Renewing my commitment to myself

I started this blog partly because I wanted to motivate myself to practice my personal art process on a regular basis. I thought that by sharing my process-and my struggles and thoughts about it-along the way I would in a sense hold my own feet to the fire. As many of you creative types can relate to, this ultimately resulted only in being yet another source of guilt.

I have decided to free myself from my self-imposed guilt about not blogging on a regular basis. I’m just going to carry on from this moment and not waste time with that all too familiar sense of not doing enough or being enough.

So, having said all that, here is the latest and greatest in the world of this Altered Art Therapist. Yes, it’s been a bummer of a year in many ways. On the bright side, my colleague and I have run a number of very successful SoulCollage® workshops. We look forward to further developing our offerings in the fall.

Next week I will be in San Antonio, TX presenting at the American Art Therapy Association conference. I am giving two talks. One is on the integration of the Recovery Model and the Open Studio Model and the other is on the clinical applications of SoulCollage®. I am very excited about seeing colleagues, friends and family! In November, my colleague and I will be giving a day long master class on SoulCollage® at the Expressive Therapies Summit in New York City. We will also be presenting on detailed clinical interventions using SoulCollage®.

Even though it sometimes feels that I am not doing much with my art (what IS that about?), when I lay it all out I am actually doing quite a lot. Hmmmm, fodder for another post. Next week I will write in more detail about my topics for the AATA conference.

No, seriously, where have you been?

It’s been quite a while since I have posted and I have Cathy Malchiodi to thank for the nudge. It has been a tough year. I have had one medical issue after another since January 1, 2013. I am okay and trying to get back on track.

What has been the thread that has saved me through all of this? Why, it’s art of course. And this time around it has been SoulCollage®.  In April, I was trained as a facilitator and along with my friend Robin have offered several workshops. I also use it in my classes and with my clients. Lately though, I use it a lot for my own healing.

SoulCollage® immediately takes me to a very deep place. It allows me to witness all that is present inside of myself. I don’t know about you but I have terrible monkey brain. I find it very hard to settle down and relax. Making the cards calms me in a way that nothing else does. It has given me a portal to my interior that I have never had before.

I plan to be back in action in 2014. Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season.

Hey, where ya been?

So, it’s been a little while since I last posted. I don’t really have a good excuse-life just got pretty hectic there for a while. At the moment, I am involved in several projects. I start teaching an intensive class next weekend on art therapy with adults with mental illness. I teach this class on a fairly regular basis, but my lectures always require a fair amount of updating from year to year. I am always astounded and saddened by the many inhumane ways people with mental illness have been treated throughout history. In any time, treaters think they are offering the most progressive treatment. It makes me wonder how history will view our current models of care.

My biggest art project of late is my involvement with SoulCollage. I attended the Expressive Therapies Summit in New York City in November 2012. I presented on the overlap between the Recovery Model and the Open Studio approach to art therapy. I also attended many wonderful workshops. Overall, it was one of the better conferences I have ever attended.

The SoulCollage has become a major inspiration to me. I made six cards at the conference and bought supplies to make more on the way home. I am up to sixty cards now. I am registered to take the facilitator training in Andover,MA in April along with my dear friend Robin. We have plans to offer SoulCollage workshops on the East and West Coasts of the U.S. We have spent several full days making cards and I gotta tell you-WOW! It is probably the most meditative and contemplative art practice I have ever engaged in. Check out their website for more information and watch this blog for info on our own workshops coming soon!

Over the summer, I got a promotion at work. I now manage the daily operations of a psychiatric rehab center. Yay!-except-this has largely taken me out of the art therapy studio at work. We had the good fortune to hire an exceptionally talented art therapist. Yet, I am filled with longing because of the days I spend at the computer and on the phone instead of in the studio. I am keeping my identity as an art therapist alive in many ways but am missing some of the hands-on work of being in the studio. I support the studio in many ways and supervise two art therapists and also student interns. I don’t want to get too far away from it.

Also over the summer, I moved my studio. It is about half the size of the old one, so I am struggling a bit with adapting to this. No matter what I do to organize the space, it is bursting at the seams with art supplies. If I could just squeeze in one more shelving unit…….maybe I could make it work?

So this is where I am in my art journey. Struggling as always to maintain time, space and energy for art making. Working hard as always to solidify and further my identity as an art therapist. Where are you in your journey?

Peace for the New Year. J


Getting ready to roll!



