To Stella Stepney and her clients, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.
“You can articulate amazing things through artwork,” said the registered, board-certified art therapist. “It’s a wonderful form of communication for individuals who may not have the words to express their feelings.”
Since 2000, Stepney has practiced art therapy as a clinician, educator, researcher and author. Her clinical work specializes in at-risk children and adolescents. She uses art to help facilitate their creative, cognitive, emotional and social growth.
“I was drawn to the profession due to the unique merger between art and psychology. It’s fascinating,” Stepney said. “It can be used to help people explore their feelings and heal emotional conflicts. It can foster self-awareness. It can reduce anxiety. It also can increase self-esteem.”
She cites one example of a woman with whom she worked in a young mothers’ program. The women in the group were either pregnant or parenting. They were facing challenges such as trying to complete their education while raising children.
“The young women were creating mandalas, which are centered designs executed within a circular format,” Stepney said. “The artwork one woman produced was very powerful. It incorporated an image of her pierced outstretched hand. It spoke volumes to everything she was feeling and everything I was trying to do to connect with these women.” The artwork later became the cover of Stepney’s first book.
Stepney believes art therapy can provide a positive avenue for many people to achieve personal insight. “It gives you an opportunity to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of art making,” she said. “It’s a wonderful, authentic means of self-expression.”
Art Therapy: A form of psychotherapy that encourages expression through art.