Art Therapy Perspectives 

Interview with Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, CTC, Founder of The Art Therapy Alliance

Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, CTC is a Registered Board Certified Art Therapist and Certified Trauma Consultant practicing in Cleveland, Ohio.  Gretchen's clinical practice currently specializes in the area of childhood trauma and loss, working with youth and women impacted by domestic violence.  Gretchen presents regionally and nationally on the application of art therapy, and is a guest lecturer, post-graduate supervisor, and Adjunct at Ursuline College's Master of Arts in Art Therapy & Counseling Program in Pepper Pike, Ohio.  Gretchen is also a Past President of Ohio’s Buckeye Art Therapy Association (BATA). Gretchen is the Founder of The Art Therapy Alliance, an on-line network that embraces social media and connection to promote art therapy, the work of art therapists, and build community.   

I have been inspired by the Art Therapy Alliance’s ability to connect art therapists socially and especially on the web, in addition to it’s ability to inspire art therapists to share about their projects, spaces, and places. I was so thrilled when Gretchen Miller agreed to share more about her own art therapy practice, as well as about the development of the Art Therapy Alliance. I can truly say that my own blog was partially inspired by the Art Therapy Alliance, and my growing desire to connect with more art therapists both on and offline. I hope that her story inspires you too, and that more art therapists will learn and understand the value in joining forces to promote art therapy around the world.

What initially drew you to art therapy?
My involvement in the arts since childhood, a strong interest in psychology that developed in high school, and a desire to help people created the core foundation to having interest in art therapy.  Coursework I took while in college as an undergraduate art therapy major had a strong impact on me to keep learning more. Hands on opportunities to provide art experiences during this time through volunteering, summer camp experiences, and college practicums with youth and adults in need, reinforced what I was learning in the classroom and inspired me to seek graduate art therapy training to become an art therapist.

What populations do you/have you worked with?
Early in my career, I spent the first eight years developing and providing art therapy services within residential treatment/partial hospitalization settings for youth with severe emotional and behavioral needs. My work in residential treatment motivated me to focus more in the area of childhood trauma and loss, as well as receive additional training and certification. Since 2004 this has included providing art therapy to children and teens from homes of domestic violence, grieving children and adolescents who have experienced a death of a loved one, as well as women survivors of domestic violence.

How did you get to where you are today?
My love of art therapy, dedication to the profession, and supportive colleagues, co-workers, peers, mentors, and supervisors have had an important impact in shaping and cultivating my art therapy education, work and service to the field.

How would you describe your style or approach as an art therapist?
My art therapy work has increasingly become much more group based with implementing interventions and strategies that are strength based and trauma informed.

How did you come up with the idea of the Art Therapy Alliance?
Since the late ‘90s and my days of art therapy graduate school, I've had a passion in online technology for networking within the field. Over the last decade this has developed into creating and managing websites and forums related to art therapy, creativity, social networking, and community organizing for art therapists. In 2008, The Art Therapy Alliance was first created as an on-line professional group through LinkedIn and its website presence to provide a space to connect about current topics, news, and discussions. Since 2008, The Art Therapy Alliance has grown into a network also available on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Polyvore and more to embrace social media and connection for promoting art therapy and the work of art therapists.

What sort of challenges have you faced with the Art Therapy Alliance?
Technology and social networking tools are always changing and growing, so keeping up to date with new ideas, applications, and emerging possibilities along with existing social media for community building can be a fun challenge.

How would you like to see the Art Therapy Alliance grow?
In general, I would like to keep seeing art therapy and art therapists' presence within social media and online activities expand, including but not limited to: art therapy services in the news, on the web, blogging, in education, or sharing resources and ideas in digital or visual form. These individual contributions help promote the field, our work as art therapists and continue to expand the overall collective vision of the Art Therapy Alliance.

Have you had a favorite Art Therapy Alliance project?
An Art Therapy Alliance sponsored project from this year that Art Therapist Magdalena Karlick and I organized and I really enjoyed was "Spaces and Places: Where We Create". Through social media and digital photo sharing on Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram, this collaborative project aimed to provide education, awareness, inspiration, and understanding about the spaces & places, settings, populations, and materials that the art therapy community works in and uses within their practice. The photos and stories art therapists and students shared from around the world about their spaces were so inspiring to receive, post, and learn from about how we work and create.  You can see photos from the project here.

Is there any one thing you would like people to know about the Art Therapy Alliance that they may not know?
Since 2008, The Art Therapy Alliance's group on LinkedIn has been the largest forum for art therapy and social networking. I have much gratitude for the continued support and interest received by the art therapy community active with social networking and interested in using or accessing social media to promote or learn more about art therapy.

How have you seen the art therapy industry grow and change over recent years?
The expanding use of social networking online and the technological applications we have available to share, learn, and exchange information or experiences has significantly transformed the way the field and art therapists connect globally, communicate, seek support, and promote their work.

Where would you like to see art therapy as a whole go in the future?
Growing and strengthening art therapy's practice, as well as, protecting consumers from untrained professionals by becoming recognized through licensure and regulation.

If readers would like to connect to Gretchen Miller they can do so through her website, or through the Art Therapy Alliance website

Originally posted on November 26, 2012