my training in art therapy to individualize treatment for these populations.
Working in an outpatient clinic for adult youth with co-occuring disorders has provided me with additional experience and training in treating trauma, anxiety disorders, Obsessive-Complusive Disorder, mood disorders, and a significant knowledge base of polysubstance abuse. While working at this site, I pursued additional traininig workshops, researched, and consulted with clinicians that specialize in treating Co-occurring Disorders, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and PTSD. This additional training and experience working with clients with both trauma and OCD helped me to make special considerations and develop individualized treatment, in addition to the application of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.
Art therapy can help children and adult survivors of trauma to safely address and explore thier personal stories through a non-invasive approach. Collage images and personal expression through the art process can be utilized to help survivors confront their deepest fears in a gradated approach that each individual feels comfortable with. Art can be a safe starting point on the journey to recovery.
Often times the experience of a trauma can be significantly debilitating for individauls whose purpose and plans in life can be so powerfully derailed that they need to begin to make sense of their lives again and rebuild. Art therapy can be powerful tool to help clients reconstruct their lives. Creating books can empower clients to redefine and rebuild a the purpose in their lives. By creating a new narrative and visual maps of their goals, survivors can rehearse and plan their lives once again. Symbols of strength can serve as powerful tools to build the survivor’s resiliency and excavate new possiblities by helping individuals reauthor their story. This can be accomplished through creating a book of photo images that begins to symbolize their personal strengths on the road to recovery. Books with drawings and words can also help surviviors reclaim their lives through storytelling and visualizing their future.
Art therapy is a creative treatment approach for diverse populations, including children, adolescents, and adults of any age. Art therapy provides clients with a unique language to express and explore thoughts and feelings on a new level, which words alone often cannot capture. One need not be a skilled artisit or have any art experience at all to experience the plethora of benefits. Engaging in the creative process can help people to slow down, uncover inner strengths, discover newfound resiliency and unearth possiblities that may be hidden from a person’s concious view. In fact, exploring problems and solutions in a new way can help form new neural pathways in the brain and strengthen neural connections. Moreover, visual metaphors and symbols serve as powerful tools to propel clients forward to achieve the personal growth and change that they desire.
It is evident that art therapy can be helpful for diverse populations and cultures. In fact, art has been used since ancient times in the form of pictographs to help hunters to visualize capturing their prey and accomplishing goals of survival. In modern times, art therapy can be useful for children and adults with vastly different needs. For example, the use of art as a mode of communication can create a climate that is safe, disarming and non-invasive for children, adolescents, and adult survivors of trauma. Art therapy can be used in hospital settings to help children and adults express their feelings and adjust to the harsh demands of medical issues they are facing. Lastly, art therapy can be highly beneficial for anyone who wishes to explore their personal growth creatively.
Junge, M.B., & Asawa, P.P. (1994). Chapter four: The art therapy literature. In M.B.
Junge & P.P. Asawa, History of art therapy in the United States (pp. 155-254).
Mundelein, IL: American Art Therapy Association.
Gerteisen, J. (2008). Monsters, monkeys, and mandalas: Art therapy with children
experiencing the effects of trauma and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 25(2), 90-93.
Malchiodi, C. (1998). The art therapy sourcebook. Lincolnwood, IL: Lowell House.
Recommended Reading and Websites
Consult websites for further info on art therapy:
Books and Journals:
Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. AATA.
Landgarten, H. (1981). Clinical art therapy: A comprehensive guide. New York, NY:
Rhyne, J. (1973). The Gestalt experience: Patterns that connect. Monterey, CA:
Malchiodi, C. (1998). The art therapy sourcebook. Lincolnwood, IL: Lowell House.
As reflected upon in previous postings, art has been used to express the human condition and employed therapeutically since ancient times. In addition, art therapy found its roots in modern times through the development of psychoanalysis and interpreting dream symbols. While considering the foundational concepts of Freud’s studying of the unconscious and Jung’s contribution of collective unconscious and individuation, it is of equal importance to explore more recent definitions and uses of art therapy.
Today art therapy has branched off into many diverse approaches and applications for a vast array of populations. Art therapy approaches are a myriad, however the broad categories fall into psychoanalytic, process, or product approaches. For instance, applied with a psychoanalytic approach, art can be used to give the therapist insight into the client’s personality, beliefs, and motivations. This approach can use ‘free association’ in as a way of reaching the client’s subconscious and making it conscious and then analyzing it, such as Eleanor Ulman’s Personality Assessment Procedure in which a scribble is made and then formed into a picture.
The Product view of art therapy emphasizes the making of a ‘product’ or symbolic expression in art. This type of art may be used to enhance the client’s sense of mastery over their problems and build their self-esteem. For instance, a client may be asked to make a clay animal that represents their strong and positive characteristics in order to strengthen and reinforce the client’s self concept.
The process view focuses on the ‘making’ of art and the ‘experience’ of the client. By emphasizing the spontaneous ‘process’ of art making, it is believed that transformation can be heightened through self-discovery and exploration.
