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.


Have Art, Will Travel

With a new batch of art therapy students about to start the job search, I am being asked about what types of jobs they should be looking for. I have had a variety of jobs in multiple settings. Some were explicitly art therapy jobs and in others I had to be more creative about integrating the arts into my work. Let me tell you about my first job out of school.

Honestly, and I don’t mean to scare you off, it took me a solid year after getting my master’s degree to find a job in the field that met my needs. My first job was as a master’s level clinician at a large mental health agency. I worked in Elder Services and spent ALOT of time driving around to various nursing homes. I had to bill for 28 hours a week which was no small task. I only saw individuals for treatment, there were no groups because the billable rate was higher for individual therapy than group therapy. It was tough work. My clients were all very ill with both medical and psychiatric conditions. The work consisted of dealing with issues both large and small. I could spend an hour with someone helping them deal with an annoying roommate and then spend the next hour helping someone else work with their sadness over their loss of functioning. On several occasions I came into work to find that a client had passed away suddenly. I was at this job for two years. I was fortunate to have had a supervisor who was both an art therapist and a licensed mental health counselor. This supervision enabled me to garner my own credentials.This job was not specifically geared towards art therapy but I was more than welcome to bring it into the work I did with clients. I had a tool chest that was filled with art supplies that I carried around to all of my sessions. I called it my “have art, will travel” box. I was prepared if a client wanted to do some art making but was also available just to talk if that was what they wanted.

This job wasn’t necessarily my dream job, but it helped me along my journey. I learned so much during my two years there. I can still see the faces of many of my clients and vividly remember their stories. It was an immensely moving experience to walk a little bit down the road with them. I wouldn’t trade my time spent there for anything.

When you are just starting out, it can feel very frustrating to search the job boards and not see art therapy positions listed anywhere. I am here to tell you that it is entirely possible to get a job in this field and to find satisfying work. Here are a few tips for the job hunt: Ask about the type and amount of documentation you will be required to do. Ask whether this documentation will be something you are paid for-some jobs expect you to do this outside of your 40 hours and it is unpaid. Find out if there is a licensed professional in your discipline anywhere in the agency you are applying to. There may not be one in the department you will be working in, but there may be someone in the agency who can work with you. Expect to apply for jobs that don’t have “art therapy” anywhere in the job description. Get REALLY good at explaining what you do and how it can benefit the site. Get creative-about places you apply to, about how you can integrate the arts into their site, about how to shape your work life. Network, network, network. This is as simple as staying in touch with your professors and fellow students, attending gatherings, getting involved in professional organizations and joining online groups. Print up some business cards and give them to everyone you meet. Don’t give up. I almost did and boy am I glad I stuck with it through the difficult times. You can shape the career you are dreaming of. It may not be easy, but it is possible. May the wind be at your back.

How Art Therapy Can Work-A Case Study

Along with many art therapists, I sometimes struggle to articulate exactly how art therapy works. In response to this question recently posed by Cathy Malchiodi, I am going to attempt to explain it via a case study. Details have been changed to protect the identity of the client, who has since passed away.

Many years ago, I worked extensively in nursing homes. One resident was in the late stages of an illness that was greatly exacerbated by his diet. Many battles ensued between him and nursing staff over his constant intake of food that worsened his condition. The attending psychiatrist asked me to work with him to address this problem. I imagined that our work would focus on his body image (as he was morbidly obese), his declining health and the struggles with nursing staff.

This case ended up being a lesson for me in person-centered planning. He had no interest whatsoever in focusing on what I considered to be the primary problems. He was, however, very interested in painting even though he had never done it before. During our first session, he pulled out a book of postcards that depicted various nature scenes on the West Coast. The time he spent living in that part of the country was the happiest time of his life and he wanted to capture these images in paint. I brought him a set of acrylic paint, some brushes and paper and we were off and running.

Over the course of time, nursing staff started to notice that he was quite gifted as a painter. He painted all weekend instead of eating all of his favorite snacks. Nurses checked in to admire what he was working on instead of to scold him for what he was eating. A few even commissioned works from him. While he painted, he reminisced about his time on the West Coast and his younger days.

