In vivid color: Art Awakenings uses art as a form of behavioral therapy
It can be a hobby, a job, a passion, an obsession. It can represent both the best and worst of humanity. It can be large, small, colorful, in shades of gray, visual, audible, tactile or imaginary. Art is all of these and so much more.
Art can save lives.
At PSA Art Awakenings in Kingman, art and the creative process are being used as a type of behavioral therapy.
What is art therapy?
Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship, according to the American Art Therapy Association.
Art therapy effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.
Through the creative process, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone. Visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience and empowers individual, communal, and societal transformation.
Camille Smith, Regional Clinical Director for PSA Art Awakenings, said at the Art Awakenings studios they focus on psycho social rehabilitation, which means there is emphasis placed on empowering the artists. The creative process inherently helps with this.
“Our artists are problem solving, taking risks,” Smith said. “There are a lot of positive things happening underneath the art.
Art Awakenings in Kingman
The studio in Kingman is celebrating its third year at its current location at 1308 Stockton Hill Road. Lori Vawter, site director, said it began at Mohave Mental Health with mobile artists. They would carry supplies and do sessions at the Mohave Mental Health building a few times a month, and now the Kingman Art Awakenings site is a full-fledged studio and gallery.
The Art Awakenings studio provides a safe, supportive environment for adults and children to foster exploration and development of artistic skills. Participants’ distinct talents are acknowledged from the start, with each being referred to as an “artist” who learns respect for self and others, personal accountability, and pride in accomplishments while developing enhanced self-esteem and wellness management skills.
Dianne Clack, 69, has been attending the sessions at the Kingman studio for at least six months, she said. She said she likes everything about Art Awakenings, and though she may not be a painter, she really enjoys using markers.
“I would have given up without them,” Clack said. “They encourage me to keep going. I always feel better as soon as I get here. I really like it.”
Therapeutic expressive art groups or art therapy are offered for adults and children to promote the healing power of creativity and self-expression.
“PSA Art Awakenings promotes hope, recovery, diversity and wellness through an innovative and strengths based treatment program,” reads the Art Awakenings website. “It is a person-centered and peer-driven program, with staff working collaboratively with artists on their journeys to recovery. Staff welcomes and incorporates input from artists about the program and encourages community integration, skill building, and working towards self-sufficiency.”
Smith said the studios help artists learn to regulate their emotions and start shifting their self-identification. They are not a client or a patient. They are an artist. They collaborate with the staff, a vital step in empowering them, which is a key element in the therapeutic process at Art Awakenings.
There is no behavioral issue they don’t treat at Art Awakenings. Each artist has their own treatment goal, Smith said. They have individualized goals that they work toward, and while some skills are overarching, there is a fluidity provided that lets staff adapt to each artist.
“Whether or not we end up with an official diagnosis, all of us have personal challenges,” Smith said. “Art Awakenings gives people the opportunity to overcome those challenges differently than just talking.”
Vawter said they are always looking for local artists who want to lead sessions. They can be anything from crocheting, poetry, painting, drawing, pottery, music and much more. There was even a session of laughter yoga at the studio once, Vawter said.
There are opportunities for community members to purchase the artists’ work at the gallery in the studio as well as at select community events, Vawter said. The artists keep 80 percent of the sale, and 20 percent is used by the program to purchase supplies for the studio.
Vawter said they are also looking for places within the community to display artwork.
Artists can be referred to Art Awakenings from a healthcare provider in a couple of ways, Smith said. They can either ask their provider to refer them to Art Awakenings or if their care provider knows they have an interest in art, they can refer the patient. Smith said they can also do their own referrals at the studio.
“I honestly can’t think of any mental health problem that the creative process wouldn’t help,” Smith said. “I can’t think what art wouldn’t be helpful for.”
Art Awakenings, a 501c(3) nonprofit, is open 9:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. - noon Saturday. Anyone who is interested in volunteering, leading a session, donating materials, or looking for more information can contact the studio at 928-529-5022.