Art Therapy: An Elevator Speech

The Question.  It’s inevitable.  “So, what do you do?” Depending on the circumstances, I may answer that I am an artist, a teacher or an art therapist.  While I am extremely proud of being an art therapist, I have sometimes been a little hesitant to share this.   My fear (and this is well-founded) is that the person will start to tell me about their personal problems.  But let’s assume that this person is genuinely interested in what art therapy is all about.   How can I explain my life work in 3 minutes?

While I hesitate to define art therapy against anything, I will.  Let me tell you what art therapy is not. It is not reading inkblots.  It is not interpreting drawings.  It is not about coloring and doing “cut and paste.”  Let me tell you what art therapy is. It is a profession practiced by highly trained individuals with graduate degrees and clinical licenses.  Art therapists are both fine artists and trained mental health professionals.  Art therapy draws (pun somewhat intended) on strengths, on the the drive to create and on the human need for community.  Art therapy uses the creative process to heal.  Whether it is a Sudanese child drawing an image of the attacks on their village, or a victim of domestic violence making a collage about her traumatic home life, or a person with an eating disorder drawing a self-portrait reflecting their  body image, art therapy has the power to capture their experiences and communicate it to another.   Another.  A trained other who has the clinical experience to hold the emotion being expressed and help the person process it and heal from their pain.

“So, what do you do?”  I proudly answer “I am an art therapist.”


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cathy Malchiodi, PhD
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 15:43:34

    Jen, this is what the national organization struggles to come up with– the art therapy elevator speech. Mainly because art therapy has been confused “into” counseling and we out in the trenches have to hold the reality of what it is and what does.


  2. Annette
    Jan 04, 2011 @ 08:01:39

    A good elevator speech is like gold, and yours is 18k!


  3. Colette Crowley
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 18:46:17

    awesome. I think my elevator speech has become stale and needs some revamping, so thanks for these thoughts! 🙂


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