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Therapeutic Art Certification: A Nurse’s Firsthand Account

  • As one can imagine, holding onto negative emotions and not utilizing outlets to accept and release them can wreak havoc on the body and mind.  

  • I, like my others, believed that non-pharmaceutical methods should be explored.  

  • This led me to pursue a therapeutic art certification, and now I am a therapeutic art coach for others; this is what I have learned from this experience so far.

Ingrid Butler

MSN, RNC-MNN

January 07, 2022
Simmons University

How Did I Get Here? Why Did I Get a Therapeutic Art Certification?

I finished nursing school in 1995 with an associate RN degree and began working as an RN in January of 1996. I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) many years later and then went on to achieve my Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in Informatics. I worked in pediatrics, ortho rehab, women’s health, Labor/Delivery, the burn center, and landed in Mother/Baby which is where I spent most of my career.  

As a nurse I witnessed so many people, especially nurses, dealing with mental health issues that were not really being addressed.  

This ranged from anger issues, drug addictions, histories of abuse, and current manifestations of significant anxiety.  

Oftentimes, medications were prescribed for anxiety or depression which had negative side effects, but no other interventions were offered. They were band-aids, not methods of healing.  

I, like my others, believed that non-pharmaceutical methods should be explored.  

From here, I began to think of my firsthand experiences with anxiety and how painting was always a therapeutic outlet for me. I started researching the effects of painting and how it can help relieve anxiety.  

This led me to pursue a therapeutic art certification, and now I am a therapeutic art coach for others.

What I Have Learned Since Earning My Therapeutic Art Certification

Many nurses focus care efforts on everyone but themselves. 

They often give so much that they have nothing left for their own wellness.  

We spend 12 hours organizing, planning, calculating, documenting, talking, explaining, teaching, convincing, critically evaluating, medicating, lifting, bending, turning, etc. on repeat.  

On top of this, we don’t take our breaks because we want to get our charting finished and not get behind.  

It is common for us to leave our shifts feeling drained, exhausted, angry, overwhelmed, and maybe even depressed.  

Now, incorporate COVID-19 and additional mandates and regulations. It is evident that many nurses are reaching a breaking point and leaving the profession; we are continuously dealing with insurmountable stress.  

Since having my therapeutic art certification, I have learned that I am not alone.  

With time, I was able to deal with my anxiety and stress through painting and to be truthful, it has saved my life.  

I started painting my walls, then furniture and eventually found fluid art or acrylic pour painting.  

Fluid art uses paint that has been thinned with a flow medium, allowing it to move on the canvas easily. It also allows you to layer colors without them completely mixing.  

The question is, “how can this release stress and serve as a method for personal healing?”  

Let me explain. 

First, one must acknowledge the emotions or circumstances in which they wish to represent on the canvas through color selection. 

The colors are chosen based on how the person feels from each color rather than utilizing the traditional color theory. Why? 

People identify and attach personal meaning to colors based on their own experiences.  

For example, red may signify love and the happiness that follows for one person but remind another of rage.  

The emotion that needs to be removed or healed is painted onto the canvas in order to acknowledge and accept it.  

Following, colors that represent how one wants to feel are then layered into a cup and poured over the colors that represent those that the person wishes to remove or heal. 

This process provides a visual, meditative experience and creates new neural pathways that allow for now positive associations rather than negative. It has been one of my favorite exercises to coach since receiving my therapeutic art certification.

fluid art

The Bottom Line

As one can imagine, holding onto negative emotions and not utilizing outlets to accept and release them can wreak havoc on the body and mind.  

Nowadays, many hospital facilities have therapeutic art departments 

These departments often utilize creative processes such as the example mentioned above to help cancer patients manage the pain and emotions that come with such a diagnosis. 

If you are interested in pursuing a therapeutic art certification, I highly recommend taking the plunge! Helping others heal in ways that have no side effects is truly a beautiful thing.  

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