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The nonprofit using art to heal trauma

Words by Smiley Team

There are many different routes to healing trauma. Standard talk therapy works for some, and alternative forms of therapy for others – but one organization based out of New York is looking to help people overcome their problems through art.

The Art Therapy Project was founded in 2011 and since then, they’ve served over 7,800 people. They wanted to offer an affordable alternative to people that wouldn’t always have access to this kind of therapy. 

“We work with clients of all ages, like from five to 80, and about equal percentages male and female," Martha Dorn, the Art Therapy Project executive director, tells Smiley News. "We work with veterans, survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, people with substance use and addiction challenges – and many more."

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The nonprofit offers more than 30 weekly group art therapy sessions – and people don't have to have any artistic skills to take part. The sessions are designed to help people explore their emotions through specific artistic activities, and these can be tailored to the individual. 

Martha says their clients tend to be from communities and neighborhoods who don't have access to therapy of any kind – much less art therapy. “And so, what we're doing is just to get out there and try to meet this growing need," she says.

Sending out art supplies to those in need

The organization even continued offering services during the height of the pandemic, sending art supplies out to individuals who requested them, and held many sessions over Zoom. 

“I think that if you had asked an art therapist prior to the pandemic, 'Would you ever offer art therapy virtually?', they would have said no, because a lot of what's involved with art therapy, from the therapist side, is to watch how clients are using art materials. When you create art, you are problem-solving,” says Martha.

“And what we want to do, of course, is help our clients develop skills, so they can take it outside of the therapeutic environment and use in day-to-day life.”

The project is continuing to expand, now offering some services internationally, although most of its work is still in and around New York City. 

“It's about the process," she adds. "It's not about that final product. And that is the other element of art therapy, which is that the client can see their progress by looking at all of their artwork."

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: Check out The Art Therapy Project. They accept donations and you can look into the programs that they do. 

VOLUNTEER: The nonprofit has volunteer opportunities in administrative support, committees, events, and marketing. Find out more

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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