Christina Vasquez: Art Therapy

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.






Connie Vasquez

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Connie Vasquez is an only child who recently lost her mother after years with Alzheimer's. Through that experience, she learned about compassion, love, forgiveness and grace. Her sense of humor also saw her through. A practicing attorney, cardiac yoga teacher and life coach, Connie lives in New York City.


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  • Cathy J. Buchheit says:

    I lost my only child 3 years ago. She was my heart and my best accomplishment in life. I adored and cherished my baby girl from the day she was born and I first saw her big blue eyes open up and look into mine until the last time I saw her.

    Her name is Shelley Rene’ and the last time I laid eyes on her, heard her sweet voice, hugged her and shared “I love you’s” with her was on her birthday, August the 19th of 2014. She turned 33 that day and her son had just turned 12 on July 21, 2014. They were very close.

    We met for dinner at her favorite restaurant, Provinos. It was my daughter, Shelley; her fiancé, Scott; her son, Alec; my husband, Wayne and myself. She had a sinus infection and wasn’t feeling well. We had a nice family birthday dinner, and I encouraged her to see her doctor the next day about her sinus infection.

    As we parted ways in the parking lot, we hugged and the last words I remember hearing my daughter say to me were, ” I love you momma.” It was supposed to be goodnight not goodbye, but I didn’t know that then.

    Two days later, in August 21, 2014, I got a call at work from her fiancé, Scott. He told me that she had passed away during the night. I thought he was joking at first. I don’t know why I thought that but I did, and I said, Scott that isn’t funny. He said, I’m not kidding. I couldn’t believe him. My immediate reaction was, no, she’s not, stop lying, that’s not true.

    I was stunned and when I got off the phone, I was trying to focus on what I should do next because I wanted to go to her immediately. Trembling uncontrollably and sobbing I was fishing around with my keys and purse and talking to myself, trying to figure out how to walk out to my car and leave. My coworkers overheard my yelling at Scott so they knew what happened and they gathered around me to figure out what to do to help. They knew not to let me leave and try to drive myself.

    That was the worst day of my life. I’m not the woman I used to be, not even close even now three years later. I’m
    raising my grandson now. He’s all I have left of her and vice versa and my heart is shattered. I hurt for me losing my baby girl, and I hurt for my grandson losing his momma. It’s all I think about every single day. I’m afraid something will happen to him too. I know I couldn’t survive that. He is what keeps me moving forward. I love him with all my heart.

    My husband was not her bio daddy. And while I’m sure he loved her as much as he is capable of loving anyone, he has never shed one single teardrop over her. The way he behaved the day of her passing is disturbing, hurtful and baffling to me to this day. The way he behaved throughout the whole ordeal of the following days is still disturbing, baffling and hurtful to me still also.

    It’s not that he was particularly mean, it’s just that he had his own agenda he was focused on and that agenda was not supportive of me. I still have hurt feelings over that. He broke my heart and I feel betrayed by the things he did and said during that time. And the last three years have been extremely stressful and unpleasant to say the least. Our marriage is very strained and I don’t feel secure and safe. I’m hypervigelant and overprotective of Alec.

    My own family of origin is not supportive of me and Alec. They’ve always been self-absorbed, dysfunctional and needy. They don’t have the capacity to be there for us.

    Friends of mine and friends of my daughter including her fiancé have disappeared from our lives altogether adding to our loss and the pain we feel daily.

    My saving grace has been my dear friend Patty. I met her through The Compassionate Friends support group. I’m so thankful for her. She has been a God send.

    It’s almost 3 a.m. so I will stop for now.