Get completely immersed in a project that channels your emotions in ways that can address past trauma that may be causing depression, anxiety, grief and other challenges. Art therapy is not only for those who have experienced something challenging but also for anyone who may need to reduce stress or address personal growth.
Taylor Beardsall is an art therapist who guides the people she works with through this emotional state so they can improve their mental health in general. Learn more about Taylor and her work here:
Tell me about your professional background.
My name is Taylor Beardsall, and I am a Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC), Certified Life Coach, and Yoga Teacher (RYT-200, Certified YogaCalm Youth Instructor, YogaMedics Certified). I provide creative mind-body services for individuals, groups, and organizations. Through these expressive approaches, I support clients in working through difficult emotions, gaining clarity, self-discovery, and creating actionable steps toward goals. I accompany participants as a non-judgmental, fully present, and supportive facilitator on their journey of using art-making and movement for healing. I am a founder and art therapist at Solstice Healing Arts Collective, an expressive arts therapies studio in Bloomfield Hills, MI.
What made you want to get into this field?
I have always been interested in art and making things since I was about 2 or 3 years old. I have always found art to be a source of solace for me – a way to express how I was feeling, to release emotions, and to process my experiences. I found art to be both my way through and my way out of many challenges. Through my own challenges and experiences, there were often things I didn’t quite have the words for that I could express or contain visually. This always provided me.
I have also always loved connecting with others and being a source of support in various areas of my life. In college, a guest lecturer mentioned “art therapy” as a field of mental health, and from that moment I knew that was what I wanted to do. As I grew my understanding of the field, I loved (and still love) how art therapy merges the expressive with psychology. The field and the work itself provides a powerful outlet for individuals to address mental health concerns through the visual arts. Through my own challenges and experiences, there were often things I didn’t quite have the words for that I could express or contain visually. This always provided me with a sense of relief and understanding, and I feel privileged to hold that space for others.
What has been your favorite aspect of this work?
My favorite aspect of my work as an art therapist is the human connection. I love working with other people; being a non-judgmental witness to their stories and experiences, and being a safe space for expression. I also love the beauty and the mystery inherent in art-making that comes through in each session. Moments when clients surprise themselves, moments when there is clarity and self-understanding. It’s really a beautiful process to be a part of.
Can you explain what art therapy is and what a typical session is like from start to finish?
Art therapy can be understood as the therapeutic modality using visual art materials and engaging in the creative process in the presence of masters-level art therapists. In art therapy, the focus is on the creative process rather than the outcome of the final art piece. The art therapist provides guidance while the participant(s) create. They hold a safe space for creative self-expression. The art therapist is there to listen, work through, and provide support for emotional concerns. The art therapist and artist(s) can then work together to discuss and explore the art-making experience: how it felt to create, insights brought to the surface through art-making, and how the artwork relates to concerns or situations in the participant’s life.
A typical session will likely vary depending on the therapist facilitating. Typically there is a mix of talking, art-making, and processing the artwork itself. What is focused on and made during a session is linked to a client’s goals and needs, The art therapist is trained to develop and implement art therapy interventions or activities that help meet those goals.
What sort of health challenges can art therapy be effective for and why?
Art therapy can be an effective mental health treatment modality for a variety of concerns and for all ages. Different art therapists may have different specialities and areas of expertise. In general, art therapy can address anxiety, depression, grief and loss, life transitions, life challenges, personal growth, emotional challenges, stress reduction, building mindfulness, enhancing self-efficacy, supporting those with different abilities, processing trauma, and more.
Is there a technique or modality in your practice that you have found to be the most beneficial to the people you work with?
Each client comes to art therapy with unique needs and backgrounds. My training as an art therapist supports providing clients with techniques and interventions based on their needs at the moment. Different art materials and techniques can yield different emotional states and therapeutic outcomes. Therefore, it’s hard to say overall a “most beneficial” technique. I think ultimately the most beneficial is the one that aligns therapeutically with their needs. Overall in sessions, I utilize a variety of materials including paint, drawing, clay, collage, and working with natural materials – all that can be beneficial at different times.
What is art therapy like from the patient’s point of view?
Often, client’s share with me that their experiences in art therapy allow them to enter into a flow state. A flow state can be understood as a state of optimal engagement characterized by the experience of timelessness, loss of self-consciousness, and complete absorption in the task at hand. When we are making something and focused on the creative process, we can enter into the flow. This state can feel very supportive and healing. Clients also share that in sessions they have had “aha” moments that they haven’t had in previous therapeutic settings.
I think this speaks to the power of the visual art and creative process, and its ability to support access to the unconscious and to give form to feeling. Clients have also expressed how art-making in art therapy has a unique ability to simultaneously relieve present moment feelings of stress while providing a safe container to share challenging experiences and emotions.
What would you say to someone skeptical about art therapy and its effectiveness? How do you approach that?
I would say, “that makes sense!”. So many of us have had less than favourable experiences when it comes to art-making. We can be self-critical and hard on ourselves in relation to things that we have made. For someone who is skeptical but curious, I would urge them to give it a try. Not every healing modality is for everyone, but we may never know if something resonates or is supportive if we don’t try. There is no previous artistic experience needed at all to have a powerful experience in art therapy.
Besides art therapy do you have any universal health and well-being tips that you’d like to share?
I am a big believer in a holistic approach to health and healing. Overall, I would suggest being open and willing to explore and try a variety of resources and coping mechanisms so that your toolbox is full. Finding different outlets and sources of relief – which may include gardening, movement, music, art, writing, talking, etc. can allow you to feel supported by a variety of tools when things are going really well and when things are challenging. Some days I pick up a paintbrush, other days my hands are in the dirt. I think having options that work for you is so important.
If there was one piece of advice you could give to someone who is struggling, what would it be?
One of my favourite mantras in art therapy is “Trust the Process”. To me, in art therapy and in life, trusting the process involves a mix of openness and curiosity. It is a willingness to listen to our intuition, our innate creativity, and to lean into the mystery of both the creative process and life itself. This act of leaning in and listening is coupled with vulnerability – as we are letting go of some control, we may be surprised as to what arises and there may be some uncertainty about where we are going. However, I have found with my own personal creative practice and healing journey, and in my works with clients over the years that when we can trust, listen, release, and flow – we come to know ourselves in deeper ways.
We can connect with beautiful insights about ourselves and our experiences. So often when we are feeling stuck or moving through a difficult time, it can be hard to lean in to trust. I believe that trust can be an anecdote for fear: trusting ourselves, trusting the path that we are on, trusting the art, trusting our intuition, trusting our own unfolding. While easier said than done, this mantra and message can serve as a reminder to not give up, and to believe in ourselves.
What resources would you recommend? (books, podcasts, websites that you’ve found helpful)
Some of my favourite podcasts I listen to for my own well-being:
On Being with Krista Tippett
We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle
Unlocking Us with Brene Brown
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
Art is a Way of Knowing by Pat Allen
Beauty by John O’Donohue
Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
This is not your typical art class from back in high school. This creative process goes deeper within by addressing your own personal concerns and then choosing the medium that is required for you to fully heal.
You can learn more about Taylor and her work here:
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