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  • Writer's pictureLisa A. Barrett, LPC, ATR

Drawing Out Our Problems: Why We Need ART THERAPY NOW

Updated: Feb 17

At just five years old, Sam had already accumulated a list of behavior issues: problems focusing, difficulty with social cues, mood disturbances, hyperactivity, and verbal tic. Diagnosis? PDD and ADHD.

Jessica, age 13, grew up with domestic trauma and was socially withdrawn, struggled academically, suffered from low self-esteem, and was selectively mute for most of her life.

And then there was Brenda, age 25, who was nearly immobilized by grief after enduring the loss of both her mother and grandfather within a few short weeks.

Sam, Jessica and Brenda (not their real names) each had major life challenges – as most of us do – but they share something unique - art therapy helped them turn their lives around - and they’re part of a population that’s increasingly turning to this creative yet results-oriented style of therapy.

According to American Art Therapy Association (AATA), Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor 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.

Lisa Barrett, Licensed Profession Counselor (LPC), and Registered Art Therapist (ATR) worked with Sam, Jessica and Brenda. Lisa shared, “After just a few weeks with Sam, his tic disappeared and his ability to give eye contact increased. He found comfort expressing his inner conflict in visual form, and that decreased his hyperactivity and mood disturbances, and ultimately increased his ability to focus.” His school life and home life improved, and Sam began to express himself artistically on a daily basis. His mom, the greatest judge, gave her verdict, “We were giving up hope but we finally found something that works.”


“Art Therapy helps individuals, couples and families to overcome personal obstacles through the creative process and ultimately through the end product,” says Barrett, who is also a Licensed Practicing Counselor (LPC) and employs more traditional therapeutic modalities as needed.

She explains that it’s not about making a perfect picture or something you would even dare to show someone else, but rather, “It’s a creative process within a therapeutic relationship that draws out issues – sometimes in a seemingly effortless way, and once that happens, art is used as a tool to build new behaviors and new pathways… It relies on the neurological impact using art materials and art directives as the primary intervention to facilitate change.”

What does Art Therapy treat? Behavior and emotional problems, trauma and PTSD, grief and loss, inner conflict, depression, anxiety, ASD, and more. But what sets it apart from other treatment modalities is that clients are oftentimes able to get to the heart of their issues faster, perhaps because their defenses are lower when faced with a set of colorful markers than having to put into words what is to difficult to understand or express.

Barrett also explained that art therapy isn’t new, and that the profession requires rigorous training and testing which enables a wide population to derive the benefits from this results-oriented style of therapy.

“Our world is spinning so fast these days,” she says, “and being able to treat the symptoms and underlying causes of psychiatric illness to help people understand and manage their emotions and behaviors is supremely satisfying as a clinician. When clients tell me how much they actually enjoyed their sessions while making real changes in the outside world, it’s truly an honor and privilege to be a part of their healing process.”

So whatever happened to Jessica and Brenda? Jessica, who was previously socially withdrawn and selectively mute, emerged as an extrovert and even joined a dance group. Brenda, who had been traumatized by the lost two family members in a short period of time, worked through her anger, pain and sadness through self-reflection in her artwork. Looking back, Brenda says, “It was an awesome cleansing and healing process that helped me get down deep into my feelings.” She also noted that you don’t have to be good at art to do art therapy, and that “Lisa Barrett is a natural – just fantastic.”

For more information on art therapy or to contact Lisa Barrett, LPC, ATR, go to

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