When I received a message from a previous intern about being part of an art therapy panel discussion about how COVID has affected art therapists I was honestly delighted and excited to share my story. There has been a lot that has happened in the therapist and counseling world that may go unnoticed. As someone who supervises art therapists for their ATR I am seeing the impact of being a therapist for others almost simultaneously trying to be their own therapist. Therapists are holding the space for their clients and also trying to do so more for themselves than perhaps in the past. Living in a state of emergency and crisis (if you missed this blog you can check I out here: Global Grief) I was looking forward to hearing from other art therapists and their stories for connection and how we can best support one another in this field.
At one point I shared the relationship between our mental state and living in a fight flight and freeze response mode as a day to day means of survival. As the conversation transpired this led to Black Lives Matter. Now, I was on my phone through a zoom app and was not able to see all of those on the call so when the topic arose I noticed everyone was quiet. It was asked about the role of the art therapist during this time. To my surprise I was asked to share my response where I instantly thought in my mind:
Who am I to respond to this question?
I’m not the right person to respond to this but here we go.
I felt as if I was stumbling on my words to respond. I thought about my classes and I clearly remember the oath that was taken. It is my responsibility to provide the best care I can as an art therapist to any and every person that receives art therapy and counseling services from me. I took an oath when I became an art therapist to not discriminate any person based on race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. Every person receives the best I am able to offer. I believe I lead through my actions therefore this oath is not just for Leara the art therapist it is my responsibility that this mindset translates throughout my entire life; personal, professional, advocacy, with friends, families, my own actions, etc.
An oath is something I take to heart, it is a promise, a vow that exceeds the parameters of my professional identity.
Since I couldn’t see the entire gallery view on my phone another art therapist brought up the fact that the talk was attended by all white women. I did not know this when I spoke based on my phone view, and what stuck out to me was the silence that followed before I was asked to speak on Black Lives Matter. Perhaps others were thinking the same as me -who am I to respond to this question? I will never know what it is like to be a person of color. And if I am asked to use my voice I want to use it with passion, eloquence and intent to ensure that I am coming from a place of genuine care for another person. By becoming an art therapist my hope is this vow we have taken as our professional identity also resonates through the actions of all aspects of our lives. Ultimately, the truth is, I am constantly observing, listening, growing and there is a lot of learning to be had too.