Photography, Reflections

Reflections: The Power of telling your story through photos

By: Christina Calderon

I can’t remember a time when photographs were not a part of my life. As a child my mother would make clothes for me and my two sisters, then dress us up and take our photo. It was something my friends looked forward to at sleepovers and one of my fondest memories of being young and having fun with my mother and sisters. These snippets of time are forever frozen in two dimensional realities. They remind me of the brevity of my emotions and how important art has been to me from early childhood. Photographs not only tell stories, but they document time, places, culture. They are windows to inner worlds and emotions.

The camera becomes a tool used to explore anything, and the photographer is then endowed with new insight to self and the world around them. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to take photography seriously as an art form and later still that I began to apply this medium to therapeutic processes related to mental health. There aren’t many books on the applications of photography in the world of expressive therapies, yet the possibilities of using this medium are boundless. Techniques can deepen and improve a client’s understanding of their relationship to emotions, people, or even addictions and trauma.

Like art therapy, photo therapy allows individuals to speak in ways that words alone cannot do. One of my favorite tasks in session is to ask my client to take the Polaroid camera outside, and take three to five photos that will tell me something, anything, about who they are or what they are feeling. The results are always profound.

Here are a couple of resources you can uses in your own exploration of photo therapy.

Exploring the Self through Photography: Activities for Use in Group Work
Book by Claire Craig

Phototherapy Techniques: Exploring the Secrets of Personal Snapshots and Family Albums
Book by Judy Weiser

Advocacy, American Art Therapy Association, Field of Art Therapy, Reflections, Values

A Message from our President: Valerie Valentine

Welcome to the NMATA Blog. This year, 2018, we have decided as a Board, to invite each board member to write for the blog as they feel prompted. This means that you, the reader, will get a variety of opinions, interests, points-of-view, and inspiration.

As president, I volunteered to write the first offering. I, Val Valentine, make this disclaimer now: this blog is my personal reflections and current understandings, all of which are subject to change as they evolve.

As I move into my third year of leadership with NMATA, I reflect on how much I have been stretched and expanded by this position and this association. This blog offering is my examination of multi-facets of the current challenge within the art therapy profession and within our nation, and some of my personal conclusions to date that help me find balance and optimism during this incredibly challenging time in human history.

Last year, NMATA worked extremely hard and with great enthusiasm to host the annual AATA conference. We spent many months in meetings planning together with our membership, many hours of preparation for the four ways we were asked to serve as host. We created a beautiful and moving memorial alter; a welcoming and warm hospitality hub; a fun and interactive closing event with live band, table art, and 20 handmade door prizes; and the amazing Gesture of Warm service project that gave conference attendees the opportunity to come together to knit and crochet gifts for the homeless of ABQ. This NMATA Service Project resulted in the creation of over 230 hand-made scarves, hats, and much needed items of warmth for the most at-risk and marginalized in our State. This donation, valued at approximately $2000, was made possible by the contributions of individual art therapists coming together during the conference, creating, and serving the greater good.

But I want to validate something larger that was served through this beautiful project – it served as a meeting place, a place of calm debate, a common activity of giving that helped to process the pain and frustration within us. This project served as a bridge.

It pains me to own, that art therapy as a profession has always been split. Just as we were emerging from the “art as” or “art in therapy” split, coming to fully embrace the wisdom of both as our own, now we have a new splitting challenge: Karen Pence, the Second Lady of very exclusive, controlling, and judgmental politics chooses Art Therapy as her term initiative for advocacy. AATA responded to this call, by requiring that AATA determine and guide her words and her public representation of the profession, making clear that she has no influence on AATA policy. There is great resistance to this action from many art therapists. During the conference, this resistance was very vocal in its opposition and rejection of AATA’s role, naming it as unethical and threatening to the marginalized communities art therapists serve.

I must admit, that the reality of this split has kept me up more nights than I care to disclose. I have examined repeatedly and I know this will continue for me: my own white privilege, my own values and ethics, my personal and professional intentions and purpose, and how the state of our national politics and world condition is affecting the profession I love so much. I have agonized in pain trying to imagine the fear and threat that is so prominently real for so many people in the US currently. I have witnessed in horror the changes our national leadership is making to policy and law. I have experienced myself hooked into the “us and them; right and wrong” culture that this political leadership has epitomized and deliberately fostered.

