The Unexpected Joys of Art Therapy

Preself care activitiesviously, I attended the Colorado Advocacy In Action conference. “Self Care Activities” were offered at the end of the day that included your choice of a

Betty Ford Alpine Garden Tour


Healthy Rhythms Drumming or

Group Art Therapy.

If you didn’t want to choose one of these, they suggested you take a dip in the pool, soak in the hot tub, take a nap, hike, shop…..They made it very difficult to not participate in some activity that would take care of ME.

After all, I have been a yoga instructor and, after an ankle injury, had to take some time off. Well, like many folks, I never resumed my practice for any number of reasons. This invitation to participate in a yoga class was going to be the catalyst I needed to get back on the horse, so to speak, and resume a yoga practice.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be as flexible or capable as before, I at least knew enough to feel like I could have some level of success. Basically, I was simply going to join an activity that was familiar. I convinced myself this was going to be challenging. In preparing to head out for the conference, I dressed for yoga, packed my mat and water bottle and away I went secretly looking forward to my predetermined success.

As the saying goes, ‘a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.’ I found myself in my first workshop with an art therapist who reminded me of my very best friend from high school (also an artist) and immediately made me feel like she was trustworthy. We participated in the class activity but didn’t really share anything more than that. I went to my next session. Then it was time to find a seat for lunch and listen to the keynote speaker before the afternoon sessions began.Negative Self Talk

As I was attending the conference alone, I picked an empty table ready and willing to welcome anyone else looking for a place to sit and new people to meet. Low and behold, this person who had immediately fostered a sense of trust came to sit at my table.

We began talking, and I asked her if she was leading the art therapy workshop in the self care activities. Yes, she was. I began to explain how bad personal school experiences and comments from art teachers led me to believe “I have no musical or artistic abilities.” – A statement I have been saying (and believing) about myself for many, many years, and my reason for not choosing her session.

She reassured me that I would only need the skill, interest and excitement of a preschooler to be able to successfully participate. While she was stating this conviction, she was also using her hand on her sleeve to demonstrate brushing off this negative memory that led to such a negative self concept. I instantly got her message.

Whatever quality she possessed to garner my instant trust earlier was again at work as I was quickly deciding to change my activity choice. She made me feel like I could step out of my comfort zone and be ok; perhaps even enjoy it some! So there I was later in the day, one of the first participants in the room ready to prove that even though I doubted my ability.

I was willing to believe what skills I had were enough to succeed at some level.

I opened myself up to the challenge to step outside what I knew; my comfort zone.

Truth be told, I felt empowered to slough off the weight of my past experiences. Peace with whatever I could produce was resonating throughout my body, heart and soul. I enjoyed it and was truly grateful that I made the less comfortable choice.

As I drove home (proudly carrying my work of art with me), I realized what a parody this was to the challenge many parents face when struggling with the idea of talking to their kids about sex! How difficult many parents must find it to

Step Out of Comfort ZoneStep out of their comfort zones

Slough off the after effects of their own experiences regarding sex talks (or lack thereof)

Be ok with not having all the answers

Enter in to an honest, truthful discussion with their own child(ren)

How bad could it be to risk a little bit of apprehension and discomfort in order to address something as important as your own child’s sexual health?Peace In Art Therapy Class

Find peace in your willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

Find peace in what knowledge you do have.

Find peace in knowing you’re creating an avenue for shared discovery, understanding and love.

Find peace and challenge your fear!

Chances are it won’t be as painful as you led yourself to believe.

Chances are both you and your child will be grateful you did.

Love. A Youth Perspective

What does it take for a student to succeed? Is it enough to be smart? To have educated, involved parents? Does it require involvement in enrichment or athletic opportunities? Is it defined by the number of friends you have; for real and virtually?

40 Developmental Assets

Search Institute

From a high level, research-based perspective, the Search Institute developed a framework of 40 Developmental Assets; twenty each internal and external, that identify a set of skills, experiences, relationships and behaviors that have been determined to help young people have success as they develop into contributing adults. The more you have, the better off you’ll be is how the theory works.

From a local perspective, one school district has adopted the “habits of a scholar” and defined them using the acronym ExPECT. This helps everyone remember the habits as Executive Skills, Perseverance, Enthusiasm, Compassion and Teamwork.

At an individual school level there is a mission to build EPIC learners. These are learners who are Empowered, Prepared, Invested and Connected.

From a youth perspective, however, we see in this video that a person needs resilience. They need to feel love and be loved. And they need to have trust.


Some youth in our valley have survived life situations that would be too much for many adults to handle. They don’t have the support of home, family or school. Yet, they have a positive outlook full of hope. They can still feel love in a world that has been cruel and hurtful.

Maybe that’s the key. For youth to succeed and become contributing adults, they need to have an internal resiliency, a sense of hope and the ability to feel love even when their experiences would jade them from trusting they could have such feelings of joy and wonder.

Can you teach love, hope, resiliency, or are they internal to our DNA?

Do the youth need to have a vision of who they are and what they want to become?

Does success hinder on their ability to conceptualize at this level?

In honor of this Martin Luther King Day, let us dream of a future full of resilient youth who hope to, one day succeed at achieving their dream. May we show them love. May we open our hearts, our minds and perhaps even our homes in order to foster a sense of belonging. For then, we may be able to ExPECT EPIC achievements.

What Is Beauty?

in focus logo

PREP recently sponsored a film project for youth to create a short video of their own making using their own voice. A public showing was held at the Launchpad in Carbondale, CO where the audience members were moved; some to tears, by the messages they heard from these young people.

One of the young videographers created a piece that asked a simple question. A simple question with no simple answer: What is beauty? Strong points are made regarding the power of perception, both negative and positive. How perception can lead to depression. Or confidence and self-assuredness. Judgments on how beauty is defined are questioned. Beauty as the media would define it is questioned. Does beauty come from within? From with-out?

These questions were in the forefront of my mind as I had the honor of visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York City shortly after the film presentation. With the question, “What is beauty?” and my knowledge of Picasso’s paintings in mind, I headed straight for the Picasso sculpture exhibit. Certainly I would find answers here.

Picasso Woman




Pregnant Woman

Pregnant Woman

Picasso Woman with a Baby Carriage2

Woman With a Baby CarriagePicasso Woman with a Baby Carriage

Not unlike his paintings, Picasso’s sculptures – that must be considered beautiful as they were proudly displayed in a world renowned art museum! – had distorted and abstract features. And yet they caught people’s attention: they brought crowds of people in.

People stopped.

People studied.

People stared.

People listened to their tour guide explain the history, origin and meaning.

People appreciated.

People were moved.

Moved by beauty.

Moved by the beauty of distortion.

Moved by beauty in its abstract form.

Moved by beauty that does not fit the messages we see in the media.

Moved, hopefully, to return to their daily lives with a better definition of what beauty is.

Moved perhaps a little closer to the end of the rainbow.