By PHYL NEWBECK
After graduating from college with a degree in psychology and English literature, Lisa Myers learned about the field of art therapy and thought it would be a wonderful way to combine her love of art with a profession that would help others.
She took a year off to investigate different programs before enrolling at Pratt Art Institute for her master’s degree in creative art therapy.
The field was relatively new and, when Myers moved to Vermont, the state initially had no specific licensure program. As the government affairs chair for the Vermont Art Therapy Association, she helped change that.
Myers noted that people might think art therapy is mainly for children, but it is helpful to people of all ages. She pointed to a program for veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center which was recently featured in National Geographic.
In her private practice, Myers works with people of all ages, although the majority of her clients have been children and teenagers. She has spent the last 10 years working at the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington’s North End. She started as a school clinician and currently is an outpatient therapist, spending one or two days a week at the school.
She said that since art therapy is non-verbal, it is a wonderful tool to work with patients such as refugees and new Americans at the school for whom English is a second language. “It’s a more palatable way for them to address emotional issues and traumas,” she said.
Recently, the Laura Kate Winterbottom Memorial Fund approached the Academy, interested in increasing mental health assistance in the North End. The result has been a new partnership named the Laura Kate Winterbottom Art Therapy Center at the school as a means of helping to prevent abusive and violent behavior. Myers spent a year supervising another art therapist involved in the program and joined the Memorial Fund’s board of directors. This fall, a program she designed will begin at the center.
Myers makes sure that work does not keep her from her own artistic endeavors. She paints portraits and landscapes in oils and watercolors and also does some printmaking. She has shown her artwork in galleries over the years but lately her spare time has been devoted to studies at the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis in Montreal.
The institute is only open to those with advanced degrees and licensure who have already practiced in their field. “The program offers a different style than just lying on a couch and having the analyst say a few things once in a while,” she said. “It’s about expanding the mind which is my goal. It allows people to develop more resiliency and coping skills.”
The 58-year-old Myers moved to Shelburne in 2007 and still has a studio there although she and her husband moved to Charlotte four years ago. She said she loves the natural beauty of both towns.
“I’m grateful that I found this profession,” she said. “It’s the perfect niche for me since it’s a combination of psychology and art,” Myers said. “Because I so value the creative process, I feel like I’m constantly validated by people who can use this.”