People’s Art Art Therapy Changes Lives

When Delaine Due first started her business some 18 years ago many were not familiar with the term Art Therapist. Questions like “Are you a therapist for artists?” or “Do you do art with children?” opened the door for some pretty good laughs and conversations. Trained professionally as a fully licensed counselor, Delaine holds advanced degrees and training in Art Therapy; a modality of counseling that incorporates the use of art work to help clients express and communicate deep rooted feelings and emotions. In today’s interview I speak with Delaine about the evolution of her business and expansion into Medford. She will also introduce new members of the People’s Art team!

Delaine, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us today and welcome back to LocalsGuide.

Thank you so much. The timing of this is certainly synchronistic given the changes in art therapy locally in just the last year.

Delaine, to begin with will you please re-introduce us to People’s Art and art therapy?

People’s Art (PA) provides quality creative arts therapy to people in the Rogue Valley. Currently, all of our clinicians are trained as art therapists. There are actually five Creative Arts Therapies: art, music, drama, writing, dance/movement. The ultimate vision of People’s Art is to create space to bring together therapists trained in a variety of these disciplines.

Art therapy, specifically, is the use of personal image making, the creative process, and the art therapist’s interventions, to support safe expression and insight toward positive change. The orientation that I give potential or new clients includes how art therapy is different than art class. Many people’s first thought expressed when they hear art therapy is “I can’t draw.” Luckily, everything you knew about making an image when you were about five is all you need to know in order to take advantage of art therapy. There are no grades, no critiques, no art teacher, and no right or wrong way to make an art therapy image. The images are not about learning technique or creating an image of something outside of yourself. These are personal images made with lines, shapes and colors. The person who made the image is the only one who can decide if the image is a close enough reflection of their life experience. Art therapy images become feedback loops for personal experience, not for correct drawing skill. Art therapy images often rock some amazing stick figures–those little folks can do anything and can be incredibly expressive. Abstract is fine. Finger-painting is fine. Representational is fine. I’ve been doing this a long time, with a variety of specific populations and I haven’t ever seen an art therapy image that didn’t work to communicate well enough. Think of it like your personal power-point to help explain what is often difficult to put into words.

Making an image of anything is also a different way to understand that object, whether it’s a chair or your own grief. Go ahead, if you’ve not drawn an image of a chair in awhile, grab a piece of scrap paper and a pen and see what happens when you draw your dining room chair. Drawing it organizes your understanding of how it is structured and draws your focus to the object in a different, mindful awareness. The same concept applies to an image of the grief. Rudolf Arnheim, a Gestalt psychologist and theorist from the 60’s and 70’s was researching the connection between cognition and visual creation long before our knowledge of the brain became as comprehensive as it is today. Making art IS thinking.

When, and how did, art start to find itself as a modality of therapy?

Using creative expression and symbolism as part of healing can be traced to ancient times. Across cultures, images have been used to communicate, invoke positive outcomes and protect from harm. Stories, chanting, movement and imagery are powerful methods of relaxation and change in perspective.

Jump to the turn of the century, the one that got us to 1900, and you’ll find early psychologists such Carl Jung using imagery in his work, recognizing personal images as a way to gain insight into underlying dynamics and patterns. In the 1920’s, psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn collected 5,000 images of over 500 mentally ill patients. He found the creative process to be a human urge toward wellness.

Creative Arts Therapies became fields of study in their own right mid-century. Art Therapy has two grandmothers; Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer. These pioneers in the profession took quite different approaches to the work that ultimately created a strong alliance of the clinical benefits of the art making process and the product. Instead of just having patients talk about their dreams, Naumburg had them draw them. She viewed art process as a way to access unconscious material and focused on symbolic content of the product. Kramer came out of working with refugee children during WWII, noticing the therapeutic impact of art. Kramer focused on the process of creativity itself as a way to transform inner experiences and resolve conflict.

What originally inspired you to become an art therapist?

I went to art school, one of the most challenging and amazing adventures I’ve had. Part of the challenge was the constant critique of images for every class. I took my first intro to art therapy class and had my “Eureka!” moment. You mean I can make it ugly, rip it up, or refuse to make the image and I’m not going to get a bad grade? This is the kind of art I want to be a part of! I signed up for the art therapy minor and knew I would pursue graduate school.

Can you please talk about your own training and specialization in the field?

