Karen Wallace of Art Therapy Reflections


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Hello. I am Karen Wallace BCATR, M.Ed. and I am an Art Therapist, artist, Focusing Trainer, and art instructor living and working in Regina SK Canada. I have a private practice with adults and children and I specialize in depression, trauma, life transition and abuse work. I facilitate art therapy, creativity, and art groups. I teach art and art therapy, Focusing, and Creativity internationally. 

Art Therapy and the creative process

I am writing about the joys of living and working situated in the ‘creative process’. Therapy is process work and Art Therapy is being creative about how that process happens. You come to therapy looking for change. You may be looking for a life change, a change of habitual thinking, or an emotional or spiritual change.  In therapy, we explore where you have been, what that means, and where you are going emotionally, physically, mentally, and spirituality. We do that by staying present to, and centered in, the creative process. That means focusing on memories, present hurts, and obstacles feel, and where you feel them in your body, what they look like on paper, what colors and textures represent them and what meaning you make of them. By slowing down and witnessing the substance of your lived experience, you see what behaviors or reactions you are experiencing due to the choices you have made. The key to change and growth lies in being present to the process of understanding what you are creating right now through your words, beliefs, images, movements and feelings. 

The following is an example of what an Art Therapy and Focusing session with me might look like:
To experience a positive creative shift or change we must allow ourselves to have divergent thinking. This is a willingness to freely associate and let your mind be free to roam.
Let’s say you want to process something about a friend. This friend feels controlling and you are really bothered by this. First, I help you become present and centered on your inward experience by talking you through an intunement. An intunement is a centering exercise where you focus on different parts of your body, relaxing and being present with them. Then, you turn inward to be with your internal experience. This part of you that holds the memory of your controlling friend now wants your attention and it is located in your stomach. Next you settle in and give this part of you time to express itself. While staying with this part, in an open and nonjudgmental way, you feel the urge to paint and in the painting you paint yourself as a small child being followed by your sister. Pausing to talk, you voice that “Yes, of course, she reminds me of my controlling sister who was always judging me.”
You sit back, and focus on this sensation in your stomach and notice that it has moved to your throat. There is a dry, tight feeling there. Staying in the creative process, you take a fresh look at what you are experiencing. Yes, it is tied to this memory, but there is more. We create a space and wait for more to reveal itself.  

What is coming now is the realization that your sister was jealous, very jealous of you and her need to control was her way to limit you. You feel the same “wanting to limit you” energy in this friend. As a child, your autonomy was being threatened and this present day threat resonates with that memory. Your body relaxes with this knowledge and you feel a shift to your chest. As you stay with your experience and open to what it is freshly telling you, you feel a warmth for both of these women but also a knowing that their lack of self confidence can result in them acting invasive and hurtful to you. You now take some time to paint yourself, as you would like to be in their presence with clear boundaries. You explain that to be with them, you need to stay aware of their neediness around you and their tendency to want to control you when they feel jealous. You feel that this is a good place to end and you finish the session by adding some final marks to your painting. 

Creativity is being flexible, divergent, original, free, and fluid. When you are grounded in creativity, you move in a healthy, holistic way to experience the insights, new ideas or feelings that you are wanting in your life.  A creative person asks ‘what if’, improvises, challenges, enjoys risk taking, and engages in artistic improvisation. Why not use these traits to change your life?
As you befriend the creative process, you gain the ability to tolerate ambiguous circumstances because you start to realize that within the ambiguity is often the new idea or insight that will free you from an old way of being or thinking. You learn to trust your instincts and body sensations because they anchor you and guide you to what you need to pay attention to. And you start noting the overlooked details of your lived experience because they give you fresh new material to work with in the recreation of the self. So we can apply the same characteristics of creative thinking that help create an art piece, to recreating or working with self-creation. This is the gift of using the creative process in therapy.
Art Therapy is using the creative process to create the self and life that you desire. What could be more fun than that?

{ written by karen wallace }


  1. Karen, thank you so much for writing this post for the series! I really appreciate your insight into creativity and art.

  2. I have heard about this for children, but never thought about it for adults. What a wonderful way to help people discover what is going on within them! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Creativity turns something on in our brain; dancing, singing, painting, even doodling. Its a great place to loose yourself so much that you finally find yourself. Sometimes you need that quiet in your brain to allow you to hear how you really feel. What a fantastic job you have, thank you for sharing your experience and much luck for continued success in your practice and in the lives of those it helps xx


  4. Thank you Ladaisi for interviewing me. Courtney, art therapy works for all kinds of people, thanks for your comment. Nicki, yes we can all benefit from our own creativity and seeing other create. Hugs Karen

  5. Hello! Just stopped by to read this interview by Karen. What a great interview and a wonderful peek into her art therapy process

    I'm going to peek around here now! =-)

  6. there is no where in my good size town that has art therapy and it makes me sad

  7. Wow, I really enjoyed reading this. What a wonderful, constructive way to use our creativity - to become more whole, fully alive, confident and empathetic people! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. I would love to do this. Karen, do you make trips to Seattle? ;]

    It seems like a very practical way for people to think differently and process things... I love it!


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