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Art therapy is good

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Process can help people deal with emotional trauma

By MEGAN CHICHESTER
Staff Writer

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Maggi Horseman is passionate about art therapy.
She is an intern for Big Bend Hospice’s art therapy program.
“I knew I wanted to work in hospice off the bat,” Horseman says. “It has the psychology background. There are parts of your brain that are activated when you do creative processes that can reduce pain and help with trauma recovery. Then, there are emotions that may not have words – like grief, grief is a big one.”
Art therapy seeks to improve the lives of those suffering from mental health issues.There are very few places in Leon and Wakulla counties that offer the specialized practice. Big Bend Hospice is one of those few places in our area that has this type of therapy.
Art therapy is tailored for each patient and it differs for each person. There’s a stereotype that it’s more beneficial for sensitive people, who are artistically inclined. But Horseman has found the opposite to be true.
“The misconception is that it’s good for artists and children,” she says. “That is very limiting. You don’t need to have any talent at all. It is the stimulating process that can remove mental blocks with the psychotherapy. It can help people dealing with depression and people who can’t communicate. It is a different way of communicating.”
Horseman graduated with a degree in fine arts, but her first job was in insurance. She found herself in a predicament.
For one, she wasn’t pursuing her passion, making her unhappy. So she decided to go back to school for additional training.
Horseman is working on her Master of Science degree in art therapy at Florida State University – where she dedicated her time to working with Big Bend’s Hospice’s art therapy patients. She graduates with her degree from the two year program in August 2018.
She works with both bereavement and hospice patients. She also treats children. Children are typically the most receptive to the therapy and they see great benefits.
Horseman wasn’t able to share examples of her patients’ art due to privacy laws, but she shared a sample of her art she planned on recreating with other patients. Her example was a paper with red and blue swirls decorated on the surface. Horseman explained the ideology of this particular piece and the therapy behind it.
“One of the middle school groups I work with, we were going over the ‘wave model,’ she says. “It’s a well-known grief process model. Instead, I wanted them to have a sensory process to engage with as well. So we did Japanese water paintings.
“I had buckets of water, which we then dripped fingernail polish into. What they do is put one dot of polish into the bucket, the water makes that dot expand, then you add another in that dot, and another. Once you are done, you take a piece of paper and submerge it into that water. A design is formed and the paper is set to dry.”
“Masters of this medium have lots of control,” she says. “It is working with this craft that you have absolutely no control over and you can’t have expectations. The kids were able to apply this idea to their emotions. They were able to see that many have no idea of how emotions will rise. That essentially, they will have to go with the flow and accept this. They found it is a process that creates meaning and changes you in ways that you don’t expect, but can find worth from.”
Horseman said this practice loosened the tense group, opening the students to talking about their emotional issues. The students pushed farther, discussing how their art related to the grieving process.
Horseman is an intern at Big Bend Hospice under Caitlyn Burns. They are the only two art therapists practicing at the Big Bend Hospice.
Horseman hopes more people will find their calling to the field.
“I do hope this program grows and people grow to see this as legitimate therapy, just like talk therapy,” she says. “It’s not just doing arts and crafts, its psychotherapy and helps people who are more likely not going to get better alone. Veterans with (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), for example. These strong men and women, who don’t want to talk about their feelings, it can help with their trauma. The visual centers in the brain are where that trauma is stored. It is helping these individuals with this processes.”
Unfortunately, therapeutic services are temporarily unavailable  at Big Bend Hospice due to lack of hours and limited staff.
Horseman hopes with time, the Hospice’s art therapy will grow and recruit more like-minded individuals.