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.

 

March 11, 2021

Tell us about yourself

My name is Kristina Burrow Woodruff. I am an Art Therapist and Adjunct Professor of Psychology in Mississippi. I am a graduate of New York University with a Masters in Art Therapy. For undergraduate I attended Vanderbilt University where I received a B.S. degree in Human and Organizational Development with an area of specialization in Studio Art. I have held a private practice at The Shepherd’s Staff Counseling Group in Flowood, MS for 12 years. The Shepherd’s Staff is the oldest counseling center in our state. We have been in practice since October 1981. This October will be our 40th year as an entity. I work together with 12 other therapists including Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors. I have an eclectic practice working with children, adolescents, adults, and their families helping them through a variety of mental health issues, including trauma, medical illness, psychiatric, addiction, relational issues, and sexual and physical abuse.

In addition to my private practice, I have recently started conducting art therapy group sessions at Three Oaks Behavioral Health in Ridgeland, MS in the intensive outpatient programs. At Three Oaks we serve adults and adolescents with psychiatric and addiction issues. I am also an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Belhaven University teaching the courses for the Creative Arts Therapy degree. This last semester, I transitioned out of being an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Mississippi College where I taught various Psychology courses, among them, Introduction to Art Therapy. I spent much of my early career as an art therapist working in Pediatric Art Therapy programs. I developed and ran the Pediatric Art Therapy Program at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at University of Mississippi Medical Center and was the Art Therapy Coordinator at Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital (now Randall Children’s Hospital) in Portland, Oregon. 

I have served with the AATA primarily through my local chapters. In the past I have been a member of both the Mississippi Art Therapy Association (MSATA) and the Cascade Region Art Therapy Association (CREATA) in Oregon. In MSATA I have held the office of Vice-President, President-Elect, and President. In the past I have also supervised students working towards their ATR-BC credentialing. I have been a member of AATA for much of the past 21 years and attended annual conferences. The annual conferences have been opportunities to connect regularly with great friends in my life that are fellow Art Therapists and make new connections with others in our profession.

What has changed in your work during the COVID-19 global crisis?

During the beginning of the pandemic, especially during quarantine and the months following, my clients, students, and I were significantly impacted. Essentially overnight we had to shift from meeting in person to figuring out how to continue therapy and classes via online and telehealth. As with many others, it was a particularly challenging transition for me being a lone parent at this time of a young school aged child. My support system was in lock down, literally. It was complicated balancing helping my child continue to engage in school, teaching my college classes, seeing clients via telehealth, and keeping my child occupied while I taught and saw clients. It was a challenge helping her not feel neglected and isolated while I did my work. At that point I had a full time private practice while also teaching several psychology classes, including introduction to art therapy and creative arts therapy courses, at a local college and university.

As hard as it was, it was also a sweet time of special connection with my child. We would purposefully take breaks in between doing various activities to help destress, stay connected, and have fun together. As a professor, I teach the art therapy and creative arts therapy coursework in a very interactive way that includes a lot of participatory art making. It was challenging continuing that type of engagement with students many of whom did not have their textbooks with them, wifi or internet, or art supplies to create. There was a lot of improvising, utilizing what was available around the house or right outside their front door.

A big struggle with my private clients was how to engage young children via video. Lack of privacy was an issue for many. Many of my teenage clients didn’t feel as safe to express what was needed while there was potential for other family members to overhear. The sheer focus of some sessions shifted to maintain connection and engagement during a time of isolation, separation, and loss. I have seen an increase in feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, loss, and disconnection during this time. After a few months, I was able to transition back to seeing clients in my office again utilizing COVID protocols of safety including wearing masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, and thorough cleaning of the space and art materials. At this time, I still maintain a hybrid telehealth and in person sessions practice.

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

Early in the pandemic one of my clients had a spouse who was a frontline worker in a local hospital die from Covid-19. This particular client has significant autoimmune issues as well. Helping this client walk through the intense grief and isolation that has been occurring for them has been complex. It has made me even more cognizant of the impact of this pandemic, the need for safety protocols, and the intensity of the grief, anxiety, depression, and isolation that so many of us are experiencing during this time. 

 

North Mississippi–Study by Kristina Burrow Woodruff. Oil paint and palette knife on wooden panel.

 

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