What Art Therapy Looks Like In Colorado, As Second Lady Karen Pence Shines A National Spotlight On The Profession

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Photo: Art therapy
Patients ages 5 and up participate in a daily art group facilitated by art therapist Shauna Perry, MA, ATR, LPC at National Jewish Health in Denver as a part of the pediatric day program for children with chronic medical illness.

The country's second lady, Karen Pence, has chosen to use her role to raise awareness of art therapy. Pence herself is a watercolorist who has been involved in this arena for years.

Reaction from the art therapy community has been mixed. The American Art Therapy Association has said it was “enthusiastic” and would support her efforts. On the flip side, an art therapist in Chicago started a Facebook page called “Art Therapists for Human Rights.” It has just under a thousand members, and they question Karen Pence’s commitment to the rights of people of color, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

In Colorado, art therapists use visual art to treat symptoms of mental health problems such as trauma, anxiety and addiction. Amanda Rochwite is the president of the board for the Art Therapy Association of Colorado -- a chapter of the national association. She practices at a psychiatric hospital.

Rochwite spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.