Board certified art therapist Christina Vasquez spoke with the executive director of Open to Hope, Dr. Gloria Horsley, during the 2015 annual Association of Death Education and Counseling Conference about the role art can play in the grieving process. She works in New Orleans in a psychiatric hospital as well as in a private practice. One of the first things clinicians can do to help patients in the grief process is to provide a safe place, explains Vasquez. “My approach to art therapy is meeting them (the patients) where they’re at,” she says. Entering into the process with compassion sets the stage for a smoother, more comfortable experience.
“I often come in with a project or an idea in mind, however if I’m going to sit there and encourage them to set aside their agenda and their expectations, I need to be willing to do the same.” Encouraging patients to pursue the metaphorical process in art therapy is something Vasquez holds near and dear to her heart. Choosing the right-sized project and setting intentions are necessary precursors to any art therapy project. However, sometimes intention can be overwhelming, and there’s something great about creating art just for the sake of it.
A Holistic Approach to Grieving
“Art” has no limits and isn’t “just” traditional mediums. Baking, for example, is easily an art. However, for art psychotherapy, there’s a strong emphasis on the visual arts. “I really encourage people to find an outlet that speaks to them,” says Vasquez. She encourages patients who are professionally trained artists to step away from their familiar medium and try something new so as not to get overwhelmed.
She notes that a clinician’s job is to usher clients out of the process with each meeting. You can email Vasquez at [email protected] to find out more or reach out via LinkedIn to schedule a consultation for patients in the New Orleans metro area.