Stacking the Deck: Self-Care for Art Therapists with Chronic Mental Illness

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Wray, Stephanie
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
It is known that many people who choose the helping professions do so based on their own history of trauma, mental illness, relational issues and dysfunctional family dynamics; this manifestation is referred to in the literature as the wounded healer. This heuristic research study focused on the researcher who lives with chronic mental illness and her utilization of art self-care cards and journaling to process thoughts and feelings while working with clients who also experience chronic mental illness. This researcher hopes to contribute to the knowledge that art and journaling facilitate not only self-care but also clarity in processing countertransference. Through the processing of countertransference and the overlap of similar experiences with clients, the therapist’s own issues were stirred and needed defining and reflection without stigma attached. This researcher hopes to foster the reduction of stigma toward the art therapist diagnosed with chronic mental illness and create a more open dialogue between art therapists and supervisors. This research can also open dialogue among teachers, professors and peers within the art therapy community with a goal of higher levels of self-care being required in school and work settings.