We never spoke of his diet, his weight, his battles with nursing staff. We talked about line, shape, form, color, harmony, and composition. I listened while he told me of adventures from his youth, his life and loves. I accompanied him on his journey. By the time he was discharged from the nursing home, his relationship with the staff was a positive one and his diet had improved.

So how did art therapy work in this case? Art became a healthy coping skill, allowing this client to engage in a positive activity to manage his feelings, rather than burying them in food. It became a conduit in his relationships with others, allowing them to see his strengths rather than focusing on his deficits. Art was the language that joined us together in our relationship. He benefited from the time and attention I gave him and from my willingness to follow him where he needed to go in therapy.

This case was a good lesson for me. I had to let go of my ideas about what this client needed and not impose my treatment priorities on him. And guess what? He found exactly what he needed.

What This Art Therapist Does Not Do

I get a lot of hits to my blog from people searching on the topic of “a day in the life of an art therapist” and “what does an art therapist do?” I want to add to this conversation by telling you what I as an art therapist do NOT do.

I do NOT analyze your artwork  seeking out clues to your psyche.

I do NOT interpret imagery in your artwork to fit my theory about you.

I do NOT tell you what kind of artwork to make, as though to prescribe a cure.

I do NOT diagnose you based only on your artwork.

I do NOT share your artwork with anyone except other providers at the site, as it is confidential healthcare information.

I do NOT reveal your name or other identifying information if you have given me explicit written permission to share your artwork.

Here are some things I DO:

Provide you with the materials, space, instruction and time to create the artwork you want to make.

Support you in exploring the  imagery, themes and content of your work.

Give suggestions if you feel you are stuck in your artwork or want to explore something further.

Walk with you on your healing journey of the heart.

There are many misconceptions about what art therapists are and what they do. I won’t even go into the whole debate about “arts and healing” vs. “art therapy.” Art therapists are trained clinicians, yes clinicians, who have had years of schooling and internships to better assist our clients in exploring their challenges and struggles. Call it what you want, but I proudly call it Art Therapy.

The Taboo Art of Altered Books

ta·boo–adjective 1.proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable

Improper?! Unacceptable?! Says who?

Look, I am a book person. I have a personal library of over 800 books. My most precious book, a 50th anniversary edition of The Little Prince, has its very own shelf. Heck, I even work at a book store. So why would I of all people choose altered books as my medium? Aren’t books precious, not meant to be written in or torn up or painted on? Isn’t that something every child who holds a book in their hands learns is taboo?

And yet I regularly tear out pages, cut them up, glue them together, paint on them, add collage, soak them in beeswax, cover them in fabric, stamp on them-usually rendering the original book unrecognizable. I would never do this to The Little Prince. But an outdated encyclopedia? A worn children’s book? A book I found in the recycling bin? As far as I am concerned, these are all fair game for altering. I am taking something that was headed for the trash bin and using it as my canvas instead. It goes from being a worthless object to a very precious one. This is a metaphor that anyone can hook in to. Who hasn’t at times felt dusty, outdated, useless? What if we could (and guess what, we can) transform ourselves into an object of beauty and worth? Altering a book is a powerful metaphor for how we can alter ourselves and I find that my clients and students are very responsive to this idea.

The clients I currently work with live in a world filled with rules. An inpatient psychiatric setting by its nature is rule bound. Very few decisions are yours to make. When you get up, when you take meds, what you eat, who you share a room with, what time you have to be back on the unit, what you do all day……..the list goes on and on. None of this is unique to where I work by the way, it is just the way this kind of hospital works. Altering a book is a small but powerful way to practice making your own decisions and doing something safe that is also a little risky. It hands some power back to the clients.

My students make altered books to chronicle their training journey. So much personal growth happens on the way to becoming a therapist, and an altered book is the perfect way to capture it. The books allow for multiple and contained expressions of the many issues that come up while in training. Students deal with concepts such as self-disclosure, transference and counter-transference, learning how to use supervision and termination and the books help them to process all the attendant feelings. As a teacher, I got tired of my students doing one-off art pieces in class that they ended up throwing away. With the books, they can do a small art piece in every class and it is contained in a journal form. At the end of the academic year, they have a chronicle of their journey.

