AABP Award 728x90

Kinser Douglas uses art as therapy with adolescents


Molly Kinser Douglas learned in college to expect the unexpected as a course in psychology inspired her to combine that new interest with her lifelong love for art. As the 28-year-old continues her work to become a registered art therapist and licensed mental health counselor, she has incorporated art therapy at Orchard Place and is in her second year of working with a group of adolescent girls. As they create their own art, she hopes they are able to explore emotions that might otherwise remain hidden.

How did you develop an interest in art?

I was definitely interested in the fashion end, and I’ve always liked the design aspect of art. I remember with my mom she would have a necklace or a piece of string or something and she would lay it down in some shape and we would decide what it looked like. I wasn’t really a drawer, I was more into creating and ideas and design. And doing art myself, I already knew what sort of therapeutic aspect it has. I knew that I could get my feelings out in a painting, or if I was having a rough day I could sketch in a sketchbook and I would feel better.

Is art therapy an area that is still relatively unknown to the general public?

On the East Coast, it is definitely more well-known and you see it more frequently. But you can take it clear back to cave paintings. And Freud and Jung were asking people to draw their dreams. I think people now are looking for more holistic approaches to healing and realizing that there are other ways, other approaches, especially with the Orchard Place kids I work with. Hopefully, people are realizing that, with traumatic situations, sometimes verbal expression isn’t always there. A kid who has been through a traumatic situation is more likely to talk about their art work than talk about themselves.

How do you operate your sessions?

It’s really week-by-week, because I don’t know what their week has been like. For self-esteem and self-worth we do a lot of self-portraits. It’s making them aware of where these emotions are coming from through these different art experiences. It’s a lot of hands-on work. Right now, we’re talking about stories and fairy tales, and they have written their own fairy tales about their lives and then created some sort of an image to go along with that. It can be pretty emotional.

Why did you want to work with adolescent girls?

I think there’s so much potential for those girls and I think the adolescent time is such a trying time for any girl, even if you haven’t gone through traumas in your life. I want these girls to know that they can do anything they want to do if they put their minds to it. They don’t have to just settle for what they think there is. And I can help them boost their self-esteem and self-worth and let them know that other women have gone through similar circumstances, so they are not alone. I think if I can show these girls compassion, then they can give back to other women in the community and eventually other women in the country. I would love to just start a whole epidemic of women supporting women supporting women.

What kind of a relationship have you been able to establish with these girls?

I think they probably see me as somewhat of a mentor. I try to be a good role model and lead by example. I try to guide them and give them support, so maybe I am some sort of a surrogate family member and someone they feel comfortable talking to. I think they probably see me less as a therapist and more as someone they can hang out with and do art with and talk about girl issues with. I’m at a younger age where they can communicate a little easier and they can feel a little more comfortable.

How do you deal with the emotions that come with your job?

I definitely have to be physically and emotionally healthy to do this. I have to do a lot of journal writing because a lot of this stuff is confidential. So I have to have an outlet. I go to my own art or journaling or gardening or just something to get that release. And I like to do yoga. It makes me centered and balanced again. The hardest part is not taking all the problems home. It’s a kind of compassion fatigue. That happens, and then it’s time to regroup and rebound.

What kind of art do you like to do as you unwind?

My husband is currently building me a potter’s wheel because I like to do pottery. I like to sculpt 3-D and do paintings, collage, just any kind of art really. I’d love to learn to blow glass. I just don’t have the facility to do that right now, but that’s something I would really love to do in the future.

Do you have any favorite artists?

My favorite era is the abstract expressionist, which has a lot to do with art therapy, I think. People like Vincent van Gogh and Salvador Dali were basically expressing their emotions through their art, so I think their work is fascinating.

hy vee web 090123 300x250