And I have grieved.

Finally, I have concluded for myself, that what I want to resist is this culture of division. I want to bridge. I want to advocate for the well-being of all people. I resist the polarization within our world, our nation, and the art therapy profession. I affirm that I respect and support both sides of the art therapy split. I wish to help lead NMATA as a grass-roots organization that goes beyond the rhetoric and fear of politics and current realities, to empower the common humanity within our community. I know, without doubt in my mind or heart, that art therapists are some of the most aware, empathic, caring, non-judgmental, inclusive people in our country. We chose this profession because we believe in the healing power of creation, in the authentic value of every human being. We support our client’s in creating the best life they can imagine, according to their values and abilities, not according to ours. Those trained at Southwestern College have sat in the fire of their own soul’s path, so that they can do this work, clean and without personal agenda. This creates a perspective and power that is rare and precious and valuable. For me, it is an honor and privilege from the Universe to be an art therapist. I credit all those that have come before me to light this path, for my own success.

NMATA, with AATA, as parent organization, has the potential to grow and act beyond all that we inherit, as all off-spring do. We are not limited to our parental limitations; as they are national and involved at a higher level of interaction with other national organizations – we are grassroots, on the ground, hands on. We can take the best of what we are given and evolve beyond. I would like to guide us in knowing that we can stand together in the identity of art therapy, and create bridges with those who have different values.

I am an art therapist. For me that includes the vision, mission, and values outlined on the AATA website and the vision and mission of our State chapter. My identity as an art therapist also includes my professional and personal mission, vision, and values. As political discernment has become a cultural imperative, I have wrestled and struggled to find a way to walk my values through this complex and painful issue. For myself, I reject the perception that to allow Karen Pence to advocate for mental health and art therapy means that I am in alignment with her politics. I am not.

I discern great potential and great peril within this split. The potential for rejecting Pence advocacy includes making a stand against systematic racism, religion in politics, and oppressive policy. IMO, this is a political statement that serves our own indignation about current politics but does not align with our mission which is to expand the public knowledge about art therapy. The potential for allowing and guiding her advocacy are that we work from within the system to stand for dignity and mental health for all and we reach more people.

I believe we can retain our identity while bridging. For me, this is more in alignment with my values of inclusivity. (personally…if art therapists cannot do this global work…who can?) The potential of allowing her advocacy is that we can be leaders and show a way to grow into a collective that can support and foster the well-being and dignity of every human being. The peril of making the political statement of rejecting Pence is that we lose credibility in our own values of non-judgmental inclusivity and we alienate part of the population, which unfortunately may include our military who so desperately need art therapy services. It is also true, that the peril of allowing her advocacy is that some who would seek art therapy may not, due to a perceived alliance with her politics. This has terrified many art therapists and students who fear that Pence advocacy changes our identity as a profession. I want to claim for us all that it does not change our identity, but we need to know this and be able to verbalize this.

If we cannot, we become caught in the duality and national splitting that has such detrimental effects on the health of the collective. The global peril, as I see it, is that we, art therapists, inadvertently reinforce the split because of this belief; and limit our identity to political party affiliation, leaving no room for collaboration what-so-ever. For me, this time in history is demanding that I examine and discern to the depths of my ability. It is confusing and painful and again a sleep-robber, but I have come to stand in the resolve of the principle of Bridging our humanity.

Because of my education at Southwestern College, because of my transpersonal believe system and my personal spiritual practices, I struggle to see the biggest picture I can imagine. I work to have my choices in alignment with my biggest perceptions. I know I am not alone in this practice. I, personally, chose not to succumb to the splitting, dehumanizing politics, as I can perceive them. I choose collaboration for the greater good, even in the discomfort of collaborating with those who do not share my values.

It is my desire and intention to guide NMATA for this last year of my term of leadership, by the Light of these guideposts I have clarified through my own personal exploration of the current challenge in our profession, our country and our world:

• The principle that all people who seek mental health services deserve non-judgmental therapeutic support and assistance toward the personal goals they self-determine.

• The principle of activism to advocate for the advancement and improvement of social justice and healthcare for the marginalized and disadvantaged.

