Running a group therapy session requires some creativity — especially when the sessions focus on art therapy.
College counselors Sarah Gabric and Libby Ladrach and counseling intern Megan Burden have introduced weekly art therapy sessions to The Health and Counseling Center. Since Oct. 26, the trio has been running an hour-long group therapy session that uses art projects to help students cope with their day-to-day troubles and emotions.
“I think that with any sort of counseling or therapy, you hope to foster a space for people where it’s safe to let whatever is going on with them out,” Ladrach said.
The trio has previous experience with art therapy, and Ladrach studied Art Therapy and Studio Art at Capital University.
Though art therapy is a relatively new practice, the methods are generally successful, according to the American Art Therapy Association. Art therapy provides non-verbal means of communication for those who may not be able to articulate what they are feeling.
The first session, run by Ladrach and Gabric, was an intimate gathering: Three sophomores attended. At the beginning of the session, the group spent two minutes drawing self-portraits without looking at the paper or lifting their pencils. Throughout the rest of the session, they altered the drawings in whatever way they saw fit.
One attendee picked the best parts of the drawing and erased the rest, leaving a simple, elegant line drawing on the page.
Another added color and graphite to her drawing.
At the end of the session, the group discussed their drawings and the changes they had made, linking them to how they view themselves. The conversation remained positive and focused on modes of self expression.
“A lot of the stuff that we have planned focuses on self expression and the sort of positive-focused aspect of thinking about life and day-to-day emotional states,” Gabric said, “as opposed to saying ‘let’s search the deepest darkest realms of your soul.’ If that happens, that’s absolutely fine, but we are just more focused on wellness.”
The group meets every Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Cox Health and Counseling Center, and all are welcome. But Gabric said students shouldn’t feel as if they need to come to every session to be a valued part of the group. Each week, the group will take on a new project.
“No experience necessary — really, it’s much more about process than product,” Gabric said. “Just as a person doesn’t need to have experience with art to participate, they need not have experience with counseling or therapy. It can just be a way of exploring non-verbal ways of expression.”