April 6, September 7 and November 9

I start this year by joining with a colleague, Erin Brindle, to launch a new workshop called 2019 Vision and Art Therapy. What brought me to this?

After years of art making in my own studio I woke up one January morning in 2014 to an aha moment. After asking the question, “What can I do with all the skills I have developed over my lifetime to give back to the world?” I awoke to the idea that I could be both an artist and an art therapist.

Lilla Ohrstrom and Erin Brindle
Lilla Ohrstrom, MA and Erin Brindle, ATR-BC, LPC

I had lived for 50 years, and I realized that I had learned a lot. My grandmother was nearing 100 at the time, and I figured that with her genes I might have a whole other lifetime ahead. So I reckoned that year I was like a baby born anew with all the knowledge that my first 50 years awarded me. I knew that I liked to connect with people and that sometimes working as an artist could be lonely.

While I loved the freedom to work away at my own ideas, I was not as motivated to get out there and sell my work as I “ought to have been” to achieve financial gainfulness as an artist. I made art to work things out. It was an expression to help myself better understand the world.

On this particular January day, I woke with the idea that I might be an art therapist, so I set out to learn all that I could about what that even meant.

I learned that, while art therapists do not make a huge salary, they definitely represent a mode of therapy that is growing in recognition around the country. I felt singularly well fitted to explore the field.

Having spent most of my childhood, and all of my adult life, learning and practicing art skills, I felt confident on the art-side of my training. Having raised four children and grown up in a family of five, I had always taken an interest in human behavior and relationship dynamics. Family was a great resource for learning about these things without even knowing I was doing so. But to be serious, I needed more education and deeper understanding so I set off to go to graduate school. Luckily, one of the top programs in the country for art therapy was within driving distance.  After scrambling to take my prerequisites in psychology and going through the arduous application process, I finally graduated from The George Washington University with a Master of Arts in art therapy in May 2018.

All the wiser for my troubles, I had now accrued over 1,000 supervised internship hours, which included working with special needs individuals at A Place to Be in Middleburg Virginia, and at The Inpatient Mental Health Clinic at Sibley Hospital. I also had the benefit of working in the Art Therapy Trauma Clinic at GW. I continue to work with supervision and advanced coworkers in the field of art therapy. There is something about connecting with people through art making and deep expression which is truly enlivening to the spirit.

I also use a variety of other mental health care techniques, in my work with clients, which I have certification in and continue to study; primarily meditation and mindfulness. I use a variety of techniques to access the unconscious mind. Art making, meditation, trance induction and Harmonic Resonance Process™ as well as Soul Collage®. I practice with the understanding that our unconscious mind discerns things long before our conscious mind so we need a great deal of self-awareness to keep up with it. I am also Reiki 2 certified, and while the skeptic in me will still question the efficacy of Reiki, I invite the healing energy of the cosmos to guide whatever I do. It’s hard to discern where help is really coming from. I can set up a situation to guide or assist a person’s mental health, but ultimately the wellness comes from within the person—not from me.

The experience can be a pleasurable, relaxing and powerful opening of feelings and an exploration of a person’s inner world. But, a good art therapist takes gentle care to keep a client feeling safe and not in an overwhelming situation.

So it is with great pleasure and excitement that I embark on this 2019 Vision and Art Therapy workshop where I will enact my own journey while assisting others to enact theirs.


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