By Ashtyn Porter
When you think of therapy, your first impression might be one of a lot of talking. Verbal discussions are a cornerstone of counseling, but for those who don’t know how to put into words what they’re struggling with, they may find another avenue to express themselves — art!
Abbie Stonelake (MA, LMHP-R) is a clinician with enCircle who wants to give clients the tools to help navigate the healing process. She is in the process of becoming a Registered Art Therapist (ATR) and utilizes art therapy techniques. Art therapy works alongside standard counseling practices, in which people of all ages use artistic mediums to help articulate stressors, past traumas, and more. This is done through a variety of art forms adapted to your needs and comfort level, such as painting, collage making, or even pottery.
"The medium we use depends on the person because different materials evoke different things," Abbie explained. "For example, painting is a very fluid material so sometimes that can cause some regression, but it can also promote relaxation, depending on the person. I select the medium depending on what the client needs, and sometimes I’ll give a client a range of materials and let them choose because that can speak to where they are."
Art therapy can be helpful for those who are stuck cognitively, those who overthink situations, and those who feel disconnected from their body and feelings. This is true for both kids and adults, and sessions are adapted for the needs of different age groups.
"Most adults stop taking formal art classes around middle school so their drawing level is often at middle school age, so picking tasks might look a little different for them," Abbie said. "Since there may be that fear of being judged I may pick a material like collage making, because you don’t have to draw, you just pull out images. With kids, it goes a lot faster, but I may check in with them with an emoji they respond to or a closing out activity."
Art therapy works alongside standard counseling practices to combine the power of creativity with proven and effective therapeutic methods. For someone who is interested in therapy but is worried about the ability to put feelings into words, art therapy can be a wonderful path toward healing. It doesn’t require any artistic skill and can work for people of any age and background.
"One thing I always encourage people to remember is that I’m not an art teacher, I’m not going to grade them on their ability, and it doesn't matter if they’re good at drawing or not because there is such a range of materials we can use to find something that speaks for them," Abbie said. "If someone is really hesitant or has a lot of trauma and doesn't quite feel ready to tell their story verbally, but they know they need to do some therapy work, it can be a safe place to start."
If you're interested in starting art therapy, you can schedule your first appointment with Abbie here.