The Well Center in Pendleton using the healing power of art
Painting, pen and ink drawing, weaving, felting and clay making. That could be the lineup of classes at your local art studio, but it’s also the list of techniques used by Board-Certified Art Therapist Ginny Gaulin of The Well Center in Pendleton to help people feel better.
A mental health profession, art therapy uses psychological theory, art processes, developmental theory and creative approaches to help people feel better, according to Gaulin, a licensed professional counselor and owner of The Well Center. It can be used to help with goal setting, to improve mood, decrease stress, and to help meet developmental milestones.
“A lot of people come to us having tried traditional talk therapy, which can be super beneficial,” Gaulin said. “But art therapy takes a whole different approach. There are certain things that you can’t express with words or that you’ve been trained not to express with words.”
For example, art therapy can be beneficial for those who have suppressed memories or experienced traumas that are too embarrassing or painful to speak about, Gaulin says.
Art therapists consider art “the third hand” – their version of mindfulness, insight and empathy – and something that sets them apart from other helping professionals. “It’s something else in the room to try to make things smoother, to help you express yourself and to look at things in a new way.”
An art therapy session begins with an assessment called the Art Therapy Projective-Imagery Assessment, an interview that identifies developmental level, problem areas, strengths, defenses, diagnoses, and potential for engaging productively in a therapeutic relationship.
While that all sounds very clinical, says Gaulin, who holds a Master’s degree in art therapy and counseling, “It’s just a way for me to get to know you a little bit better and identify what we can work on.”
Anyone can benefit from art therapy, including children, teens and adults, Gaulin says. The Well Center treats children 10 and older, teens and adults, addressing such issues as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorders.
Different materials elicit different emotional and physical responses, so varying art mediums are used depending on individual goals. For example, utilizing clay to encourage kinesthetic movement is an effective way to decrease stress.
“If you’re trying to delve into a memory, we might do a specific, more contained drawing with pen and paper and if you’re trying to elevate your mood, we might move your body around with large format painting.”
Originally from Clemson, Gaulin lived all over the country before moving back to Pendleton to be closer to family. Located across the street from Pendleton’s town square, The Well Center has been well received, Gaulin said.
“People are appreciative that we’re here and hopefully, I can show that there is a different way to try to feel better. You can surprise yourself at what you create. Your willingness to try art can mean a lot more movement in your treatment.”