This post is the second installment of a 3-part series recapping a three-part series of workshops for Dr. Marcia Rosal’s summer class ARE5934 Special Topics: Art Therapy Issues. Guest speakers Linda Gantt, Tracy Councill, and Patricia Isis led hands-on trainings on the topic of Trauma and Art Therapy and are each featured in this series.
Tracy Councill is a board certified art therapist well-versed in therapy within medical and pediatric settings. She brought a great deal of experience and practical knowledge to her workshop, titled “Art Therapy for Trauma Treatment with Children and Families.” Ms. Councill directed students through art experientials and case studies to highlight the need for sensory and verbal integration of traumatic experiences.
A goal for Ms. Councill’s practice is to teach problem-oriented coping to pediatric oncology patients and their families. She stated during the workshop that when it comes to children going through medical trauma, an art therapist and their team may “coach them, teach them the language to help them process what happened to them. Therapy oriented towards loss or grief can help them accept the loss and with moving on.”
Ms. Council practices what she preaches at Tracy’s Kids, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University Hospital. The program began in 1991 as a means of addressing the emotional needs of pediatric patients during their treatments. As stated by Ms. Councill, “there was nothing like it before I came along, so no one could tell me what it should look like (source).” The success of this personal approach is apparent in the fact that there are now five Tracy’s Kids locations in the greater-DC area.
This was Ms. Councill’s first year teaching a summer workshop at FSU. Dr. Marcia Rosal stated that insight from a professional in the pediatric medical setting was useful, particularly because there are a number of students in the FSU Art Therapy Program interested in working in such a setting.
Masters student Nicole Weedo has a strong interest for work within a pediatric medical location and expressed that the workshop was particularly meaningful for her. Nicole said of Ms. Councill, “I valued her because when she works with each child, she considers their unique needs. The children may have similar conditions but to her they are taken into account as individuals. I also really respect how she utilizes the person-centered approach in her program, the way it has grown, and its nonprofit status.”
Dr. Rosal echoed the same respect that Nicole felt for Ms. Councill’s work. “I find Tracy to be a down to earth person and her no-nonsense teaching style is refreshing. She is comfortable in her role/identity as art therapist and art therapy educator and this level of self-knowledge is a good model for students. She is a self-starter and her work on developing Tracy’s Kids is a testament to her drive to best serve kids who are medically fragile.”
Students were shown many examples of cancer patients and their family members engaging in art activities. Particular favorites of the attendees were “mischievous directives” which “walk the line of destruction and creation” and allow clients to express anger at their illness in front of an art therapist and in a healthy setting. Ms. Councill also encouraged students to participate in hands-on activities to empathize with the releasing qualities of her work.
As so well worded on the Tracy’s Kids website, “Getting well is hard work, and recovery may take a long time. Experiencing oneself as a creator within the treatment setting changes how young patients see themselves: they become active partners in the work of getting well, not just passive patients who can only take medicine and wait.”
When speaking about Tracy Councill, Nicole Weedo declared “I just like her and the way that she handles an emotionally difficult placement working with children with serious medical conditions. I wish I could hear more!” Marcia Rosal appears to agree. “She did a masterful job and we are hoping she will come back again.”
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