• The principle of collaboration and respect in search of common ground; of shared humanity; of solutions that bridge during this time of division.

• The principle of consciousness that describes how we create what we focus on as individuals and as a collective. I chose to focus on bridging at this time.

• The principle of growth and evolution through thoughtful consideration, choice, and action; which allows for change as more information is assimilated

• The principle of accepting what is, while working toward the greatest good for all.

With these guideposts, I offer a way to accept the Pence initiative at face value, knowing that allowing her advocacy does not limit our personal or professional values to hers nor define AATA’s or NMATA’s identity as hers. Because of the challenge and contemplation within the field, it has actually strengthened our identity, our principles and our resolve to hold and honor the realities of our national and global politics, while clearly articulating, educating, and facilitating social change through mental health and art therapy advocacy.

I encourage us all to live our values, to lift our voices, to be active in our world. This call to awareness and action is critical at this point in history. We are a profession of privileged women. I know that part of what drives every art therapist is the duty to use this privilege for the advancement and care of all people, particularly the most disadvantaged and underprivileged. Art therapists serve the most marginalized sect of our society, the mentally ill. We serve in ways that are respectful, gentle, kind and effective in empowering health and well-being. We bring the feminine principles everywhere we go. We live the tools and practices needed for all, to be balanced in this harsh and fear filled world.

What a calling! We are the change we wish to see.

This is our purpose, as I see it. This is our honor. This is our identity.

I pledge to do everything I can to live these principles as NMATA’s leader this year. I hope you can see, I do not do this work lightly, or without deep contemplation and care.

I want to hear from you. I want to see the things you can see, that I cannot.

I invite you to write us. NMATA has an amazing Board of Directors. These are strong, articulate women, who are here to serve you. You are invited to write to any or all of us.

Please consider attending our membership meetings, getting involved in shaping this organization, connecting with passionate art therapists for fun and support, but most important being active in our social service agenda. We will be creating alliance with like-minded state organizations this year. We will be visible in the legislature. We will be offering discounted CEUs to our membership. And we need to know where you think we should be active and involved.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and consider my opinions.

My wish is that these words have value in empowering your own personal process through these issues.

Lastly, thank you for boldly and authentically Being who You are,

For being the change, you wish to see.

Art Making, Reflections, Self-Love / Self-Care

The Art Itch

By: Alanna Sindlinger, MA, LMHC
As an art therapist, it is important to continue to create your own art and have your own practice of self care through art making and creativity. I am continuously contemplating how to strengthen and honor this practice in my personal life. As many art therapists choose to do, I started my journey with art therapy by going to art school first with a minor in psychology. Being an artist has been a central part of my identity. I will often say, I am an artist first and an art therapist second even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

Many of us struggle with our identities as artists and how we can continue to incorporate that very important part of ourselves into our very busy lives. Here is a list of ideas I have had in continuing this practice and the struggles that I have had with maintaining this practice.

  • Process paintings over a period of time. Paint on a canvas once a week without developing a plan for the painting or concept except in the weekly sessions. These processes can have a focus on career/work or personal life.
  • Write poetry
  • Develop a series that continues to be an investigation throughout time.
  • Do directives that I want to ask clients to do or that I do ask clients to do.
  • Reflect on the day while creating a mandala.
  • Conceptual work centered around my relationship to the environment and commentary on environmental issues.
  • Write and illustrate Children’s books
  • Cook beautiful food that is based off of recipes but made into my own style.
  • Be inspired and follow through with a piece of art reflecting that inspiration.
  • Design a garden or a space
  • Dance
  • Pay attention to artist opportunities that I can be a part of.

Some of these IDEAS have never come into fruition but they are alive inside of me and the intention of following through is there. As artists, we have a different way of looking at the world, of perceiving the world, and of walking through the world.We tend to go against the grain and we often process our world a little uniquely as well. Instead of talking about it we may need to spend time in the studio with some paint and found objects to really describe and depict our inner thoughts and assessments about life, politics, culture, insights and our clients.  As we ask our clients to explore themselves in a deep intimate process through the mediums of their choosing as should we be doing the same exploration of ourselves on a regular basis.
Below is an opportunity for artists residing in New Mexico to help keep the artist itch alive.



