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[teacherartexchange] forward from an art therapist


From: Randy Menninghaus (india99_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Sep 13 2005 - 02:42:59 PDT

I asked a dear friend who is also an art therapist to give advice to any
art teacher who is dealing with survivors. I forwarded one ofour digests. I
hope this will help any body who is dealing Randy in Maine

Rachelle?s description of her gift of art to some of the kids in the
Astrodome in New Orleans was wonderful. Any good art teacher has the
knowledge and sensitivity to bring kids art materials and to provide an art
club/ art room environment so they can draw and tell their story. Sharing
their work with others and telling their story provides both an excellent
way for kids to explain to adults what they are thinking about and a
healthy outlet for their energy. Don?t confuse her gift with art therapy.
Art therapists, a legal designation, have both an art background and a
counseling background, brought together in a master?s level training and
licensing. Much of art therapy group work looks like an art class, but
there are some serious differences. The art therapist will be able to tune
into the kids who have real mental health issues and to use the group to
support those kids in a safe and potentially healing manner. I am a
state-certified art teacher, K-12, in Maine and I am also a qualified art
therapist with a state LCPC license. I taught 22 years before switching
careers, five of those years after I had received my art therapy training.
I found a big difference between being an art teacher and an art therapist.
I had to work to maintain appropriate boundaries as an art teacher and to
respect the power of art making as an art therapist. I love both processes
and I respect the differences.
A qualified and caring art teacher can give kids the appropriate and
wonderful respite from their problems that Rachelle did.
Art teachers whowant to work with Katrina survivors and evacuees, here is
my suggestion:
Rather than get yourself in a difficult situation that may cause unwitting
damage to already traumatized children, don?t pretend to be an art
therapist if you are not trained. Instead, use your ability to supervise
groups of kids using art materials and making art to tell stories and
generally to find pleasurable activity amidst chaos and confusion. Art
gives voice to finding a sense of unity and harmony with color, line and
shape, etc. We art teachers know that. Trust the pleasure and power of
art making and don?t try to provide therapy. Tune into the kids and if one
or a few of them seem to be having an abnormal reaction to an abnormal
situation, refer them to a mental health professional. You will be doing
them a valuable service. Teachers are the front line for children; even
art teachers do not need to be the school counselor, too. Let your love of
art making and knowledge of group art making provide a marvelous respite
for the children ? and the families as well - displaced by the hurricane.
Provide children who need real therapy with references to real art
therapists. Fran Clukey, PhD, RATh, LCPC (12 Sept 2005).

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