My 3 Top Priorities when using Art Therapy in Telehealth
Since my practice is based completely online, and I see all of my clients through telehealth, clients often ask me, “How will we be able to do art therapy since we are in two different locations?” So, I thought, “There are probably a lot more people who wonder about this. Sounds like a good topic to write a blog post about!”
When I created my practice, this was definitely something that I spent a considerable amount of time contemplating. Being that my clients and I are in two different spaces, viewing each other through a camera, I have 3 key things that I focus on during each session.
1. My client has access to art materials and is able to participate in art therapy
Not everyone has the ability to own the entire inventory of DickBlick or Michael’s. But then there are others who have every type of art material imaginable! So, in order for me to get an idea of my client’s access to art materials, I like to discuss this early on in our counseling sessions. I want to understand if the client prefers to work with a certain art material such as paints, colored pencils, or clay. I want to know if they are interested in using recycled materials or objects found in nature. Some of this depends on budget, and some of it depends on the client’s preference.
One of the most awesome things about being an art therapist is that I can create art interventions out of pretty much anything. This is a lot of fun for me, and it ensures that my client gets a really personal experience with the art therapy, given that I make up a lot of my own directives that I use with clients.
2. My client feels supported and knows that I am fully present with them, despite not being physically in the same space as them
Whether I am doing art therapy or talk therapy, being completely present without distractions is a priority to me during a session. And I want my client to know that I am 100% focused on them during our time together. Being that we are in two separate locations and there is a camera between us, it’s even more important that my client knows that I am with them completely.
3. My approach to art therapy is collaborative and does not make my client feel directed or “bossed”
Collaboration is a value that I hold dear to my heart, in my professional life and my personal life. When I use art therapy in a session with a client, I collaborate by making art alongside my client. Sometimes we create a piece of art together by both spending some time in the session on an art intervention and then sharing our finished product with one another via the camera. Sometimes, my client works on a piece and I work on a reflective art piece about my experience sitting with my client as they create. I always share my work with my client at the end of the session and ask that they share their work with me if they are comfortable doing so.
This collaboration of making art “side-by-side” with my client, even though we may be miles apart, allows for me to be a supportive presence in the client’s life while they create a visual imagery about their emotions. Clients have often said that it feels comforting to have someone hold the space with them while they create.