All Kinds of News for August 09, 2017
Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for teens ages 10-17, uses art therapy as a therapeutic tool to help students struggling with a variety of emotional and behavioral challenges. Primary Therapists Ashley Brown, MSW, LCSW, LCAS and Tai Kulenic , MPS, LPC, ATR-BC incorporate art therapy into clinical work with students on an individual and group basis.
Kulenic and Brown work closely with students who have struggled in the past with challenges such as trauma and social anxiety. Art therapy allows students to open up about their struggles and feel more comfortable communicating thoughts and emotions.
Kulenic, a licensed art therapist, promotes creativity through art as a way to better connect with students. “I look at my art therapy license as having another tool to use when talking doesn't work, especially for kids with a trauma background,” comments Kulenic. “Trauma is a non-verbal event, inaccessible to verbal contact and understanding. Art therapy provides access to nonverbal memory by externalizing the experience into a visual representation. This is safer for most students because the graphic narrative is detached from the artist, making it easier to manage emotional distance and maintain an objective viewpoint.”
Kulenic and Brown utilize natural objects found in the wilderness during art therapy with students. “When students are building something on the ground during individual therapy sessions, whether that be a fairy house using sticks, a portrait made of sand, or something abstract, they can often talk in greater depth about their emotional challenges than if they were just staring me in the face,” says Brown. “I use art therapy to help students relax when talking about topics we might not normally go into. At the end of our sessions, we look into what they created and discuss a potential hidden meaning behind it.”
Kulenic uses natural materials to carry out exercises that empower students and teach important lessons. “Using natural materials found in the woods allows students to go beyond words and into the senses,” says Kulenic. “We bring meaning and understanding to life by creating with our hands. Sticks get painted and become personal 'Power Sticks' that we can then use to explore the use of power... that power is not power over someone or something. These sticks help remind students that they are powerful and strong. Rocks become sculptures or serve as a physical boundary that then becomes a visual reminder of the importance of limits or a safe retreat from anxiety.”
In addition to utilizing art therapy in individual sessions with students, Trails therapists incorporate art therapy exercises into group therapy. “A lot of the art therapy I carry out with students focuses on building culture and community,” comments Brown. “For example, students work together to sew a ‘superhero cape’ which they pass off each morning. This activity involves a huge amount of collaboration, but also a good deal of creativity. Another example of an activity which reinforces this idea is the identity collage students create during group therapy. Through newspaper and magazine clippings, students create a collage representing who they are, who they want to become, and how they see themselves within the group.”
Art therapy is a tool students can use long after they leave Trails to relieve stress and improve mindfulness. “Creating leads to increased self-exploration by discovering yourself in new ways,” says Kulenic. “It is something you can do on your own to just release stress. Art making provides a distraction, and this meditative-like state focuses your mind and temporarily pushes aside any worry or anxiety. A picture can tell a story about our internal life that isn't accessible in words. It allows students to verbally and nonverbally communicate emotions that might otherwise be sealed off.”
About Trails Carolina
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program based just outside of Asheville, North Carolina that offers a multi-dimensional wilderness therapy model to troubled adolescents, ages 10-17. Trails capitalizes upon the profound effects of a student’s wilderness experience, and then combines that experience with strong clinical assessments and therapy. For additional information about Trails Carolina, please visit http://trailscarolina.com or call 800-975-7303.