Art has been enjoyed as a method of self expression and entertainment for tens of thousands of years across cultures worldwide. But in the 20th century, artists began to notice therapeutic benefits to creativity.
American art therapist pioneers include Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer, who began using the therapeutic practice in the mid-century.
Locally, Jenks artist and art therapist Linda Reynolds has been in private practice for more than two decades.
Like cognitive behavioral therapy, Reynolds’ art therapy sessions are tailored to each patient. One person with a troubled marriage might try designing a pair of collages they think reflects their current relationship versus the ideal one; another with anxiety might bring in artwork they’ve made independently that illustrates their emotions in ways they might have trouble verbalizing.
“I think that being creative is therapeutic for everyone,” she says, though she maintains art therapy itself might not be the appropriate avenue for every person.
Reynolds explains it’s a tool, and while you can’t use a hammer to turn a screw, there are lots of different kinds of nails you can drive with it.
“By virtue of being in this world, we’re experiencing trauma, and there need to be safe spaces for people to process that, whether it’s visually or through words or through music,” Reynolds says.
Art therapy was not always the endgame for Reynolds. She earned her bachelor’s degree in graphic art from the University of Arkansas and followed that up working as an arts and crafts instructor for children with developmental disabilities in Sand Springs.
“While I was there, I began to notice some of the children couldn’t verbalize, but they were exceptional artists,” she says. “I kind of felt like, ‘Oh, they’re trying to tell me something, but I don’t know that language.’”
She soon first heard the term “art therapy,” and, after attending a conference on the subject in the mid ’80s, embarked on that career path.
Oklahoma had no such programs at the time, so she attended the University of Louisville in Kentucky, where she earned her master’s in art therapy.
Today she focuses on adult care. Patients can self-refer to Reynolds’s practice, but others find their ways there through other therapists, insurance referrals or, best of all, referrals from satisfied clients, she says.
Next door to her practice is a shop she runs, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, 323 W. A St. The business is free-spirited to its core and, following the therapeutic styling of Reynolds’s practice, defines itself as a “creative workshop.” For $10, patrons can gain access to a wealth of creative materials and engage at will in their own creative impulses, therapeutic or not.
See the creativity in action at facebook.com/stuffdreamsaremadeof or when the store is open — 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m., Saturdays — to peruse some vintage art products and make art of your own.