Life is a journey of mountains and molehills and rainstorms and rainbows. Sometimes when the going gets rough, a helping hand makes all the difference. Help can come in the form of therapy or counseling. People seek therapy for many reasons: support for trauma, disorders or to empower and better themselves.
Therapy, more specifically art therapy, can be an enjoyable alternative, where painting, sculpting and drawing can be a path to mental well-being.
Kate Hofer is a nationally certified counselor at Wasatch Family Therapy in Provo, with a master’s of arts in professional counseling from Ottawa University, as well as a master’s of science in therapeutic recreation from the University of Utah. In addition to her impressive list of therapeutic licenses and certifications, Hofer also began her first semester teaching a positive psychology course at UVU this semester.
One of the numerous therapeutic specialties in Hofer’s counseling cache is art therapy. Art therapy is a valuable technique for anyone from children as young as 18- months- old to adults of any age. Hofer uses clay, paint, water color pencils, oil pastels, ink and sand trays to guide clients through a journey toward self-awareness, self-esteem and self-acceptance.
“The art is a buffer and it’s a place for the messy emotions to come out in a safe way,” Hofer said. “It’s tangible evidence of what they [the clients] feel inside, it makes it more concrete so it’s not so abstract and making them feel crazy.”
Art therapy is all about symbols and metaphors, and for a lot of people, it’s easier to understand an issue when they can see it on paper. It’s a way of channeling emotion into creative expression. And it’s impossible to make a mistake in art therapy. Hofer uses two guidelines. One, there is no judgment and no right or wrong way to do it. And two, there is no discounting the value of the patient’s own work. Everything a client does is for a reason, even if it is thought to be a mistake.
“It’s not about technique, it’s not about art lessons,” Hofer said. “It’s just about your personal symbols, your personal colors and color-coding your emotions.”
According to Hofer, if the end product looks like a kindergartner made it, all the better. In fact, of all the myriad of art supplies she uses, she does not often use pencils. There is no erasing. Many of Hofer’s clients surprise themselves not only with their creations, but with finding answers they already had inside themselves without knowing it.
“Art therapy gets people out of their heads and into their hearts,” Hofer said.
Hoffer’s passion is dealing with young adults who have put adolescence behind them and are trying to discover their place and identity in the adult world.
As a therapist, Hofer claims her super power is the ability to create a place of safety, where clients feel totally and unconditionally accepted and never judged. Here they can let down their walls and be real.
According to Hoffer, real change comes from a relationship of safety and trust. And that trust comes from creating an individualized treatment plan for each client based on their needs and what works best for them. And allowing the client to be kept in the driver’s seat, with her being present as the “guide by the side.” The client decides where they want their journey to take them, and Hofer navigates. She sees the client as the authority, not herself.
Even those will little art ability can work through psychological barriers with a paintbrush and a professional guide.
By Lindsey Nelson
Kate Hofer, LPC, Psychotherapist at Wasatch Family Therapy
Wasatch Family Therapy
363 N. University Ave, Suite 108A in Provo