In this Featured Member series, AATA celebrates the work of our members. During the coronavirus pandemic, we are inviting members to share their experiences about how their professional and personal lives have changed.

 

October 8, 2020

What has changed (or remained the same) in your job or studies during the COVID-19 global crisis?

The biggest change has been the switch to telehealth. I absolutely hated it at first and felt like I was trying to do my job with one hand tied behind my back. Working with people without really being with people is hard. I am still not the biggest fan, but I am eternally grateful for the ability to seamlessly stay connected with my clients and to safely offer Art Therapy services to my community. I would like to think that my skills at providing Art Therapy via video have improved in the 6 months since March. I have learned A LOT from the kids I work with because their understanding of technology is much more intuitive than mine. They have taught me how to screen share, play games together and even better ways to observe art making via video. We are all learning together and doing the best we can to best apply our skills.

In what ways have your clients been impacted by COVID-19? How are you managing your own stress related to their experiences?

Covid has had a range of impacts on my clients. I think the biggest one that I have seen is the isolation and the loss of school as we all knew it. We live in a very rural place, where community and school-based community plays a crucial role. Not having access to traditional in-person community has been hard, especially on kids. The adjustment to what learning looks like has also been tough for students, teachers and administrators. I work with kids who loved school pre-Covid and were suddenly struggling with feeling like they were failing at remote learning. Also families who relied on school programs for so much support. Our area schools have done an amazing job maintaining services and connection, but the loss of in person learning, sports and extracurricular was really hard for everyone. How do I manage my own stress…I just got back from a trip to a cabin with my family where wifi couldn’t reach us. That helped big time. I also really am lucky to live in a place where nature is readily available and you can almost forget that anything is really happening other than the change of seasons. Access to that outlet has been very important to managing my own stress. Also the grounding presence of my family and regular check ins with friends and a special group of wise women.

Since the killing of George Floyd, the topic of race has once again been brought to the forefront of national dialogue. How have race related issues, social justice, and racism informed or impacted your work as an art therapist?

The Killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed came up a lot in my sessions with clients. Maine is a state where the overwhelming majority of people identify as white. I have a lot of younger clients who were really grappling with the magnitude of racism and systemic racism for the first time. As a clinician it felt like I was trying to hold space for these young people who were collectively realizing that not everyone experiences life the same way they do. I felt a lot of personal energy around the topic of racism and anti racism and that energy combined with the frustration I had about the toll I saw Covid taking on the mental health of the kids I work with. I wanted to use that energy in a constructive way. Most pre-Covid summers I participate as a visiting artist at a local Art Camp hosted by a tiny Library on the “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island. Each summer has a theme and we generally have around 12 kids participate for a week of art making related to that theme. This year we adapted Art Camp to accommodate the precautions of the Pandemic and to provide a much-needed outlet for kids who have so much to say about what is happening in our country and in the world. Virtual Art Camp 2020 served as a way to provide a platform and a witness to young voices that are so important in the conversation about race and racial injustice. We were able to secure a grant and provide 20 kids with art kits full of everything they would need to create projects around the theme, “Create, Communicate, Connect.” Projects included a journal full of suggested prompts and both and individual and collaborative piece to be displayed and enjoyed by the community as part of an outdoor art walk at the end of camp. Virtual Art Camp was a collaborative outlet for the voices I was hearing in sessions and social justice featured heavily in a lot of the work that was made. 

In what ways has your living or work space changed?

Since March I have done most sessions via telehealth, primarily from my home. For the first few months Maine was under “stay at home” orders and my husband worked from home as well. We passed our 3 year old off between meetings and sessions. Now my husband is back to work and my daughter’s daycare is open again, but I continue to mostly work from home. It is less than ideal as I am use to being up and all around my studio/office during my sessions. Now I mostly sit so I can maintain a calm, steady visual for my clients. I notice this change in my body and attending to it has been an ongoing practice. I also had to dust off and actually start wearing those glasses I have for computer work. I would love to return to my office, but at the moment, it seems that video is the only real way to guarantee safety and allow me to continue to provide services.

How do you view your role as an art therapist or student during COVID-19?

I think my role as and Art Therapist is similar in a lot of ways to what it was pre-COVID. I continue to focus on individual work, often working as part of a team to support my clients. My role seems to be expanding somewhat in that I am anticipating, and even already seeing, an enormous increase in the need for mental health support due to COVID. I have been connecting with administration in the local schools and reaching out to our area Crisis Team and state mental health agencies to talk about that need and what we may do as providers to address it.

“Create Communicate Connect,” group mural by Virtual Art Camp 2020 campers. Primed Plywood and acrylic paint. August 2020.

Each camper and facilitator took an individual letter to paint and at the end we brought them all together to spell the theme of camp, ‘Create, Communicate, Connect.’ They were installed at The Kelley Farm Preserve in Bernard, Maine as part of an outdoor art walk. The art walk served as the end camp show and to invite the public to witness the art made in the individual homes of the campers. I personally painted one of the N’s in CONNECT and used the Progress Pride Flag as a backdrop because its message embodies what camp was all about this year.

Dawn Nuding, MA, LCPC, ATR

I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and received my Masters of Art in Art Therapy from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. I am a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LCPC) in the state of Maine and a Registered Art Therapist (ATR) with the American Art Therapy Association. I was living in rural Maine while attending the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods distance program for my Masters. I interned at an Outpatient Substance Use Agency and stayed on at that agency once I graduated. A year after graduation, my husband’s Naval career took us to Washington where I got the experience of working in community mental health at a Medicaid funded facility. I worked in the Child and Family department at that agency and consider it my clinical boot camp. When my husband’s military service ended, we returned to Maine and I opened my private practice. I have been running my private practice for 5 years and am co-founder of The Counseling Collaborative, an eclectic group of mental health providers in Bar Harbor, Maine. The majority of my clients are school aged children and adolescents, but I also have a handful of adult clients.

 

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