She became the first art therapist on the West Coast, which won her an award for pioneering work in art therapy. She’s worked fundraisers to help cover the costs of her patients, but now she says she’d like to get some kind of insurance coverage made available for them.
Hewitt-Parsons says she is a part of a national association that hopes to make art therapy a recognized form of therapy for things like insurance and outside funding, but says it could be years before these things are achieved.
One reason for this is the relatively young age of art therapy, which began in 1969. However, art therapy has been expanding and cropping up all over the country in recent years.
Like the practice of art making, art therapy can serve as a break from the hierarchical grind of the real world, but there’s a difference between an art class and an art therapy session, says Hewitt-Parsons.
Art therapy might actually be different than 99% of activities patients complete in their day-to-day life in that at an art therapy session, no one is there to tell you what or how to do something. The therapy comes from the action of creating art – of creating whatever you want. A symptom that it’s working might even be the feeling of not knowing what to do - when literally faced with a blank canvas and the ability to paint or draw anything you wish.
Even, says Hewitt-Parsons, the ability to sit and chat with other patients during a session is a valid way to participate in an art therapy session.
Art therapy is open and available to anyone, but some of Hewitt-Parson’s biggest benefactors have been seniors and kids.
This is due to art therapy being an action-oriented form of therapy, as opposed to a verbal or written one. Hewitt-Parsons says children are just like adults in that they encounter stressors in their life, but often lack the ability to verbally communicate what or who is bothering them. Sometimes, the struggle of trying to communicate these things verbally, just leads them to becoming more upset.
Instead, art therapy offers kids a chance to make something that is unique to them and their own experience at the session, without being told what to do. Something Hewitt-Parsons says they seem to gravitate towards more readily than older patients.
Hewitt-Parsons says she will need to fundraise in the future to help support patients, or potential patients who could benefit from art therapy but who don’t have proper funding available to them. She says she intends to build her practice as a limited-funder for things like art supplies, to help enable people to partake in her art therapy sessions, but says she would ultimately like to see better outside-funding become more available, and for her patients to be able to access insurance to help cover the costs of their therapy.
In the meantime, Hewitt-Parsons will be returning to regular, open art meetings in September, with the Community Art Studio on Saturday’s at the Rotary Arts Centre, and a seniors painting group at the United church.