It has been a busy and stressful summer with lots of changes in every arena. I got a promotion at work and moved my studio, among other things. As the summer draws to a close, I am beginning to prepare for a busy fall. I will be presenting at the Massachusetts  Psychiatric  Rehabilitation conference on October 18.

I will also be presenting at the Expressive Therapies Summit in New York City on November 11.

I hope you can join me as I discuss the integration of the Recovery Model and the Open Studio Model of art therapy. I will be back to blogging regularly again very soon. Stay tuned as I get my new studio and projects up and running! I hope you are having an energizing summer!



Forgive me for taking an unannounced hiatus. I am back.

I have been thinking a great deal about stress lately, not least because I have been under quite a bit of it for the past two months. While I would love to be under less of it, I am learning to master it. For better or for worse, I am getting ample opportunities to practice stress reduction. Flexibility and resiliency seem to be key. Turning on a dime is a critical skill. Containing emotional responses in the moment-I’ve got that one down.

All of this leads me to the importance of self-care as clinicians, as artists, as humans. Self-care is not something that can wait for the weekend or the vacation. It simply must happen on a minute by minute basis if we are to function effectively in our work in the healing arts. It is as simple and complex as committing to taking a break or two every day. It is as simple and complex as carving out time for ourselves-time to meet OUR priorities, time to meet OUR needs, time to address OUR concerns. I know that I get very caught up in making sure everyone else is able to get their needs met, often at the expense of my own. There is a very large difference between selfishness and self-care. If I were selfish, I would not care what anyone else had on their plate, I would just make sure that I got all my own work done. But with self-care, I am invested in the outcome for all of us while ensuring I do not throw myself onto the pyre of martyrdom.

Oh, I am waxing philosophic tonight, forgive me. I am moving my studio and change is afoot everywhere and really all I want to do is lay on the beach for a while. Here’s hoping you are having a creative and loving summer.

Take a Hint

One could easily say that my life is fairly hectic. I work full time at a psychiatric hospital, I teach at a local university, I have a fledgling private practice, and I am very involved in my spiritual community. When I am not doing these things, I am working in the garden or studio, spending time with friends, and trying to relax. And in my “spare” time, I think about going back to school and writing a book. Now don’t get me wrong, I am hardly complaining. In fact, I feel pretty blessed by all of the opportunities that come my way. But let me tell you about the flip side and the perennial challenge of therapist self-care.

As I write this, I am laying on an ice pack and waiting for my chiropractic appointment. Holding onto stress has literally frozen my back into place. It’s pretty frustrating knowing that I have unwittingly done this to myself. Rather than beating myself up about it, I am going to take this as a not so subtle wake up call to do a better job of tending to myself. I am going to slow down a bit and take more time for myself. I have to heed the warning that my body is sending to me.  I overdo it on a regular basis. I take great pride in “getting it all done.” But at what price? A frozen back is the price this time, I don’t want to find any other dues to pay.

I need to practice more of what I preach about self-care. I do a lot to take care of myself, but clearly I am holding the daily stressors at a far deeper level. I need to give serious thought to how best to care for myself so that I am in optimum physical, emotional and spiritual health. I owe it to my clients, my students, my co-workers, my friends and family-but most importantly, I owe it to myself.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

I am feeling very heavy hearted today. A young woman in my community took her own life a few days ago. While I did not know her, I know many who did and who cherished her as a talented and loving person. So many questions abound and leave the survivors wondering what more they could have done.

In my work as a therapist, I have known many people who have struggled with suicidality. The desire to end one’s own life is a nagging pain that runs terribly deep. It becomes very hard, if not impossible, to imagine a less painful future. Hopelessness becomes the new normal. A suicide attempt can come as a complete shock. Most may not have known how hard someone was struggling to hold it all together until they do something drastic.

A few years ago, a young man I knew took his own life. Our community was stunned. Sure, he had his problems, but things seemed to be improving. We can second guess ourselves all day long about clues to his intentions, but the fact is that he let absolutely no one into his inner turmoil. Survivor guilt is intense and probably never goes away.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, there is help. It may not feel like it right now, but there are people who love you dearly and want to help you. In the depths of despair, it is hard to imagine that things will ever get better. Lean on those around you and borrow some hope for a while if you need to. It is hard to have much perspective when you are feeling so awful, but most things if given time do have a way of working out. Reach out, you will be amazed at how many people care about you and want to help.

Here are some resources for you and your loved ones:

Hang in there please, it gets better. Peace to you.

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