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21 SECRETS Spotlight with Cathy Manus-Gray | Art Therapy Alliance Materials & Media in Art Therapy Series


The online art journaling workshop 21 SECRETS has been very popular with members of the art therapy community and The Art Therapy Alliance is featuring art therapists and students who have been involved in this community to share their experiences.  This 21 SECRETS spotlight is with Cathy Manus-Gray, a graduate of Ursuline College’s Art Therapy and Counseling Program and an art therapist and counselor in the partial hospitalization and in-patient psychiatric departments at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio.  Cathy is also a book artist and papermaker as well as an herbalist/aromatherapist who educates others about the joys and wonders of herbs.  Learn more about her work via her website: www.CathyAtHerbanGardens.com.  Thanks to Cathy for sharing and contributing her 21 SECRETS experience with us!

What interested you to become involved with 21 SECRETS?  I have been a daily journal writer for many years, but wanted to combine my art-making with writing into the art journal format and thought 21 Secrets would give me a solid foundation.  I also wanted to incorporate daily art-making into my life.  I knew if I signed up for a workshop that I would be inspired to do so.

What class are you working on now?  I have started to incorporate some of the classes which I have already taken into an art journal.  Erin Kenepp’s Becoming Brave, Deborah Cooper’s Playing with Patterns, and Alma Stoller’s Child’s Play were all helpful in doing so.  I am starting to work on Aimee Myers Dolich’s Three Little Words to get started on more writing in my art journal and also Kelley Brown’s Adding Dimension.


What do you think are some of the therapeutic qualities inspired by art journaling approaches that art therapists /students should consider?  Art Journaling can be a wonderful coping skill–that’s how I use it anyway.  It combines the best of both worlds:  visual art and words.  Both are such a great release for stress.  I find that just sitting down for 15 minutes makes a tremendous difference.  I hope to introduce art journaling to patients. We encourage journaling now and adding the visual dimension may be an added support for their journeys.  I also find that art-making opens my mind to the possibilities much like meditation and yoga do for me.  Having that creative skill helps with problem solving and realizing many options in life as opposed to staying stuck in old patterns, behaviors, or even relationships that aren’t working.
Tell readers more about some of the art journaling ideas, techniques, or concepts that you have learned in 21 SECRETS that you think you could incorporate as an art therapist and the populations you might work with?  I really like creating patterns and had previously used a pattern based art intervention with clients to help them better understand the behavioral patterns that they continue to repeat in their life and the impact those patterns have.  So I really liked the class Playing with Patterns.  It gave me some new ideas and techniques to use.  I also thought Silky Hart’s Painting Writing class would be an interesting concept to use with patients.  Using a resist technique with watercolor would hide and then make visible the expressions they have created.  I work with psychiatric patients and most are experiencing depression and/or anxiety so techniques which get them in touch with feelings and behaviors with support on making changes in their lives is my focus.  The art journal can be a place for expression as well as encouragement for patients who are struggling with mental illness. There are many more ideas that I’ve learned but haven’t decided yet how I will incorporate them into the work I do.  21 SECRETS has been a wealth of helpful information.
Any suggestions or tips that you would like to share for the art therapist or art therapy student just beginning to explore art journaling?  As Connie (Creator of 21 SECRETS!) would say: “Be Fearless.”  No one needs to see your journal.  That’s the great part and you can always tear out the page!  That can be very therapeutic (smile).  Then take that sheet, pulp it down and turn it into another piece of paper.  I just see the art journal as a safe place to explore any feelings which often arise when working with clients or even those that we may encounter in our daily lives.

What are you looking forward to next in 21 SECRETS?  I really want to get started on Lisa Wilson’s Yoga and Art.  I think Yoga is a wonderful way to find serenity and the combination fascinates me.  It also ties into my mindfulness practice and approach that I like to use both in my life and with clients.

If you’re interested in participating in 21 SECRETS, there’s still time!  Registration for 21 SECRETS is still open, but closes soon on October 1. 21 SECRETS is an on-line workshop to learn different techniques, methods, and approaches to art journaling from a group of 21 artists until January 1, 2012.  Learn more about all the workshops and instructors here.


About Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC

Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ACTP: Registered Board Certified Art Therapist, TLC Certified Trauma Practitioner, Art Therapy Community Organizer, Artist...


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