Why do I use altered books in my personal and professional work? Why wouldn’t I? I see the “rules” and “taboos” about defacing books as merely suggestions. I encourage you to work with the discomfort that may arise as you explore the art of altered book making. It just might transform you.  

Please check out this great workshop series

Spring through Fall, 2011 Arlington Center for the Arts Facilitated by Julianne Hertz

MAKE IT! Expressive Therapies in Mental Health Counseling

Workshop Series

Interactive workshops for professional development

Saturdays, from 9:00am – 4:00pm

24 hours of LMHC CEU’s – 6 per workshop! (MAMHCA approved) Social Work CE’s applied for, see registration form

April – Books: Cover to Cover

June – Puppets: More Than Child’s Play

September – Printmaking: A Graphic Mirror

October – Dolls: Healing, Power and Play

Effective treatment for:

Strengths Building & Wellness

Disrupted Attachment

Grief & Loss

Anxiety & Mood Disorders

Substance Abuse

Life Transitions and Review

Julianne Hertz, ATR-BC, LMHC

Julianne is a Board Certified Art Therapist and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has done individual, family and group therapy for 20 years. She has extensive clinical experience in school, hospital, and community settings with children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. Julianne is a mixed media artist who is always curious about how the metaphors of materials and process can be applied to her clinical work. She maintains an active private practice and is an adjunct faculty at Lesley University. She has been a graduate level clinical trainer since 1995.

Spring Workshop Descriptions

Books: Cover to Cover: Saturday, April 16th

Participants will explore the therapeutic potential of making books with clients in mental health counseling and expressive therapies. We will examine how the separate parts of a book such as the table of contents, chapters, storyline, as well as metaphors contained within the book structure, such as exposure and enclosure, can be used to help clients explore issues and clarify their personal narratives. Through a survey of techniques and applications, participants will learn to make different types of books that can be used with a wide range clients of varying abilities and ages in various treatment settings. A case study will be presented.

Objectives: Participants will:

Learn to make at least 3 different books, identify at least 6 metaphors related to book organization and structure that can be used in treatment, and identify at least 3 ways to use books clinically.

 Puppets: More Than Child’s Play: Saturday, June 11th

For centuries puppets have been used to relay myths, reflect on universal human experiences, perform political satire, and express moral stories. Through an historical examination of puppets and their uses in various cultures, participants will develop an understanding of how to use puppets and puppet making in a clinical context. Various styles of puppets, such as: shadow, hand and rod, will be explored and methods of construction will be demonstrated. In this workshop, participants will create puppets representing/embodying “The Critic” and “The Muse” to develop an understanding of how to use puppet making in mental health counseling and expressive therapies to help clients explore their strengths, difficulties and maladaptive defenses that prevent them from fully engaging in life. Simultaneously, participants may explore their challenges when engaging in their own creative activities. Case examples will be presented to illustrate the use of puppet making in mental health counseling with children and adults. Come, cut your “Critic” down to size and bring your “Muse” out playfully to expand your range of expressive clinical tools.

 Objectives: Participants will:

Identify at least 3 different puppets and their cultural usages, make at least 2 puppets, and identify at least 3 techniques for using puppets in mental health settings with children or adults.

 Printmaking: A Graphic Mirror: Saturday, September 24th

In this workshop, attendees will explore the therapeutic concepts and metaphor of reflection through the process of printmaking. Group members will explore the techniques of reflecting material back to clients, encouraging clients to reflect on life challenges.

Dolls: Healing, Power and Play: Saturday, October 22nd

Dolls offer externalized 3-dimensional representations of emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of ourselves. In this workshop, a range of doll making styles, purposes and mediums will be examined.

General Workshop Format:

• Registration – 8:30am

• Introduction: historical, cultural and clinical


• Demonstration of techniques

• Experiential -practice techniques and dialogue about use as a therapeutic tool

• Lunch (on your own)

• Case Study

• Demonstration of techniques

• Experiential – practice techniques, dialogue about clinical applications

• Participant case examples, questions and conclusion

MAKE MORE: Fall Workshops!

Full details coming this summer! Join our mailing list for all new and upcoming workshops!

Workshop Location and Directions:

Arlington Center for the Arts

(All workshops held in the ACA Theater!)

