Edinboro Open Art Therapy off to strong start

Category:  The Arts
Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at 4:56 PM
Edinboro Open Art Therapy off to strong start by Lucas Hershelman

With aims at providing assistance for emotional, mental and social stress, room 200 of Butterfield Hall is home to Edinboro Open Art Therapy. 

The studio, which began in August 2018, is open every Thursday and Friday from 3-7 p.m., and welcomes all students, faculty and community members who wish to show their creative side while receiving emotional support. It also allows students to learn and observe as part of internship and practicum experience. 

Dr. Penny Orr, professor in the department of counseling, school psychology and special education, started the program. According to Orr, the idea came about first because she saw the sheer number of issues on campuses. This was coupled with listening to students that would say they needed more therapy than what the university had to offer. 

There are a wide variety of age groups that come in and participate in the studio. Edinboro students make up about half of the attendees. The other half is split between community members and their children. 

“From the community, we are seeing kids with autism, we’re seeing children that have gone through bad divorces…and their parents are bringing them in. It is free to the public as well as the students,” explained Orr. 

“The WPSD (Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf), they have a preschool classroom in the Butterfield building here. Every Thursday we do art with the class. That is just something we do for part of what we’re providing,” she continued.

All the art supplies are provided to the students and community. All that is asked of the guests is that they come with an idea, know why they are there, and know what they want to be doing. 

In requests such as, “I just want to relax and get rid of some stress,” or, “I want to create a social environment that I can have people to talk to,” art acts as the therapy. In addition, Orr stated that it is “inherently healing and good to be creative.”

“Here, we focus on lesser issues like reducing stress, helping with anxiety and providing a calm space for students that might have other kinds of emotional challenges,” she said. Adding for the WPSD school kids, she would explain: “What we’re doing for them is more developmental. So we’re looking at motor skills, perceptual skills, vision and things like that. We’re trying to promote those as well as social skills because that’s what they’re working on at that age.” 

The studio also provides individual art therapy for $30 an hour, which is offered to anybody and which can address identity issues, schizo-affective disorders, depression, anxiety, and even relationship issues. 

Individual therapy is completely confidential and anything can be discussed. 

The program, while it only started in August 2018, is growing — last semester, the program served 275 people, which far exceeded their goals of getting roughly 50 people a month. 

As a result, the program is looking forward to the future. In fact, they’re looking into starting a group session for students who desire more privacy. Kim Glecos, a practicum student with a master’s degree in art therapy and counseling, explained these sessions as students coming “together who aren’t comfortable with an individual session, but would need a little bit more privacy than an open studio where they can talk about stress, anxiety and dealing with transitions when coming into college.” 

This would be an 8-week group where students would meet once a week for an hour on a set day and time. “The group will discuss anything that comes up along the lines of stress and dealing with it,” she explained. Stay tuned for more information on the group. 

Attendees do not need to have experience in creating art. They only need to show up and be willing to work with others while gaining skills in problem solving and creating.

In order to continue providing these services to the community, the program is always looking for donations. Some of the more immediate objects they are looking for are egg cartons, recyclable things, art supplies and money. 

Donations will help with continuance of the program and with special events. For those dog lovers, there are two therapy dogs present every Friday, one in training and one certified. 

If there are any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Orr at porr@edinboro.edu, or Glecos at kg150180@scots.edinboro.edu.

Lucas Hershelman | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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