My experience as an intern at a child and adolescent inpatient psychiatry unit greatly impacted my art therapist identity and my art making practice. I began this experience feeling conflicted about how my artist and therapist identity could co- exist. I recognized that I had a narrative that, “Art therapy stole my artist identity.” I believe I experienced grief while becoming an art therapist, as my creative spirit was impacted, and I believe this grief is still apart of me. However, my supervisor and the needs of the patients at the inpatient unit helped me re-define my art therapist identity and my relationship with art.
While working with intense pathologies, I recognized that my values as an art therapist included being clear, kind, authentic, and stable. Working from trauma- informed principles and influenced by Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) I recognized the importance of using clear and direct communication with patients, which influenced my ability to be more authentic in my work as an art therapist. Through working with patients who had experienced significant trauma, I realized that I needed to be confident in myself and art therapy in order to lead patients through art therapy. To help myself through the internship process, I developed a grounding art practice where I selected animals to help symbolize my experience, which allowed me to focus on an external symbol rather than over-process my internal experience. I found it easy to access my emotions; therefore it was crucial for me to develop an art making process that combined a use of grounding techniques, and my internal experience to reduce overwhelm and burnout.