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Art Therapy and Art Therapists Florida (FL): Helpful Information on the Business of Art Therapy



Careerbuilder.com listed art therapists as one of the top ten hot careers for 2007. In addition, there has been an explosion in research and interest linked to creativity and “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). Mainstream media has embraced mind, body, spirit connection and there is an awareness of alternative health treatment. There is a more mainstreamed acceptance of alternative therapies and the use of coaching (another unregulated profession) beyond business into the realms of life coaching, wellness coaching, parent coaching, etc. It is this mainstreamed awareness that is influencing the purchases of Cultural Creatives, (Lawless, 1997) the 24% of the population who are interested in sustainability, gobalism, alternative healthcare, spirituality, women’s issues, and self-actualization. In addition, 6% of the population are Inner Directive and are creative and orientated towards inner growth (Lawless, 1997). These are the consumers that are attracted to art therapy.

My past experience has been as an art therapist in private practice since 1997. Prior to graduating with my master’s degree in art therapy I worked in the human service field and have a total of eighteen years experience. When I lived in Upstate New York State I was a licensed creative arts therapist in private practice for ten years. This practice evolved out of the necessity to educate others about the benefits of art therapy, since there was little knowledge of the profession in the rural town I lived in. During that time I worked in 16 school districts with at-risk adolescents, ran groups at my practice, and presented at agencies, colleges, and hospitals.

When I moved to FL two years ago I shifted my practice from an emphasis of at-risk children and families to short-term solution orientated therapy influenced by Positive Psychology and Choice Theory. This shift came as a result of multiple conditions. Again I encountered obstacles regarding my chosen profession. In FL there is no licensure for art therapists, which means there is no regulation of title protection and anyone can state they are using art therapy. Although there is regulation from the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), there are minimal attempts to regulate scope of practice in states that do not recognize licensure. The major obstacle besides educating the public was the issue with lack of third party reimbursement. However, this issue has become an asset in practice. Because I cannot diagnose and fees are paid out of pocket I can address an issue a child or teen has been having without labeling. Moreover, for the gifted children I see who experience frustration and difficulty with self-regulation I can develop strategies to help them without a label that will follow them for life. Many parents feel that this is how they want their children’s problem treated, rather than focusing on defects and pathology. I also work with a team, so if the need arises for assessment outside of my scope of practice I am able to refer families for additional assistance.

I began a practice 4 years ago in two locations (Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch) with professional colleagues who had established businesses. At one location I work at a comprehensive medical educational success center attached to a school. This location houses developmental pediatricians, a developmental neurologist, social workers, and tutors. The focus of my practice has been with children, teens and their families. I have used the art therapy combined with Choice Theory (Glasser, 1998) to help the children make art that represents how they can change their thinking and feeling by changing what they are doing (cognitive behavioral). Moreover, I emphasize strengths and resources the child has to create a new paradigm of success and resiliency. My clients at this location often are struggling academically, in addition they are often are gifted. Many of my clients have been diagnosed by the pediatricians as having processing disorders and they may have difficulty organizing their thinking or are overwhelmed by frustration. I provide them with some concrete skills to navigate frustration and anxiety. In addition, I am referred many children who are diagnosed with autism/Asperger’s. I have synthesized the latest research on ASD (Gutstein, 2000) into a unique art therapy intervention that has yielded an increase in language skills, relationship building, flexibility and problem solving.

At my second office location I worked with a Social Worker who saw parents at the same time I worked with their children. We created a unique model of family therapy influenced by the work at the Savannah Family Institute (Sells, 2001), Choice Theory (Glasser, 1998) and Positive Psychology (Seligman, 2002). The model we created is called Tandem Therapy and it uses parent/child coaching to help the family clarify goals, identify stressors, and improve coping skills. Because the sessions were outcome driven, we tended to be able help the families create new patterns of behaviors in a limited amount of time.

My work thus far has been adaptive to my environment; considering the most effective way I can share the benefits of my experience and collaborating with others to create interventions based upon the needs the business addresses. In many ways I have been bending and blending my profession to be more “suitable” for a mainstream audience. This has led me to pursue my EdD degree at Argosy and obtain licensure as a mental health counselor. A year into the program at Argosy and almost two years into my career in FL I have begun to reassess the direction I am heading in. Argosy has introduced me to new approaches and information that has encouraged me to stay on top of the trends and developments in the field. Moreover, my personal development has encouraged me to look beyond the current scope of work I am doing and find a new direction that is more aligned with my non-pathology, problem solving orientation.

Because I have been in private practice for ten years I have had a fascination with business, marketing, and economic trends. I have developed a vision, strategies, tactics plan (Haskins, 1999) embracing the new direction I desire to move my business towards. Currently my business has shifted from focusing on solely children and families to also adult women in transition. Moreover, I have shifted the focus back to creativity (i.e. art therapy) due to changes in career demographics.

Many of the business books I reviewed discussed the importance of creating a niche to focus your business and identify your customers (Lawless, 1997, Edwards & Douglas, 1998, Falkenstein, 2000). Edwards & Douglas (1998) suggest, “your ideal niche will lie at the crossroads where your interests and assets intersect with opportunities you have to meet real-life needs around you” (p. 47). My compelling desire is to help individuals uncover their inherent creativity to solve their problems; my personal resources are my years of professional experience and my ability to synthesize information.

4 comments:

Jonahan said...

As a therapist of 17 years I can totally relate. Love what you're doing, and the way you've positioned yourself. Keep up the good work!

Creativity Queen said...

Hi Jonahan-
Thanks for the positive feedback. Your site is a great tool for therapists.

Creativity Queen said...

Hi Jonahan-
Thanks for the positive feedback. Your site is a great tool for therapists.

karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on Personal Development. It should be very much helpfull.

Thanks,
Karim - Positive thinking