I got a Bachelor of Fine Arts at that art school in Detroit, MI. My graduate work was completed at Sonoma State University in California. Graduate school for art therapy is a bit like a double major. Art therapy training includes the foundations of theory and technique in general counseling plus the history, technique, intervention, research, and psychopathology specific to how art contributes to the therapy process. And while art technique and skill are not required for the client to practice art therapy, the art therapist must have competency in these areas as well. The prerequisites for a masters level art therapy program include a balance of art and psychology. To be able to use the title Art Therapist professionally, you also have to complete post-graduate supervised intern hours. To achieve Board Certification in Art Therapy, you also have to pass the big exam.

I’ve specialized in complex trauma and anxiety across the board. When I opened People’s Art, I was working in a non-profit agency and had a private contract with Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility (RVYCF) in Grants Pass. I’ve worked with adolescents to centenarians…in schools, residential treatment programs, prisons, hospitals, non-profit agencies, and of course, in private practice.

What were your biggest challenges that you faced when you were first starting?

You asked me about assumptions made about “I’m an art therapist” earlier. A common assumption from potential employers when I was fresh out of grad school was that they could not hire me because they did not have a position open for an art therapist. They didn’t understand that my MA in Psychology was the same one they listed as a requirement for the position advertised. I learned to downplay the art therapy part and lead with the MA in Psychology part in order to get a job. Once I was in, I’d do art therapy with the clients in that agency. That exposure offered my colleagues a way to more fully understand how art therapy works, and that I’m a clinician trained in both verbal and non-verbal concepts and techniques.

Being asked, “do you fix bad paintings?” has always been one of my favorites. I’m glad to say that awareness of art therapy has increased greatly. The art therapists I’m now supervising who are fresh out of school have never heard that one.

I still get asked if I can interpret someone’s art and tell how disturbed they are. Art therapy is a conversation with the person who made the image. They get to speak about the image and their experience. Just like therapists who specialize in a verbal form of therapy, art therapists are training to see dynamics, patterns, and places of growth, but that’s not an interpretation in a vacuum. There’s no cookbook, for example, that accurately interprets color, “red=love.” Depending on the moment, the context, the history, the culture–red could mean rage or passion or criticism.

Space is a challenge that continues. Most counseling offices and treatment centers are not set up for an art studio. Having a room with a sink in it and a large enough table for art materials is rare, and an art therapist’s Holy Grail! We make it work, but a sink in the room! I’ve dreamt of that.

Getting art supplies paid for by agencies has also been a new thing for them. This is much better now, as well. One of the great things about People’s Art is the monthly budget line item specifically for supplies.

Being one of only a few of practicing art therapists in the Jackson and Josephine Co area for so many years has been a challenge for me professionally. Thousands of hours have been poured into, not only client services, but community education and outreach. I’m thrilled to have both experienced clinicians and recent graduates moving into the area. This includes people specializing in music therapy and other disciplines. We have even started to have a fun gathering of Creative Arts Therapists every few months.

I got my art therapy credentials after school and then had to go through the process to get my Oregon LPC. That’s double the work and money. Recent graduates are now set up to do those simultaneously. In Oregon, it still requires them to be a member of two Boards (money, standards, CEUs). Legislation passed last year for art therapists to be recognized with a designated license in Oregon. When this is put into practice, it will help distinguish who is a professionally trained art therapist and who is not. I hope it will also eliminate the need for a licensed art therapist to also carry the LPC license.

Now, 18 years later, People’s Art has served hundreds of clients and many local businesses as well. Please say more.

It’s pretty awesome to see how the community has embraced art therapy over the years. So many clients, so many images. Clients quickly experience the uniqueness of art therapy, “This is fun… I learned to do feelings in art therapy… art therapy changed my life… art therapy rocks.”

Awareness first shifted from my downplay of art therapy to get a job to calling up RVYCF to tell them I’m the person who knows what to do with disturbing images made in their arts program. Now, directors of programs in agencies call me to request art therapy services for their clients.

In the last five years, the Haines Grant has funded art therapy for cancer patients and veterans. The cancer art therapy studio continues to meet at Providence Hospital in Medford. Both VA staff and client-artists connected with the veterans project have come to People’s Art for internships and individual sessions. These grants include sharing the work with the public. We’ve had art therapy shows at the Medford Library, at Providence and at the Haines recipients shows.

I’ve taught an intro to art therapy class at SOU for about 15 years. Several students have gone on to graduate school for art therapy. In fact, Lacey Renae was a student in the Intro to Art Therapy class at SOU many moons ago. I’m thrilled to have her as a colleague now at People’s Art.

Allowing People’s Art to grow means multiplying the positive impact on the health of our community.

How has the culture changed over the past 18 years that has helped to open up even more doors for the work you do?