Gibbs Center | 41 Foster Street | Arlington, MA 02474-6813 | Ph: 781-648-6220 http://www.acarts.org

 ACA is conveniently located just off of Mass. Ave (Rt. 2) and is accessible by public transportation (several bus routes).

ACA is accessible to person’s with physical disabilities.

From Cambridge/Somerville      Take Mass. Ave. toward Arlington past the Capitol Theatre (on your left). Go about 6 blocks past the theatre and take a right at the BP Gas station onto Tufts St.

 From Lexington      Take Mass. Ave. through Arlington Center. Right after the Walgreen’s (on your right), take a left at the BP Gas Station onto Tufts St.

 From Rt. 2    Take Rt. 60 exit toward Arlington/Medford (away from Belmont). Follow Rt. 60 until it intersects with Mass. Ave. Take a right on Mass. Ave. Go about 5 blocks, and right past the Walgreen’s (on your right), take a left at the BP Gas Station onto Tufts St.

 Once on Tufts Street: After turning onto Tufts, take a left into the parking lot – ACA is in the brick school building, which we share with other organ

To get to the ACA Theater follow ACA signs to the ramp entrance across from the basketball court.

 Registration Form: Print and Mail!

*NEW: Application for Social Work CE’s has been submitted! For status of accreditation, please contact Julianne @ artprof@comcast.net Please note: 6 CEU’s per workshop, no partial CEU’s granted. For questions  about partial attendance, please contact Julianne.

Name: _____________________________________________________________

Address: ____________________________________________________________

Email Address:________________________________________________________



$90 per workshop (

fee includes all art materials, hand-outs, references, and ceu certificates)

NEATA members: $80

Limited scholarships available based on financial need, please email Julianne if interested in more info.

Please check box(es) for the workshop(s) you plan to attend.

__ Books: Cover to Cover (Saturday April 16th 9-4)

__ Puppets: More Than Child’s Play (Saturday June 11th 9-4)

__ Printmaking: A Graphic Mirror (Saturday September 24th 9-4)

__ Dolls: Healing Power and Play (Saturday October 22nd 9-4)

Method of Payment:

Please send registration form and check or money order (payable to Julianne Hertz)

to: Julianne Hertz, ATR-BC, LMHC 62 Lowell Ave. Watertown, MA 02472

Cancellation policy: Refunds will be made for cancellations made no later than 2 weeks prior to workshop, and may be subject to an administration fee. No refunds will be made 7 days before workshop

Altered Human

I recently had a difficult interaction with someone in my personal circle. I was very upset by their words and actions and could not find a single lick of empathy or  understanding for them. A few days later, a client said some unkind things to me and guess what? I wrote it off as them having a bad day, didn’t take their behavior personally, and walked away from the interaction unscathed and unbothered. In thinking about this disconnect, this ability to bear some things and not others, I started wondering how I could tap into my “therapist self” more often.

How can I be less invested emotionally in the outcome of difficult interactions?  I care about the relationship and want things to work out, so how can I find some kindness? I know I have it in here somewhere, I found it for my client after all. What is the difference between these two interactions that I could find it in one situation and not another? Sure, there are all the boundaries around the relationship with the client but their words just rolled right off of me.

My question for myself is how to be as kind as I can to everyone. How do I take the patience and humility that I can garner for my clients and apply it to the other relationships in my life? How can I be my best self in my roles as  friend, partner, family member, employee, supervisor, customer, teacher, neighbor? Everyday I practice being as supportive and understanding as I can to my clients. Admittedly, some days are better than others. But I try my best. I want to be able to display these same attributes in my other relationships too.

Being a therapist has altered me. It takes me outside of my narrow inner world and gives me the opportunity to have multiple interactions with others. In doing this, I learn so much about myself. Through this work, I have learned that  I do have some patience after all and that being sensitive can be an asset. I have been able to find empathy for others in my own life where before only hurt lived. Hearing about the challenges others face has opened my eyes to the fact that we are all just doing our best to get by in this world. It takes the sting out of difficult interactions when you can recognize that the other person is probably having a tough day and that their behavior towards you likely has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Has your own work altered you? What have you learned from doing this work that you apply in the rest of your life?

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