Art therapy is more than a creative process — it explores the mind through a nonverbal approach. Licensed art therapist Grace Fletcher says many people “struggle to communicate their emotions with words.” Fletcher welcomes children and adults of all ages to work with her in a safe environment and express themselves without feeling judged. Clients may mold clay to convey an action or sketch to revisit a memory.
“Art therapy is helpful for adults and kids, because it bumps them out of how they articulate something,” Fletcher said. “It helps them gain new awareness by drawing out the imagery of what is going on within them.”
Fletcher’s education began with a bachelor’s degree in fine art with a concentration in social work. After graduation, she volunteered with an art therapist at a hospital oncology unit where she realized she had a passion for combining her love of art with healing people. Following her experience at the hospital, she attended graduate school to become a licensed art therapist. She has worked at her own practice since 2012.
“It was a personal journey for me,” Fletcher said. “Working with the art therapist showed me how art can externalize our own experiences and process through things that need to be healed.”
Art therapy provides comfort to those dealing with difficult circumstances such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorders. Fletcher said art therapy can be used as “a therapy within itself and to explore what is emotionally going on.” Fletcher practices her therapy through meditation by having her patients create simple sketches or watercolor strokes, allowing them to relax and be in the moment. Part of her art therapy includes illustrating feelings and having individuals describe what their illustrations represent.
“When somebody is creating an image, there is a lot of feeling there,” Fletcher said. “Words tend to bring people to a cognitive place. Art offers the opportunity to tell about an experience without having to find words.”
Fletcher enjoys working with people and using creative methods such as clay, marker and paint to heal and relax her patients. She says art therapy takes people on an empowering journey to overcome and live with their emotional struggles, insecurities or mental health issues. Fletcher believes everyone has the potential to use art to face everyday struggles and that people do not need to be talented artists to express themselves.
“Art therapy allows subconscious processing to come forward,” Fletcher said. “It is very good for folks that are linear and analytical thinkers who don’t normally express what is going on. It also offers creative expressions for those who want to be grounded.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Fletcher has held her sessions through Zoom. Although it was a rough transition for her in the beginning, she said she has been able to communicate with her patients without any problems.
“A lot of the folks that come to me already have some form of basic materials at their home,” Fletcher said. “Some people are just using pens or pencils. We are still offering folks prompts by having them draw on the table and then holding it up for us to talk about it.”
Art therapy offers an alternative way for people to reveal their inner emotions through a creative process. Fletcher believes nobody is too old or unimaginative to try out art therapy.
“We are often told we can be creative or not at some point in our school journey,” Fletcher said. “Art therapy really likes to remind folks that we are all creative people. Making expressions is who we are as humans.”