Art Therapy: Translating Silence

When guests arrived at our open house in June, many were surprised to see a dedicated Art Therapy room.  We received a lot of questions – “Who would use this?  Isn’t art therapy only used with young kids?”  These Art Therapy questions gave us the opportunity to chat with Chris Chiochios, our newest Site Director at JLS Middle School in the On-Campus Counseling Program.  Chris is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Board Certified Art Therapist.  While Chris will be on-campus and won’t be using the Art Therapy room at ACS, several other therapists in our outpatient counseling programs will.

what is art therapy?  
Art therapy is the use of the creative process to gain insight, work through, investigate, and explore personal issues of any and all kinds.  Art therapy is a broad and all encompassing area where there are many schools of thought and applications for use with a variety of populations.  It can be best thought of as an opportunity to externalize and transform underlying issues, struggles, problems, and strengths into a workable metaphor.  Art therapy is both an alternative to traditional talk therapies, and also a wonderful complement to a variety of theoretical approaches and orientations.  It can be thought of as a vehicle for the therapeutic work being done by a client and/or a group.

what age group is art therapy used with? 
Art therapy can be applied to group work with a variety of ages.  I worked in a day treatment school setting and was the program art therapist where I provided group art therapy to all the students in the school, which encompassed Kindergarten through 12th grade aged students.  There are obviously inherent benefits, needs, challenges, and limitations based on age within the artistic medium and focus of an art therapy group, but with training and experience, there are many opportunities for application and purpose.  

how can art therapy be therapeutic for teens?
Art therapy is the treatment of choice in many respects for teens, as it provides a creative outlet and congruent container for the work that they may need to do.  It is an opportunity to sublimate their underlying and overt drives, needs, struggles, and perspective into a work of art where they are in control of what they present, in what manner, and how much they might associate and share about their product as well as their process.  Again, it is an opportunity to gain distance from their core issues and needs in a way that is non-threatening and creative.  The concept of metaphoric work is a wonderful part of working with teens.  Much of what they say and do can be seen as a metaphor and a creative attempt to gain mastery, autonomy, competence, and belonging.  Art is ideally suited for these drives and needs.

how long have you been doing art therapy?
I have been practicing art therapy since my initial internship in graduate school in 1997.  I have worked in various schools and treatment settings.  During the course of this time, I have worked in many different capacities and positions, but have always drawn from my training, experience, and background in art therapy.  This has assisted me in my roles as a therapist, group therapist, and clinical supervisor.

what do you hope to achieve with art therapy in our program?
My hope is to bring art therapy into the conversation about client needs, treatment options, and in the ongoing training of the interns that we have.  Through my direct supervision with my interns, as well as availability and involvement with other supervisors and interns, I hope to provide useful and informed guidance, information, suggestions, and feedback about the use of art therapy in the therapeutic work that we do in all of the schools that we serve.  

will you be training the interns in art therapy?
I will be providing ongoing training and infusion of art therapy with the interns that I work with at JLS.  I will also provide art therapy trainings for all the interns at some point during this year, as I had done last year with the interns at that time.  

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