June 25, 2024

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 invite Featured Members to share their insights about their work, clients, and art therapy journey. This Pride Month, we are focusing on the work and experiences of our LGBTQ+ members.

What does Pride mean to you? 

 I’ve thought a lot about pride over the years, which feels normal considering I’m a queer man. A misconception I can see looking back on these reflections is I often associate pride with confidence. If I imagine a conversation between my former selves and I, then I can confidently say that we all would agree—confidence is not our strong point. The irony of this hypothetical scenario is not lost on me. My misconception about pride lies in this irony though. Pride is not about confidence. No, pride is about growing in a continual state of doubt. Pride is about resilience—the inclination to continue even when you are unsure where you are continuing to. I think this is what many people in the queer or LGBTQIA+ community face everyday—I know I do. Confidence may not be what I would describe myself, but I would say I am resilient and that gives me pride. I am proud of myself and all the men, women, and people who continue and have continued even with all the doubt we hold and experience in the world. Pride Month is a celebration of resilience, which is something I am confident of…

What does Pride mean to me?
“Pride is about resilience—the inclination to continue even when you are unsure where you are continuing to. I think this is what many people in the queer or LGBTQIA+ community face everyday—I know I do.”

—Nick Denson

Why is art therapy uniquely suited for working with LGBTQIA+ communities?

 I learned the origin of the word express not too long ago. I understand it comes from the early days of coffee production when the brown liquid was first squeezed from a coffee bean. The people involved in this production didn’t call this process squeezing, they called it expressing. Coffee is produced when a coffee bean’s essence is expressed into a cup.

Art therapy is not too different from coffee when you think about it: It emphasizes the expression of a person’s internal experience to the external world. If we take this one step further, we can compare coffee to LGBTQIA+ communities. People who are queer may not immediately be identified as such. Many a sitcom and gossip around the office watercooler use this as a plot device. Queer people usually need to express their internal truth to be known by the external world. This comparison between coffee and LGBTQIA+ communities is why I think art therapy is uniquely suited to these folx. How natural is it to have a therapy focused on expression to people expressing their truth? Seems to me like this kind of connection would make a mean cup of coffee.

What inspires you most about your job right now?

I am a Military and Family Life Counselor or MFLC, for short. My job has me providing brief, solution-focused, and non-medical counseling for service members and their families. Being an MFLC allows me to connect with people from all walks of life who have chosen to serve our country. This means they have work-life stress, as people are bound to have, and be ready to change their surroundings, comfort, and safety at a moment’s notice. Families of these service members must similarly be ready to do the same. What inspires me most about my job is the pride of the people I work with—that inclination to continue despite the doubt they experience. Some would call it resilience and they wouldn’t be wrong.

To have pride means to be resilient and that is what inspires me so.

The Journey of the Creative:
An Arts-Based Exploration in Shifting Power

Nicholas “Nick” Denson

Artist Statement

I am a white, able-bodied, middle class, agnostic, cisgender, queer American male born at the beginning of the 90s. I am also a creative. The work that chose me was that of a creative healer. Some call this line of work art therapy. This past year has been an exploration in who I am, who I’ve been, who I want to be, and the work I am immersed in. This series is called The Journey of the Creative: An Arts-Based Exploration in Shifting Power and aptly so because it deals with the process of unpacking bias as an art therapist. This journey is not one that is linear and must be approached intentionally and often. I have found this through my lived experience and it continues to unfold just as it has in my art. Addressing my biases not only acknowledges the bias within myself, but allows me to take part in the shifting of power in our shared world.


About Nick Denson, MA, LCPC, CLCADC-I, ATR-BC, NCC

Nicholas “Nick” Denson (he/him/his) is a queer board certified, registered art therapist (ATR-BC), licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC), and certified licensed clinical alcohol drug counselor intern (CLCADC-I). His full time job is Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC) for the Air Force. Work as an MFLC includes brief, solution-focused, and non-medical counseling with service members, their spouses, family, and community.

Nick is also a contractor. His contracts include a drop-in center for teens in substance use recovery, an outpatient center, an online counseling platform, and a drug and alcohol recovery center.

He is based in North Las Vegas, Nevada. You can connect with Nick on LinkedIn here.