Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a licensed clinical social worker and a board-certified, registered art therapist in private practice in Alexandria VA. My interest in working with people affected by trauma has its roots in my art therapy training some 35 years ago. Back then we didn’t talk about “trauma” the way we do now; but our experiential, “bottom-up” approach was essentially “trauma-informed.” To continue my professional growth, I joined ISST-D and pursued certification in both Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.
I am also an Assistant Professor for the George Washington University Art Therapy Program and the Director of the Art Therapy Center, a training and research clinic providing low fee art therapy services to the community. We have conducted some interesting research at the Clinic on the use of a “Safe Space” art directive and it’s implications for trauma treatment.
Another passion of mine is conducting fieldwork and introducing art therapy and trauma training into other cultures, including South, East and Central Africa. In South Africa, I bring GW Art Therapy students to work cross culturally in townships and villages near Pretoria. In Kenya and Tanzania, I facilitate professional trainings with the Global Alliance for Africa, a nonprofit that offers creative arts therapy trainings to community artists in western Kenya and coastal Tanzania. Most recently, I traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo with an art based NGO, the Common Treads Project. I facilitated projects at the Panzi Foundation in South Kivu, where we trained Congolese psychologists and mental health workers in the use of art and body based trauma treatment for survivors of gender-based violence.
What is something most of us may not know about you?
I embarked upon my first trip to Africa when I was just 22 years old as a student with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). We spent a month ascending Mt. Kenya (17,000 ft.), an expedition that included technical climbing with ropes, crampons, and ice axes. After the semester ended, some friends and I took off for Tanzania to climb Mt Kilimanjaro (19,400 ft.), but unfortunately civil conflict made crossing the border impossible at that time. I guess I am not one to give up, because 35 years later, I returned and finally summited Kilimanjaro!! It might have been easier to do at age 22, but the accomplishment feels like a much more important achievement at this point in my life.
What is your volunteer role in ISSTD (or roles)?
I have been a member of ISSTD for many years but I’ve been especially active in the last 10 years as I’ve been increasingly interested in the recent trends in interpersonal neurobiology.
I have volunteered my time with ISSTD Annual Conferences on occasion, stuffing tote bags, helping with registration etc., especially when events were held in the DC area. I enjoy any opportunity for being a member of the support “team” for the headquarters, which, as it happens, is located just down the road from me in northern Virginia.
If presenting papers and workshops can be considered a further way to “volunteer” for the ISSTD, then I’d add that to my credentials, having presented at numerous conferences. A popular workshop I co-facilitate is Managing Vicarious Trauma with the Creative Arts, where we facilitate art making to manage our collective stress (especially appropriate at the end of our conferences!) One year, we shipped several suitcases of art supplies to the Long Beach conference including wire, fabric, yarn, beads and sequins, so that we could craft personal “spirit figures” in a ½ day workshop focused on self-care.
The most exciting part about presenting at the ISSTD conference is meeting and collaborating with the amazing people who are most influential and experienced in the field of trauma and dissociation. It is so stimulating to connect with others who understand and speak the same language.
We know that one of your roles has been to set up the Art Therapy SIG. Can you tell us a bit about that? (eg Who does it target? What will be its role?)
Perhaps the biggest “service” I have done for ISSTD is founding and creating the Special Interest Group in the Creative Arts Therapies (CAT SIG). These efforts started a few years ago and we officially launched our SIG at the last ISST-D meeting (in Baltimore). The listserv went live in August.
I would like to acknowledge a number of art therapists who have been working towards this goal for a long time including: Linda Gantt, Eva Young, Mindy Jacobson- Levy, Jess Drass, and Barbara Sobel, among others. We are passionate about the power of the creative arts and their place in trauma treatment where often we find that “words are not enough.” We are interested in sharing our experiences in the broader community of trauma therapists, and feel the SIG provides a high visibility vehicle for this work.
I also should mention that the support and influence from current and past ISST-D presidents and many active board members has made a huge difference in seeing this venture come to fruition.
A few more words about the CAT SIG
The rationale for creating the CAT SIG was that the creative arts therapies (art, music, dance/movement, psychodrama) have a unique and important place in the treatment of trauma and dissociation. Because traumatic memory is not encoded in an explicit or linear manner, an approach that does not rely on words alone can be extremely useful. Art and other expressive therapies provide direct access to implicitly stored traumatic memories. The creative arts therapies facilitate healing trauma and dissociation using an active, creative, strengths- based approach.
How can an interested ISST-D member join the Creative Arts Therapy Special Interest Group (CAT SIG)?
Any member interested in the creative art’s role in the treatment of trauma and dissociation can join the CAT SIG and be a member of the Listserv. Our goal is to provide information about the creative arts and their place in trauma treatment, and to be a forum where new ideas utilizing art, music, drama, movement and other expressive media in therapy, can be shared and discussed. We hope that through this SIG, members will be encouraged to expand their practices to include expressive arts modalities, and to conduct research and engage in further training in the creative arts.
I’d encourage anyone who is interested in joining our listserv to do so by contacting me directly with questions or for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org.