The American Art Therapy Association represents a diversity of professionals, students, and organizations across the nation. We recognize and celebrate the work of our members at all levels through our Featured Member series.
We asked Nadia Paredes to share with us her experiences about what Hispanic Heritage Month means to her, as a Latino bilingual art therapist. We previously highlighted Michael Galarraga, MS, LPC, ATR-BC, CSAC, CSOTP, who along with Nadia, presented a virtual session Art Therapy: ¿Cómo se dice? on October 13, 2022. The session is available in AATA’s Online Learning Academy.
October 6, 2022
“As a Hispanic, I am very proud of how connecting with our community matters, so there was always the stinging thorn of not having given back to my community in my hometown as I had originally planned! But when the Pandemic allowed me to provide services virtually, I was able to start serving both here and back home. I knew my purpose was finally met.”
How does your Hispanic heritage intersect with your work as an art therapist?
I moved to the United States in order to study art therapy and bring it back to my country of origin, Mexico. I knew how valuable our profession could be for the mental health field back then and saw the need in my country for this kind of service, as I feel the arts and creativity are very embedded in our culture. The therapeutic aspect could bring so much healing! Even though the idea was to go back, I ended up immigrating to the US because I was given the opportunity to use my language and cultural knowledge to help the Latino immigrant community here in Los Angeles. For years, I served my people and was happy to see how the art helped people heal their trauma history and become resilient. As a Hispanic, I am very proud of how connecting with our community matters, so there was always the stinging thorn of not having given back to my community in my hometown as I had originally planned! But when the COVID-19 pandemic allowed me to provide services virtually, I was able to start serving both here and back home. I knew my purpose was finally met and now feel complete professionally and personally. I can now serve in two countries and help more people than I originally thought I would.
How have you used art to honor your culture or heritage?
During the pandemic, as I started to work with people in Mexico, I became inspired to experiment with ancient Mexican art traditions and started researching the benefits of including crafts in art therapy. As I used these with clients, I became curious to try them myself, which led me to find my own personal style as an artist, mixing canvas and paint with embroidery and weaving. These abstract creations are the ones I am most proud of as they make me feel truly complete as a human and artist.
What have your experiences been like providing art therapy services to Spanish-speaking populations?
Creativity is something that I feel characterizes us as Latinos: we are great at finding solutions, adapting, regardless of the hardship, and always finding an artistic outlet to make us feel better: be it comedy, poetry or painting, we always use expression to make ourselves feel better. So being able to use this natural cultural strength and use it to serve and empower my community has been extremely fulfilling and satisfying. I have never felt so connected to my own heritage and felt more proud about it. I have to thank art therapy for this.
I weave and paint because I am two things: a creative Mexican in an organized German frame. In my representations I try to integrate all I am: the old world and the new world.
Yo tejo y pinto porque soy dos cosas: una mexicana creativa en un marco aleman organizado. En mis representaciones trato de integrar todo lo que soy: el viejo mundo y el nuevo mundo. Usando materiales que representen ambos lados de mi crianza, me permito integrar aquello que parece opuesto. Trabajo principalmente enfocada en el proceso más que el producto, así que es común que mis piezas de arte cambien con el tiempo. Parece que nunca están terminadas, hasta que un día lo están. Terminar una pieza suele tomarme más de un año (o dos), ya que lo voy haciendo conforme me nace. A veces avanzando rápido, a veces lento. Pero siempre en movimiento, dado que creo que yo también lo estoy: siempre creciendo, siempre evolucionando.
I weave and paint because I am two things: a creative Mexican in an organized German frame. In my representations I try to integrate all I am: the old world and the new world. Using materiales that represent both sides of my upbringing, I allow myself to integrate stories that seem opposing. I work focused on process more than product, so typically my art will changes as time passes. It seems like they are never done, until they are. To finish a piece it takes me over a year (or two) because I work when I feel like it. Sometimes I’ll advance immensely, other times I’ll take a small step. But always moving forward, as I believe that about myself: I am always growing, always evolving.
About Nadia Fernanda Paredes Guapo, MA, LMFT, ATR
Nadia Fernanda Paredes Guapo, MA, LMFT, ATR is an art therapist with more than 15 years of experience working in the mental health field and is the 2024 – 2025 President of AATA. She earned her degree in Psychology from the University Iberoamericana in Mexico City and earned her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with a specialty in Art Therapy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA.
She has a license as a bilingual art therapist and marriage and family psychotherapist in the United States in the state of California. She is certified as a facilitator of Intuition Painting® and as a Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. She has experience giving bicultural services to older immigrants, pregnant adolescents, and as a consultant in the area of preparation for natural disasters. Nadia also works in corporate wellness as a speaker and workshop facilitator, and an Adjunct Professor and Art Therapy Supervisor at Loyola Marymount University.