We had a very interesting and informative guest artist/speaker for our regular Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society meeting on Wednesday morning. Jenna Reynolds holds a Master's Degree in Family Therapy and is a board certified art therapist, marriage and family therapist working at her own business - My Little Red Haus - in Cincinnati. She shared her experiences over the years about the children she works with, sharing some of the artwork the children had created as a way to demonstrate the symbols children often use to "speak" to a therapist.
I am so glad there are strong women like Jenna who are helping these smallest of victims of abuse and neglect!
In her talk, Jenna gave us some history of art therapy, which began in the 1920's as a result of the very different artwork created by schizophrenic patients in hospitals. She talked about her own working history, beginning with her education and then her first job working for the Cincinnati Children's Home in Madisonville. She now has her own business and therapy site called My Little Red Haus.
Jenna told us how symbolism plays a major role in children's artwork and there are two types of art therapy (both of which she uses in her therapy sessions):
1) Art as Therapy and
2) Art Psychotherapy.
Art as Therapy is what most of us do: We go to our art studios and get away from everything when we're in a creative mood; time evaporates and we feel calm and happy, especially when our artwork gets positive responses.
Art Psychotherapy is driven by the therapist as far as materials used and what is created. Materials for art psychotherapy range from the Fluid (like watercolor or finger paints) to the Resistant (like clay and other manipulative materials). A therapist may choose a more fluid material for a client who is closed up and guarded as a way to open them up; the therapist may choose something more resistant for a client who needs more structure and tactile experience.
There are typical drawings a therapist asks a child to draw at an initial setting, including the House Tree Person drawings = 3 drawings of things that all represent the person. The Bridge Drawing tells the therapist how the client feels and what their goals are - if they are moving forward or backward; if they can plan for their future.
Jenna works with children of all ages and their families. She does one-on-one personal counseling and art therapy, too. She really opened my eyes about the role of an artist in a therapeutic setting.