I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Registered Art Therapist receiving my MA in Art Therapy Counseling from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. From 2005-2019 I dedicated my time to community mental health and founded the Expressive Therapies Program at Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka, Kansas. Under my leadership this grew to be a comprehensive program of art therapy and music therapy services for adults experiencing mental illness. I have additional experience providing art therapy and counseling to children, youth, and seniors and have specialized training in helping those who have been impacted by severe mental health concerns.
My approach is that of a collaborator. I firmly believe that each individual is the expert of their experience, but that when life presents challenges such as loss, mental illness, trauma, or major change, a person can become overwhelmed making it hard to see the way forward. In my collaboration with individuals I aim to help break down life challenges and empower a person's confidence in their own wisdom and strengths.
I strive to create a safe place for individuals to feel comfortable speaking openly about themselves and their lives. I have a open door policy where individuals are free to discuss topics relative to themselves, their identity, their cultures, or their personal stories. I will always respect a person’s knowledge, experiences, and preferences while also working to maintain awareness of how my own lived experiences influence my understanding.
I am trained in a number of therapeutic approaches. Some of areas of training that inform my practices include: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), trauma informed care, trauma recovery, person-centered care, strengths based treatment, mindfulness, and creative arts therapies.
Creatively I am skilled in a wide range of expressive media such as painting, drawing, mixed media, crochet, sewing, journaling, and clay. I have a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from the University of Kansas. I utilize my skills as both an artist and a professionally trained art therapist to help each person find creative outlets that will help them achieve what is needed for their health and well-being.
Together we will put the art process to work in your life to help achieve such things as reducing anxiety, finding personal strengths, developing insight into challenges, navigating overwhelming emotions, or building hope in the future.
About Art Therapy
You might be wondering how art exactly fits into the therapy process. Art therapy is the integration of art making, creative expression, and psychotherapy processes to help a person achieve their therapeutic goals or mental health needs. Professional art therapists typically receive a master's degree in the field of art therapy and must meet training standards for professional registration. Some art therapists also have dual training in fields such as counseling or social work. Additionally, art therapists must have a background in art and be fluent in the use of a wide range of creative media.
Within an art therapy session I typically start by helping a person identify what they are needing. This may be a physical, cognitive, or emotional need or a part of life they want to problem-solve or explore. Together we collaborate to develop a hands-on or creative approach that would best fit the person's needs. To find what creative approach is best I may suggest different art processes to help with such things as calming, releasing tension, expressing emotions, or clarifying thinking.
The creative process is beneficial in addressing challenges because it acts on multiple fronts. When a person engages with the art materials and moves through the creative process it has a powerful and beneficial impact on the mind and the body. Additionally, what a person expresses in their art is a part of the therapeutic process. When a person expresses things visually or creatively it helps them gain a new perspective on what they are thinking or feeling. Art Therapy is a good fit for may types of people, young or old. A person does not need to have any previous experience in art to participate. The creative and hands-on nature of the art therapy is an enjoyable and accessible way to enrich life and heal difficulties.
I am often asked how professional art therapy is different from other art activities. There are many times when the phrase "art therapy" is used casually to mean any art activity that feels good or therapeutic. For example, you might enroll in a crochet class and find this very relaxing and therapeutic. However the focus of the art class remains focused on learning the art skill. This is different from professional art therapy where the focus is not only on the art skill, but also provides the clinical guidance for using the art process to help achieve your mental health needs. Sometimes helping professionals or programs utilize the term "art therapy" when they add art making as a supplement to their services. This can be a very enriching addition to the services, however if the facilitator of the art activity does not have training specifically in art therapy then it is not professional art therapy. The training a professional art therapist receives provides the knowledge needed to safely and effectively guide the creative process as the means through which the therapeutic goals are achieved.
About Family Psychoeducation
When a loved one experiences symptoms of mental illness it impacts everyone in the family. I utilize the model of Family Psychoeducation, an Evidence Based Practice, to help individuals with mental illness and their families build strategies of coping with the symptoms of mental illness and feeling confident in moving forward with life. The term "family" can refer to anyone who is a close supporter and does not have to be limited to biological family members. My approach focuses on collaboration with a family to gain understanding of the mental illness, develop strategies of working together to decrease the negative impact of the symptoms, and increase feelings of hope and confidence in the future. Family meetings include three primary components: information and education about symptoms and recovery, collaborative problem-solving, and family support.
I have practiced Family Psychoeducation since 2007 and collaborated with the University of Kansas's Center for Mental Health Research in integrating the program, called Kansas Partnership of Families, at Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka, KS. The practice of Family Psychoeduction was originally developed for youth or adults who experience Schizophrenia or a related disorder and their family members but has also been found beneficial for other mental health conditions. Research shows that this approach helps reduce crisis, increase achievement of goals such as education or employment, and decrease family reports of burden from the mental illness. Currently, I provide sessions of Family Psychoeducation individually with plans to add a group component where families can support each other.
See this video about Kansas Partnerhship of Families produced by Valeo Behavioral Health Care.