Art therapy teaches new outlets for creativity

Starkey is currently accessing art therapy services through The Arts in Medicine Program, a unique partnership between Emporia State University and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC).

When it began, ESU’s Art Therapy Program Director/Professor Dr. Gaelynn Wolf Bordonaro and KCAIC Director Peter Jasso envisioned a program that would engage Kansas medical agencies and organizations to provide art therapy programming for a variety of clients, caregivers and clinicians.
The Arts in Medicine partnership offers individual art therapy sessions for individuals receiving services at partnership organizations like Starkey.

Caroline Wade, a second-year graduate art therapy student who is working with individuals at Starkey, said: “It is gratifying to work with this population … the clients (with whom I work) are full of joy.

“It is fun to see the things they create as well as the excitement they have while working on different projects. We have worked on art directives that encourage creativity and provide opportunities to develop new skills. The clients show a sense of pride when they present the art they create. I feel that the art making process is making a positive impact. “I appreciate the adaptability of the various locations to connect using telehealth platforms; it has made it possible for us to provide art therapy services during the pandemic. It also provides a sense of community; the clients can interact with me, as well as other clients and staff from other locations who are on the screen.”

Because the pandemic is one of the major stressors impacting participants, the art activities and interventions play a crucial role in maintaining connections, building rapport, limiting isolation and facilitating self-care, Bordonaro said. “We are particularly excited that participants have the opportunity to externalize and share experiences associated with COVID stressors, including its impact on daily living, relationships, treatment concerns, belief systems and support systems.”

Now in its third year, the collaboration has grown from working with six community partner organizations to eighteen. Agencies apply to request art therapy services; Emporia State University graduate art therapy interns reach out to applicant organizations to learn what needs the organization hoped to address, how they can be of service, and schedule programming to meet those needs.

“ESU Art Therapy Program has a long history of commitment to organizations serving individuals with medical, emotional, developmental and physical disabilities, and has demonstrated a rich history of collaboration, service, creativity, and excellence in arts-based community programming,” Bordonaro said. “We are so pleased to offer programming through the Arts in Medicine partnerships and build opportunities for creative well-being with Kansas partners!”