Second Lady Karen Pence’s Initiative, Healing with the HeART
October 18, 2017
As second lady of the United States, I chose one initiative to champion and it is art therapy, I call my initiative “Art Therapy: Healing with the Heart”.
Art therapy, according to the American Art Therapy Association, is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship. It is not arts and crafts.
Art therapy is facilitated by professional art therapists and without them, there is no art therapy. I have seen firsthand and heard stories of the impact art therapy is having on those who participate in this unique treatment, from children with cancer to struggling teens to grieving families to soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Art therapy is changing lives.
All the life-changing stories are amazing, like the one of Emma Stumpf. She was only seven years old when doctors discovered a brain tumor. Throughout her treatment, she found comfort by working with art therapist. Her mother said, “when Emma was going through chemotherapy, she didn’t know how to express her feelings. Art allowed her to express her feelings without having to find the words and it helped her vent and express her frustrations.”
Emma’s heart for art therapy became more evident when she wanted to give others the gift of art therapy. She started to collect art supplies to donate to patients, forming her own program called Emma’s Art Cart. Emma is now a teenager and her program has gained national recognition, earning her the Jefferson Award.
The fascinating thing is that it is the art therapy process that actually changes our brains. Right now, research is underway, including at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, also known as NICoE, at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. They’re using a machine called the MEG Scanner to take images of the brain’s changing electrical and other critical signals, which produces a map of the brain function. This allows researchers to look at what is going on not only when the patient is at rest but when they are undergoing art or music therapy.
By making art therapy my initiative, I have three goals:
First, I want to elevate the profession so that people understand that art therapy is a disciplined career that requires, at minimum, a master’s degree, and is not arts and crafts.
Second, I want to help people understand that art therapy is an option for various conditions – for illnesses, life experiences – for anybody, really.
And third, I want to encourage more young people to go into this profession.
You can learn more about my art therapy initiative Healing with the Heart by following my blog posts on my page of the White House website, and you could also follow me on Twitter.