The general awareness of the value of creativity and the expansion of its description has helped provide a context for art therapy. I’m thinking of concepts like “flow” researched and taught by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Interesting to me that he was the keynote at last year’s art therapy conference and then showed up here at SOU’s Creativity Conference in August.

Within special populations, the awareness of the benefits of art therapy have increased. Many people now hear about art therapy with adults either in the general sense or from a professional conference. And, research in the field of art therapy and neuropsychology have moved the profession forward. A few years ago, National Geographic published an extensive article on masks made by wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital. This was one of the inspirations for the veterans project we did here.

Changes in healthcare and insurance have made art therapy more accessible. When everyone has insurance that covers mental health counseling, more people are able to access the service. There’s even one or two insurance companies who now have an “art therapy” box for the provider to check.

People’s Art has now expanded into Medford. Please say more.

Hooray! We were able to secure an office share in the Woolworth Building in September. Lacey was able to come onboard and begin filling 1-2 spots a week. We are in the process of bringing Judith and Alisa on with 1-2 slots each. We have the office on Fridays.

You also have new team members who have joined you at People’s Art.

I’m so excited about Lacey Renae, M.A., QMHP, LPC-Intern. I’ve been asking her to come work with me at People’s Art since she graduated from Naropa University in 2011. Lacey has great intelligence and experience and is currently mid-way to both her ATR (Registered Art Therapist) and her LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). She has eight years of experience providing Art Therapy and traditional counseling services to people ages 5+. Lacey’s degree is in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, with an emphasis in Art Therapy. “I became inspired to become an Art Therapist while taking Delaine’s Introduction to Art Therapy class at SOU. I have a passion for working with at-risk youth and families.” Lacey has worked with at-risk youth through Lotus Rising Project (LGBTQIAA) and Maslow Project (homeless). She developed a Drop-in, Open Art Studio at Maslow. She brings a deep understanding of the unique challenges youth and families face in Southern Oregon. Other specialty areas she brings are in end-of-life challenges, grief & loss, anxiety, and depression. Lacey currently provides school-based mental health counseling through a local non-profit and is contracted with People’s Art to see a couple of people in the Medford office.

We are in the process of getting all the ducks in a row for Judith C. Labert, LPC, CADC I, ATR to be ready to see a couple of Friday clients beginning 2019. Judith, like Lacey, is currently working primarily through a local agency in schools.

I’ve known Judith off and on for 20 years. I met her in my own graduate program at Sonoma State. She was just starting as I was finishing up. Judith has worked in a variety of settings including day treatment, school-based, community health, and out-patient, in areas more rural than ours. She brings years of experience and a specialty in children to PA. She also works with adults and has extra training in addiction and trauma. She is nationally certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). Judith combines art and aroma techniques, along with traditional therapy approaches and loves that “art is universal and works for all ages. It gives clues and information that no other modality can.”

Our youthful perspective will be coming from Alisa Marie Stuckert Simmons, MS, who recently graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA with a Master’s in Art Therapy and Counseling. Then she moved to Southern Oregon. Alisa is well on her way through the credentialing and licensing process and I’ve been nothing but impressed as her clinical supervisor for art therapy. Alisa is specially trained in Depth Psychology, Trauma Informed Art Therapy and Medical Art Therapy. I met Alisa in-person for the first time at the 2018 Art Therapy Conference where she presented on her thesis work, focussing on the experience of military caregiving spouses/partners. She’s currently doing great work with adolescents and families in a community mental health organization in Josephine County. She has experience working as an art therapist with people of all ages in psychiatric residential and acute facilities, domestic violence center, and medical trauma units. Alisa plans to have her onboarding process completed with PA in order to see a client or two at the Medford office starting in the Spring.

Delaine you have had a very long waiting list, but there is no longer a need to wait so long.

Yes, unfortunately, the waiting list to see me is 6-9 months. Some people, believe it or not, have stuck it out. That, however, is not the level of service I want People’s Art to be providing to the community. Although it’s a one-day-a-week start in the Medford office, it is definitely helping to provide a quicker appointment time for new clients. Having a variety of art therapists available will also broaden the areas of expertise PA can offer. I have never worked with children and it is not an area of expertise for me. This has put limitations on the needs People’s Art can meet in our community.

Delaine can you talk a little bit more about the goals and mission for People’s Art?

I’ve always wanted People’s Art to head in a direction larger than one person. I love being able to provide more support to both potential clients and other art therapists. Finding a good fit with a therapist is a bit like shopping for the right fit in a pair of jeans. With a group practice of art therapists, finding an optimal match for the client will be more likely.

