Art Happens: Merging the artist, therapist

The Art Therapy Counseling program held its annual Art Therapy Exhibit, Art Happens, in the Morris University Center Art Gallery last week.

"The Objective View," a piece by Bailey Pyle, was featured in the Art Therapy Exhibit - Art Happens.

The exhibit, which ran from April 2 to April 9, was an opportunity for art therapy students to display their creative work while also defining art therapy counseling for the larger SIUE community.

Diana Dykyj, Student Art Therapy Association (SATA) Gallery Committee chair and graduate student in art therapy counseling, helped organize and hang the exhibit.

“We hope that people get a further understanding of what art therapy is and also realize that the art therapist is also an artist too,” explained Dykyj. “I think that’s something we wanted to showcase – just to have people come in and be curious about what the program is. It’s not a very well-known field but it is growing really quickly.”

Two of Dykyj’s pieces were also on display in the exhibit. One of them–a frame that displays all natural materials that she found while hiking, bicycling or walking–captures a major theme of the exhibit.

Diana Dykyj, Student Art Therapy Association (SATA) Gallery Committee chair and graduate student in art therapy counseling, poses with her piece "From Within."

“Part of my self-care [as a therapist] is to just go out in nature and walk or hike or bike… I started realizing that little things would stop me and I would find them beautiful; but those little things might not be appreciated by everyone and they could just keep on walking by and never really notice the little acorn shells… the way the twig twirls… really just never stop and appreciate that one little piece of beauty in the world,” said Dykyj. “So, I started collecting them and displaying them in ways that maybe other people may stop and notice them and see that beauty.”

According to Dykyj, the frame, “From Within,” presents a metaphorical message.

“As the therapist, you are the person that stops and appreciates that beauty, in your client, that others may walk by and may not notice. You help the client to also see that beauty,” shared Dykyj.

Other art therapists in the program engage in similar self-care, explained Dykyj. In fact, a major facet of SIUE’s art therapy counseling program is to encourage students to learn about self-care so that they are not becoming overwhelmed with the demands of counseling their clients.

“All of us [graduate students] are working in practicums with clients from day one,” said Dykyj.  “We get our counseling license and are also able to get licensed in art therapy; art therapy combines counseling with artistic mediums – which is useful when working with clients [in order] to really explore deeper aspects like emotions. Sometimes it’s easier to draw it out than to say it.”

The range of art featured in this year’s exhibit was diverse. Students and faculty who were able to explore the exhibit had the chance to experience the work of artists and therapists simultaneously.

“I think what the show tries to embody is a mixture of the personal and the professional use of art in the art therapy field,” said Dykyj.

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