Today, many art therapists practice with an eclectic approach or blend of process and product, depending upon the client’s needs and goals. There are a plethora of ways a therapist can stimulate or guide a client on the road to revelation and transformation. A Therapist may challenge a client’s cognitive distortions by using confrontation and challenging their current beliefs. In addition, gestalt techniques of experimenting to find personal meaning and ‘experiencing’ the art in the ‘here and now’, can be very effective for clients who may not have allowed certain emotions to be overtly expressed and experienced. Other modern approaches include systemic approaches, which focus on a client’s narratives and how to destabilize them through the process of creating art and discussing it. Another modern approach applied to art therapy is the Post Modern approach, which emphasizes the positive attributes of the client. Still, one of the most recent developments involves the use of art and Mindfulness, or aiding the client in focusing on the ‘present moment’ and the benefits of integrating both hemispheres of the brain.
The journal article which I selected for review and commentary was taken from the American Art Therapy Journal. The title of the article is “Monsters, Monkeys, and Mandalas: Art Therapy With Children Experiencing the Effects of Trauma and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (Gerteisen, 2008).
The purpose of this article was to explore the effects of art therapy on children who have suffered from abuse trauma and FASD combined. The art therapy treatment was conducted on a group of 7 children who ranged in age from 10-14 years old. The group met once a week for a duration of 9 weeks. Over this period, the children were given spontaneous and structured activities. The activity variation was provided in order to account for learning difficulties associated with FASD, such as difficulty concentrating cognitive processing of information, and impaired verbal expression.
Mandala making was one of the structured activities used to treat the group. The mandala (a circular shape that may project inward or outward) was used to help the children to practice inner control and concentration. By combing all of the mandalas together, it was also used to increase social interaction. This activity resulted in the children being able to participate without interruption for a minimum of 15 minutes. This was more successful than any other activity used. Moreover, mandala making has been shown to decrease impulsivity and increase attention over time in children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Smithemanbrown & Church, 1996).
Two of the powerful images that emerged from the children’s art work in the spontaneous activities were monsters and monkeys. These were created during the free drawing exercise. One of the questions directed to the children was: “Can you tell me through images about who you are”? One child, drew a monkey stating that it reminded him of the mandala. The monkey had crossed eyes and clenched teeth, but did not possess arms or legs. This may have represented the child’s feelings of helplessness and immobility (Drachnik, 1995). The monkeys continued to emerge throughout the 9 weeks. Another image that became thematic was a ‘monster’. This may have been the child’s only way to externalize fear through sensory experience (Drachnik, 1995. It is clear to see how children who are traumatized and who have verbal impairment may experience a powerful outlet of expression. In addition, the making circular images can trigger a child to make these types of images, since they were constructed after the mandala making activity.
The results of this study may cause further reflection and development of more extensive research aimed at examining the changes in brain activity before the mandala making. By comparing the brain activity before mandala making and free activities to activity to the later activity, it may further demonstrate the effectiveness of various aspects of art therapy. Also, it may be significant to explore new sensory stimulating material shown as effective in capturing the attention of children with different verbal & developmental levels, such as children with Autism. It may be beneficial to further explore these application to children on the Autism spectrum and comparing them to other therapeutic activities used to increase social interaction, team work, and focused attention.
The origins that art therapy have in psychoanalysis are carried over into some of the first pioneering art therapists of the 1950’s, such as Margaret Naumberg, Elinor Ulman, and many others. Margaret Naumberg is considered the founder of art therapy. Drawing from Jung, Naumberg believed in the use of symbolic imagery and emphasized the client’s position to interpret and talk about their art for healing purposes. During this time, Elinor Ulman began to aid Naumberg in her lecture series on art therapy. As a result, Ulman began to explore, publicize, and extend the definition of art therapy through the creation of the first art therapy journal known as “The Bulletin of Art Therapy”. It went on to become the officially affiliated journal of the American Art Therapy Association in 1961. One of Ulman’s missions was to make art therapy more prevalent and research based. In fact, she expressed many controversial perspectives of art therapy, such as criticizing many art therapists for working individually versus more collectively. In addition, she criticized many psychiatrists and psychologists for the misapplication or overemphasis on the psychoanalytic approach. Like Naumberg, Ulman believed in the use of symbolic imagery to better understand the client.
Ulman utilized her knowledge of art therapy in the psychiatric unit in which she worked. Her extensive background in working with children with acute mental illness became a valuable asset in developing and expanding the use of art therapy. For instance, Ulman believed that individuals with Schizophrenia may not be able to gain conscious insight through unconscious symbols and therefore emphasized aiding the client in building ‘ego defenses’ so that psychotic images created by the client, would not become overwhelming for them. In addition, she also encouraged the use of occasional free expression of clients who were often so suppressed with correctional treatment, that a greater need for self-acceptance was dire. Although Ulman clearly de-emphasized many aspects of psychoanalysis and treatment of the client as ‘sick’, she did focus on the significance of sublimation, or the channeling of anger or sadness into a productive purpose and beneficial purpose for the client and the world they live in.
In addition to her contributions to the expansion, awareness, and development of art therapy, Ulman also created the Ulman Personality Assessment Procedure (UPAP). This projective test was developed for the purpose of gaining information of the personality and emotional status of an individual in order to aid in treatment. In this test, the individual is asked to make a large scribble on a large (24 x 30) paper. After the scribble is created, the client is asked to make an image out of the scribble. The client is then asked to discuss their feelings, ideas, and associations with the image or images. The idea is that the therapist can gain insight of the personal symbols, cognitive processes, and perceptions of the client, in order to better help them.