Person of the Week

Lisa Myers

Art Therapist

There were skeptics who thought that I would never be able to make a living as an art therapist.  They thought art therapy wasn’t a viable profession. However, I stuck to art, insisted that I could make a living, and have done well supporting myself in this profession.

1.  What led you to the mission of being and art therapist?

I always loved art and had been doing art since I was a little kid.  I really wanted to go to art school, but instead went to college and eggsstudied psychology.  I really didn’t know what art therapy was until my senior year at college.  I was getting ready to graduate.  Art therapy seemed like the perfect integration of my interests in people, and helping, and still being able to maintain my connections with art and the creative process.

I wasn’t going to be supported if I went to art school, so I studied psychology.  Later I went on to graduate school and studied art therapy.  I had to take out student loans.  There were skeptics who thought that I would never be able to make a living as an art therapist.  They thought art therapy wasn’t a viable profession.  At the time there was an idea that you could never make a living as an Lisa Myers5artist.  However, I stuck to art, insisted that I could make a living, and have done well supporting myself in this profession.

I had to go to graduate school for art therapy, so I went to Pratt, a fifty six credit program.  Afterwards I got my art therapy registration.  That’s one thousand hours of clinical supervision postgraduate school.  I am also board certified.  I took an exam to become an ATR-BC (Board Certified Art Therapist).  In New York I was able to get licensure to be a creative art therapist, LCAT (Licensed Creative Art Therapist) as well as the LMHC credential (Licensed Mental Health Counselor).  (The picture is of Lisa Myers and students in the Dominican Republic where this past January, Lisa taught a class for the art therapy certificate program at the Altos Dec Chavron School of Design.)

2.  What does this mission mean to you?

I feel very fulfilled and very good about the work that I do.  Being an art therapist gives me meaning.  It means that I have fulfilled the expectations I had for myself in life — that I would find meaning.  This was a struggle I had.  Now I have a meaning for life.  I have value and I can make a difference.

3.  What was your best day as an art therapist?

I’ve had a lot of good days.  One of the best was when I was the president of the Vermont Art Therapy Association.   Lisa Myers10Every two years we host an art show.  We just did it this past May during Mental Health Awareness Month.  During a past  M. H. Awareness Month, I took four of my client’s work and displayed their art at the show.  They were from very tough backgrounds and I brought them up to the show.  They got to go to the reception.  They got to see their artwork up.  As we were leaving, one of them told me that it was the best day of her life.  That was a really great day — to be able to offer her that opportunity!

4.  What was your worst day as an art therapist?

I can think of three examples.  I was in a job doing “on call” crisis counseling.  As an art therapist you have to take a variety of jobs.  In my capacity as a therapist, I could utilize the art therapy process and do art therapy.  But I also had to do crisis coverage.  There is no art therapy going on in a crisis.

One night I had to go out and evaluate three people.  I washouse out all night long.  As an art therapist, this is how I did not envision my future:  in the hospital evaluating people, and determining if they needed to go to the psych hospital or not.  It was part of the territory of understanding that sometimes you have to take on roles that you don’t necessarily see yourself being in.

Another time I was covering a crisis and a person called — in a crisis.  A baby had swallowed an entire bottle of medicine belonging to the baby sitter.  This teenage baby sitter needed a crisis appointment after realizing she had caused the death of a baby.  That was awful.

Another worse day was when parents found out their two kids on notebook paperteenage boys were born with a neurological disorder that causes an early death.  It also causes all these weird behavior problems.  The sons were tested to see if they had the gene.  If someone has the gene, it is a death sentence.  I already knew one of the boys had it.  Then one of the older boys was working in therapy and had to be tested.  I got the test results.  They were positive for the gene and I was going to have to tell his father that this other son had the gene.

I don’t know which day was worse.  The crisis work is tough.  You never know what you are going to run into.

5.  How did you survive your worst day?

The way I get through my worse days is by knowing that I will have the opportunity to do art and heal and transform.  I utilize the creative process.  I’ve always done it since I was a little kid.  I can remember that my favorite present at Christmas was this big box of Crayola Crayons.

