Art Therapy… What’s That?

As senior year was coming to an end in high school, one of the most frequently asked questions I got was, “what do you want to be in life?” (At this point I had discovered art therapy and decided that’s what I wanted to do.) When I respond to that question, I’d say, “art therapy” and the response was often “oh… what’s that?” or a fake smile and nod pretending to know what the heck I was talking about. Now I still get this today; when I say I’m a student in college I eventually get asked what my major is, and the same conversation happens with the same classic response (most of the time anyways). We even have this joke at school in art therapy class about how people sometimes say, “Ohhhh art therapy, that’s the Rorschach/inkblot test.” It’s a very funny response because that’s really not what art therapy is but people wholeheartedly think that’s it.

I went to the dentist last week for a routine cleaning; I’ve gone to this dentist office for along time (the dentist is my friend’s dad) and I always have the same kind hygienist who asks me questions about life in friendly conversation. As we were talking she remembered that I am going to school for art therapy and had something to tell me. She said at first when I told her about my major (whenever that was, probably a year ago) she thought it was just random and odd. But now she explained to me that her mother had recently had a stroke, and therefore has to do all sorts of therapies. She goes along to be with her mother often and was just there when an art therapist brought her mother some pencils to draw or write with, which the daughter thought was going to be disastrous since the mother is struggling to move and such so how could she write? To the daughter’s surprise, her mother picked the pencil right up and started to draw, simple as that. By the end of the story I was smiling because she was saying how she now gets it; she gets how it can be used to help so many different populations and now appreciates art therapy.

I just started taking a ceramics class at a local art center (I’ll most likely write a post on that later). Our first class was last week where I met a middle aged woman who I started up a conversation with (we seemed to be the only 2 new to the studio not knowing where anything was). I ended up telling her that I’m an art student, specifically art therapy. She told me about how at work that day they had just interviewed an art therapist who had her doctorate and that it was very interesting. At this point I was intrigued but also semi confused because I had no idea what this woman’s profession was and she also had an accent that took me a second to comprehend. It turns out she was a psychologist, possibly a psychiatrist, I couldn’t quite catch which one with her accent. None the less though it was cool talking to her because she actually understood what I wanted to do in life. We both discussed how clay would be such a great medium to use I the art therapy field.

I’ve noticed the only time someone knows what I’m talking about, what art therapy is, is when they themselves have benefited from it or known someone who has. Those are the kind of people I enjoy talking to the most because their face lights up with joy knowing how beneficial art therapy is.

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