Looking back at Summer and Moving into Fall

This summer was a hot one, especially in the beautiful Savannah, Georgia. In July, 2012 the American Art Therapy Association hosted their 43rd Annual Conference (Weaving a Tapestry: Reflections and Visions of Art Therapy) in this historic Southern town. Going to the American Art Therapy Association conference is always energizing for me, but being able to explore a place with such rich literary, art and historic background at the same time makes the experience even richer.

For me the AATA conference is never just about learning new things, it is also about connecting with other art therapists from around the world: sharing and learning. This year for me it also involved many business meetings, and morning yoga sessions.  I focused on licensure, learning my role as Speaker, third hand art and neurological issues and art therapy. Oh, and exploring Savannah. The conference was rich with topics such as: grief and loss, medical settings, autism, globalization, and various mental and emotional health issues.
Many of the meetings I attended were business meetings regarding the actual running of the organization and the continued advancement of our profession. Licensure was on everyone’s lips. The ladies from Maryland discussed how they miraculously pushed licensure through in their state in only four months. This was amazing to me and I picked their brains thoroughly. It got me geared up to really start the process in Virginia.

Networking  was also a big part of the conference. I was able to organize a small VATA gathering and meet some new and perspective members who are willing to really jump in and help our organization.  At the EMVS gathering I was able to meet a few rising second year students willing to help with the process of licensure. I started my “to do list” immediately and would love to get some GWU students involved too.

“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” Dance at the AATA Annual Conference July 2012      Gretchen Graves, Sarah Deaver, Cheryl Shiflett, and Abby Calisch

In honor of our upcoming regional symposium, “Make your Mark: Art-Based Research and Social Justice Initiatives” (cosponsored with MATA and PATA), I attended a discussion panel on social justice and art therapy.  This was a very interesting panel that talked about everything from recycling and the art therapists role in the process to how we work with various ethniticities and religious differences.

Exploring Savannah was beautiful. The Westin Harbor Resort is located on an island in the Savannah River directly across from Old Town. One simply had to take a free river boat  across to see the great restaurants, beautiful architecture (including the cemeteries), night life and sometimes a feeling of stepping back in time. One night Bruce Moon and his band played in the market square while several art therapists danced around enjoying the toons.

In August I had the opportunity to visit Roanoke, stay in the beautiful Hotel Roanoke and connect with many art and music therapists that work through out Virginia. This was the bi-annual conference of the State Operated Programs. This includes educators and assistants, administrators, art and music therapists from around the schools located in the juvenile detention centers, hospital programs, and mental health facilities around Virginia.

The art and music therapists had the opportunity to spend the first morning sharing and learning from Jim Borling, Music Therapy professor from Radford University and addictions specialists. We shared circumstances of our settings and populations as many of them encounter addiction problems. Relaxation was the message. Our afternoon was spent relaxing in a drum circle lead by Music Therapist Bob Miller, after which we each created individual process art.

A large Mandala was placed near the registration table, giving all attendees, not just art and music, an opportunity to express themselves visually. Everyone is learning about the power art has!

As we move forward to the fall I look forward to our second annual joint symposium with PATA and MATA. This will be a great learning, sharing and networking opportunity for everyone that joins us at the end of October. We have a fantastic Keynote Speaker, Lynn Kapitan, PhD., ATR-BC, bringing volumes of knowledge and experience with her.

Fall also finds me fired up to work on licensure for Virginia Art Therapists. We are just in baby stages now and will need help with this effort. But now is the time to help preserve title protection as well as reimbursement and credentialing. Carpe Diem!! A Licensure Committee will be forming and there will be blogs about our efforts. If you are interested in helping in this very important issue please contact us at vaarttherapy@gmail.com.

Written by Gretchen Graves, MS, ATR, CDAT

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