One of my favorite child memories was sitting under one ofperson sitting those old hairdryers.  When you put it over your head, you couldn’t hear anything.  I’d sit under that dryer and all I would do is draw.  I also remember when I was in high school and I really, really started doing art a lot!  I recognized then that it really helped me to manage all the tumultuous territory teenagers enter.

If there were a person searching for a purpose, I would tell them not to give up.  I would tell them to keep searching and to allow themselves to be open and to have new experiences and get outside their comfort zone.  Ultimately the search for their purpose and something that will give Pillowthem meaning in life is going to pay off in the long run and they will be fulfilled and happy human beings.

I was a very strong willed kid and I wasn’t going to give up on being an artist.  What really helped me fulfill my goal was meeting adults that really believed in me.  They were supportive of me in whatever I did.  What is pretty important is finding adults or mentors that can support you with positive encouragement and feedback and direction.   They help counteract the things that would keep you from finding your purpose.  (This picture is a red “comfort pillow” sewn by a child whose parents are incarcerated.)

7 Comments

  1. Wow…it has taken this wonderful interview in Umission to really introduce me to my first cousin as an adult!! And I am so moved with your (Lisa’s) drive, dedication and purpose in life. So many themes to speak to….first, as a college art professor, I know that the issue of push back about choosing art as a major is the rule rather than the exception. It may seem like small comfort….but you are part of a majority group who have had to deal with this issue. But, Lisa’s dedicated commitment to her vision is also what I have seen…students who live from within, have an inner voice that tells them this is who they are and will not let others define who they are, …and find avenues for working in the arts. There are millions of art related, viable careers that totally reject the notion that the only result of an art major is the “starving artist” on welfare. Congratulations Lisa on your awards in your chosen field of art therapy!!

    I love art because the more mature one gets, the richer the insights and the richer the art that is produced. You found art as a senior, I found it as a junior in college, but the fabric of one’s life just keeps getting more nuanced and luscious as one continues to love and develop as one grows older. So we look ahead….there will always be people who will need and love what you have to give…. they find you because you are out there working or you are looking and find them!

    I too am impressed, speechless, and totally grateful that I now know the hours that it takes to become an art therapist. Bravo….and I am assuming that it has ongoing yearly hours to keep renewing your license. Way to go Lisa!

    I love the story of the hair dryer and white noise as a place to think and work. I never thought of that…I sat between two speakers and listened to my families one classical record over and over. It gave the impression I had something to do and enabled me to draw and paint without being assigned a family job.

    I also loved the reference to mentors…your recognition of how much certain people meant to you. And it is obvious that you have taken this to heart and are now a mentor yourself. You may never know how many young people you will encourage to listen to their inner soul sense. Just being there and “being” speaks volumes. Thanks for doing this interview, Lisa and for being an example of a person who has the courage to follow their inner identity.

    Reply

  2. Sharron Delaney 07/10/13
    2:51 pm

    Lisa,
    This is a well deserved honor. We have been fortunate to have your skills with students at IAA.

    Reply

  3. Lynda Siegel 07/10/13
    10:24 am

    Lisa, Congratulations on being recognized for the great work that you do!
    I know you have made a huge difference in the lives of some of my students.
    Thank you for that and thank you for naming IAA when you received this honor.

    Reply

  4. Alice Patalano 07/10/13
    9:09 am

    Lisa, You are truly a gem! Adversity makes the heart and mind stronger…and you are testimony to the belief that when we persevere and mold our lives through our own eyes, we are so much stronger.Thanks for sharing your journey and for your authentic experiences here and through your work. I am truly lucky to have you as my friend!

    Reply

  5. bill myers 07/9/13
    12:30 pm

    we are all proud of Lisa and we know that she had to survive some difficult issues during the time that she was helping others.

    Reply

  6. Laura Myers 07/9/13
    8:02 am

    This is a great story and testament to pursuing your dreams not allowing others to derail you. You should be proud of your accomplishments and the help and strength you have shown others. You are a great role model for kids struggling to find their way and I am proud that you are my sister.

    Reply

  7. Barbara Sheets 07/8/13
    12:51 pm

    You kept pursuing your dream and have found meaning in your work. I like your advice to never give up and to be open to new experiences. I had no idea how much education is required for art therapy! You were willing to put in all that time and effort in order to do what you love. Thanks for helping people heal through art and creativity.

    Reply

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