I named it People’s Art Creative Arts Therapies to include a vision of offering multiple disciplines: music therapists, drama therapists, dance/movement therapists. The Medford office day is a step toward making that larger vision happen. Not only are we providing quality arts therapies to our community, but PA supporting the arts therapists with equipped space, outreach, clinical supervision and professional conversation.

In your experience who is best suited for working with an art therapist?

The same people who are best suited for counseling and therapy in general–open, willing to look at their own thinking and behavior.

It can be easy to assume that people who have art talent or skill and like to draw are better suited for art therapy than someone who doesn’t, but it doesn’t play out that way. Really, being open enough and motivated enough to make a change is what is required in most counseling situations.

One situation that doesn’t always work well is with someone who is living with dementia and who was an accomplished artist prior to the onset of the disease. In that case, it can be frustrating and sad for the person to see the images they make become so different than who they know themselves to be.

What types of transformation do you see your clients undergoing when engaged in your process?

Sometimes the insight is quick. Art therapy can bypass words so it communicates more directly back to the person. It’s hard for an image to lie. So, many people are a bit shocked at how quickly one image can support their “Ah-ha” moment.

Art therapy is a hands-on process that requires the client to be engaged in their own health and healing. Sometimes, in one session, an image may transform several times as the client and therapist work through an issue. Tightness and tension becomes more relaxed and spacious. Conflicts resolve.

Deeper insight can be gained from images made over a long period of time. One of the things an art therapist watches for is how a client’s images transform. Early work may, for example, be smeared, cloudy, confused, difficult to see and may relate to the experience of feeling overwhelmed and lost. Since images record the experience in first-person present-tense, not only is the pain seen, but also the healing. Those images will likely become more organized, clearer and solid as the client experiences resolution. I had a client years ago who painted with water initially–no color, invisible. After a few weeks, they were being seen fully with solid lines, forms and a variety of colors. I’ve also seen naked little stick figures develop clothing! The changes in the imagery are both practice of a new way of being and a reflection of the transformations in the client-artist.

The art therapist, of course, provides the interventions to support these changes for the client.

Can you share some recent case studies and works with us?

Yes. First, it is important to know that one of the many ways that art therapy is different from art class is confidentiality. In art therapy, not only are the clinician’s case notes and the client’s identity protected under HIPPA laws, the images are also protected. So, the images you see on the website, in this article, in educational settings and marketing are all used with explicit written permission of the client-artist.

Secondly, it’s important for the viewer to remember that these are personal images. Do your best to stay with how an image evokes a particular thought or emotion or memory in yourself and set aside any stories you may have about the client-artist.

The watercolor image with six figures is an example of an image exploring family dynamics. Who is connected to whom? Who is walking away? Who is encapsulated from the others? Adult in treatment for substance use disorder.

The image with the stick figure in the tree is such a lovely description of self-sabotage. Images like this are so relatable and set the stage for great discussion about the dynamics at play by being able to speak in the context of the image. What happens next? How could it change? What is the role of the little figure on the trunk side of things? What is the saw made of?

The trick-of-the-eye image was made by an elder living with dementia. The original print was made in landscape as a pumpkin on a hill with a moon in the sky. When they added color, the image became a portrait of a lovely lady. You might have to turn the paper around to see it.

This fish-face mask was made by a veteran of Vietnam and shows his experience of flashbacks and night terrors, “electrically shocking” through his system.

The assemblage boot was from a project I did with people in substance use disorder recovery. They were exploring what others would be able to really understand about them if they could “walk a mile in my shoes.”

Can you give us a brief overview of the services you are providing and how we can learn more about working with you?

Sure. PA provides individual sessions–now for all ages! We also provide contracted art therapy groups at Kolpia Counseling (addiction treatment), Providence Hospital (cancer survivors) and the Rogue Valley Manor (memory care). I also collaborate throughout the year with the School of the Examined Life. Marla Estes and I combine her expertise in Transpersonal Film and mine in Art Therapy in workshops on Inner Critic, Personal Demons, and your Creative Muse.

We are also available for art therapy consultation, whether that is about starting an art therapy program at your agency or an inservice training for your staff. And, of course, I provide group and individual art therapy clinical supervision.

Do you have any last thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Please direct any inquiries to our website or to our new company phone number. You can also like our FB page to stay up to date on new offerings.

Learn More:

People’s Art Creative Arts Therapies, LLC
Ashland and Medford
www.peoplesart.net
541-210-8585