September 19, 2019 | By Leara Glinzak, ATR, MSAT


Tell us about yourself

I am a Registered Art Therapist and Founder of I Light LLC, an art therapy private practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have a Master of Science in Art Therapy with a Concentration in Counseling from Mount Mary University and a Bachelor of Arts in Art Therapy from Seton Hill University. Prior to private practice, I worked as a Dementia educator, supervisor and art therapist. I currently offer individual sessions, group sessions, and open studio. I also lead retreats. I work primarily with individuals dealing with grief, trauma, addiction, dementia, anxiety, life transitions and seeking spiritual growth. I Lights started when I left a full time position and honestly felt like a failure, and felt I was facing several barriers and several misuses of the term “art therapy.” The practice started by educating and connecting with a variety of organizations to provide ethically practiced art therapy services throughout the greater Grand Rapids area. I also have research that used a quantitative measure with distress in adults with Cancer and a book review published in the peer reviewed Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. I have given presentations at various conferences including AATA, Leading Age, the Art and Science of Aging Conference and Mount Mary symposium to name a few. My practice started with education and with that said, I am passionate about education, advocacy, and ethics. I teach at Grand Valley State University at an undergraduate level to help educate those who are not familiar with the art therapy field and standards needed to practice as an art therapist.

What excites (or inspires) you most about your job right now?

There are several things that excite me. What excites me most are the possibilities in the field. There are many areas in the field that need  to be explored further. This may help to determine best application of practices to provide the best service to those seeking art therapy. I am excited to be teaching because I feel this is a service to better the community for someone who had never heard of art therapy. It opens the door to understanding art therapy, the possibility for someone to become an art therapist or increase the likelihood of future professionals being more open to working with an art therapist in the future whether in a professional setting or as a client. This can also clarify the differences between art therapy and other professions and art as a coping tool where people are aware of the therapeutic effects experienced by making art — which is different than art therapy. I am at a point where I get to offer education not just to my students but the community with my hope that my work may in the long run help to create more art therapy positions as organizations see the benefit of art therapy. I am honored to be an art therapist at a time where I am able to make a contribution to the field and this certainly excites me. As for being inspired I am most inspired by the resiliency and creativity of some of the cases I have experienced and my clients may not realize how much their resiliency fuels my own.

Has working with a particular client group shaped your professional focus or specialty? What have you learned from working with these clients?

I am not sure I can attribute a specialty focused based on one particular client group. I do believe my thesis work that I published as research shaped my professional identity and academic trajectory along with a passion for lifelong learning. What I have learned overall from clients I have worked with is to continue to learn and grow, practice with empathy and grief and trauma are also more prevalent in client’s lives no matter which population I was working with than I had initially realized when first entering the field. Being a Dementia educator as my first employment I do believe this shaped my learning with understanding various Dementia’s in a way I would not had otherwise and the grief associated with Dementia and caregivers.

What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy?

My advice for anyone interested in pursuing this career is to stay inspired, stay curious, stay creative. There is constant education and advocacy work needed for the field, so stay connected with your art therapy community in order to stay current in the field. And stay resilient.

What are your hopes for the future of the art therapy profession?

I have several hopes for the future of art therapy as I’m sure most art therapists have. My hope is that we continue to grow as a field and to educate the community on what art therapy is and it’s impact. Of course I have specific hopes including topics such as title protection, licensure, etc. but most importantly my hope is that art therapy can become an accessible service to those who may benefit and need art therapy services.


“Zion National Park” by Leara Glinzak. Mixed media. February 2019.

Artist’s statement: “This piece was painted from a solo trip I took in Zion National Park. As an art therapist and entrepreneur, I have learned my best practice of self care to is going on a solo trip and hiking. At a point where I felt overwhelmed by professional and personal grief and distress, I took a trip in the winter to Zion National Park where I find by listening to Mother Earth She helps me to become reconnected and grounded. My artist style changes depending what is occurring in my life where I found this journey reminded me on the themes of reflection, slowing down and trust. This piece taught me to see the colors and vibrancy in my own life as the colors on the snow reflected it’s surroundings, when I found myself getting too connected to a desire to make the piece have a specific outcome, I threw paint onto the canvas and when it was dried I revisited the piece and re-established the details with various materials. This pieces says to me, “Stop. Look around. Otherwise you’re going to miss it.” This piece and experience reminded me of not only being present with my clients but on the importance of being present in my own personal life so as to not miss the magic in the ordinary and these moments I will never get back. ”