Project Intent

TIME – Temporary Installations Made for the Environment – Edgewood

The Art in Public Places Program of New Mexico Arts, Route 66 Arts Alliance, and City of Edgewood seek to commission five temporary environmentally based artworks to be exhibited in various locations in Edgewood, New Mexico. The proposed artworks should relate to this year’s theme: “Persistence”

Project Intent
The strongest proposals will be for works which engage the temporary nature of this series of installations and relate strongly to the cultural and environmental histories of the area.  Site-specific and ephemeral works are encouraged. Artwork should appeal to both local residents and visitors to the area. No artwork requiring concrete pads or other environmentally damaging approaches will be considered. At the agreed upon time of removal, the artist will return the installation site to its original condition, subject to the approval of the site representative. Media must be low maintenance, safe for both children and adults, ADA compliant, and not leave a permanent mark on the environment when removed.

Accepting Applications through April 13th 2017

For more information visit
TIME: Edgewood

Art Making, Photography, Reflections

Stop Motion Animation in Art Therapy

3548065by Katie Hall

I recently created this stop motion animation for a class at Southwestern College. This course assignment inspired me to pull together my childhood interest in moving images with my current love of the expressive, fluid process of art making.

As I tapped into my inner child, the directions I could go with my imagination felt limitless and full of possibility.

I am excited to share this project and continue my experimentation with this, because I envision it to be a potentially healing art therapy technique. I see it as a way to formulate meaning and gain perspective on one’s narrative by integrating layers of imagery into one whole and complete visual expression.


The process of making the animation can be easily utilized in art therapy sessions. I used my IPhone camera and voice memo device, IMovie on my laptop, and then converted the movie to Quicktime. I stopped to take a picture after every mark I made. In this way, the process is time consuming but can also bring an aspect of mindfulness to the experience. It is extremely rewarding to see the hundreds of still photos come together to form something new in the end. I feel like this could be used with both individuals and groups. With individuals, this project could focus on a time period, particular experience, or problem in the client’s life. Dreams and fantasies could also be animated and imagery could be built up naturally without a direct focus to observe the unconscious mind. Groups could work together creatively to help build a new way of seeing and develop a sense of empowerment in their lives as well.

I believe this technique could be creatively explored in many different ways. Any medium, including paint, charcoal, clay, cut paper, pastel, shadows, photography, melted wax, etc. could be used. I appreciate the versatility of this process and the way that it highlights the metaphor of the flow and constant nature of change in life. The imagery is never permanent and continues to morph and transform. Similar to the way of capturing one mark at a time, we are all in a process of becoming. I feel being able to see our life experience as if it were a movie can be a great way to pinpoint negative patterns. This can provide clarity and open doors for real change to occur.



Counseling, Field of Art Therapy, Reflections

What is Consciousness-Centered Practice?

7940995Blog and images by Laura L. Lansrud-López

Do art therapy and counseling belong together? This question has come to my attention recently and, in some forums, is hotly discussed. I myself hold an Art Therapy / Counseling degree and hold dual licenses as a clinical counselor and professional art therapist in NM.

Does this mean I have a split personality? Oh, and I use Sandplay therapy, perhaps making the picture more confusing.

I’ve been pondering the question of how, and to what degree, the two fields “should” be separated. Is counseling trying to “gobble up” art therapy? Does art therapy, as a field, need to scratch and claw its way to “independence” from counseling? I work with clients every day and some weekends in my private practice. Sometimes we make art, sometimes my clients play in the sand, sometimes I just listen, sometimes we work on mindfulness, or practice skills for emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal communication.

When I reflect on what it is I do in therapy – is it Art Therapy? Is it Counseling? Is it Sandplay? – I’m left with the clarity that what I do, what I try to do in every session is attune to the person with me, listen deeply for what is needed in the moment, provide an environment for his or her Authentic Self to emerge, and then witness, reflect, and delight in that emergence.

The work isn’t easy, there are many things in myself, the relationship, and the art work or image created to track and bring to consciousness. My education in theory, ethics, and my experience in the therapeutic use of art and honoring the image, forms structure around us. But the foundation of my work is the act of bringing my highest consciousness, my own Authentic Self, into the room with full attention. My listening occurs on multiple levels: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. In attunement, there is safety, and in safety the psyche can heal itself. (My preferred metaphors come from interpersonal neurobiology and trauma informed care, but that’s for another blog).





Whether we make art, play, talk, or work on skills follows naturally from listening deeply for what is NEEDED by my client in the moment; it is not imposed ON the moment by my self-identity as an Art Therapist or Counselor. To me, this is Consciousness-Centered Art Therapy and Counseling. As I’ve pondered the question of the differences between the two fields the past week, I’m reminded of Rumi’s quote:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.”
                                                       – Rumi


I welcome enriching dialogue about how other’s practice Art Therapy, use creativity in counseling, or incorporate the expressive arts into their therapeutic work with others.

Art Making, CEU Offerings, Reflections

3926830by Magdalena Karlick

Let’s go for a walk, and pick up with permission
pieces from the earth, resting branches, fallen leaves, rocks rolled with time,
or shells that once were homes.

What history do they hold?
There is room for more, from me.

Let’s whisper into the rocks.
They can keep our secrets, our emotions, our wishes.

Shells can be held as they once held life.
Stones can lay cool in one’s palm or with a deep warm from the sun.
Rocks can be thrown in anger, wind and quake have done worse.
Branches may be broken, as they have been before.
Dried petals fragile with time, reminiscent of what once was, c


an be gingerly moved.

Touch, feel, place, throw
The natural world calls to us, holds us, and wants to be felt.

Recently we had the first in a series of Art Workshops at Southwestern College, “Rocktray: Nature as a Medium,” led by SWC grad Karen Wennberg, and current Art Therapy student, Nicole Morgan. They led us through theory related to Sandplay, Art Therapy, and Ecopsychology. They wove experiences of connection between pieces of nature and memory. We discussed how to make personal altars, and imbue natural objects with moments, or have them represent archetypal guides, witnesses, or guardians. We discussed how to externalize difficult feelings into these objects, so as to release or minimize discomfort. We experienced how this is personally helpful as well as an accessible offering to our clients.

Collection of Natural Objects














My Rocktray creation: Free Association Writings:
Tidy space, messy container
Picked off advertisement
Was messed with paint and earth
Natural Space
Calm center with spiraled petals 
On a bed of l
ong thin shoots of leaves
No longer bristling, laying comfortably under.


I  was inspired by the dried avocado in Nicole’s altar. I came home from the workshop, ate some avocado and saved the skin to dry. And this is what I made:


This is to help.
To help us move, cradled in taught skin
Floating lightly on protective wispy eyes,
Keeping striking snakes at bay.

We hold our seed within.

We protect our selves with hope, 

and calm movement through the unknown.


This was made with an avocado skin, an apricot pit, chicken feather, and peacock feathers on a dish rag.




See more photos from this workshop, here.
To find out about future workshops, or information about leading a workshop, click here.


Legislation, NMATA Membership, Reflections

New Year’s Resolutions for 2013

8616869by Laura L. Lansrud-López

As the New Year approaches, I am filled with enthusiasm and optimism at the many possibilities which lie ahead for me personally and for the New Mexico Art Therapy Association. The past few years have been challenging for our chapter, with dwindling member involvement and difficulty connecting to the many art therapists practicing in New Mexico. We are in transition, and the dawning of 2013 brings a new flood of energy.

It is with a vision of a flourishing, active, dynamic, and inclusive chapter that I embrace these new year resolutions:

1) We will reach out to our members and listen for ways we can best meet their needs and encourage participation;

2) We will actively invite new members and openly welcome art therapists, therapists using expressive arts, students, and friends of therapeutic art making;

3) We will hold an inclusive attitude aimed at support our members and connecting with others across disciplines;

4) We will develop a cohesive community of art therapists by providing space and materials to make art together, providing continuing education and workshops, hold regularly scheduled meetings for exchanging ideas and developing professional relationships;

5) We will develop a legislative action committee to work with the state legislature regarding third-party payment for therapy services provided by licensed art therapists (LPAT) in New Mexico;

6) We will develop collaborations with other professional organizations, agencies, and groups which will be mutually beneficial and will advance art therapy in New Mexico.

These resolutions are my vision, and my commitment.

What resolutions would you add?