Art has always been a part of Leah Henderson’s life.
Over the years, she’s been involved in photography, painting, poetry, sculpting and sketching, But it wasn’t until she stumbled on art therapy that she found her true calling.
“When I discovered it, I knew this was the perfect job for me. Art therapy kind of brings together all the parts and experiences of my life,” Henderson said.
Henderson recently returned to her hometown of 100 Mile to serve the community as an art therapist after spending the past two years studying at the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute in Nelson, graduating this past spring with a post-baccalaureate diploma.
Art therapy uses the creative process to explore what a person is dealing with. This can include depression, anxiety, grief, trauma and a wide range of other emotions. Rather than just talking about feelings, art therapy invites therapist and patient to create art together, which immediately appealed to Henderson.
“Art has an ability to transport you and brings a sense of joy and calm in my own life. It takes you to a place that allows you to find meaning in life,” she said. “The nature of art is creative and never static, it’s always changing. In my own life, I’ve struggled with mental health like depression and anxiety. Art has really helped me sink into a more calm way of being in life.”
Studying art therapy was an intense experience for Henderson, who is a big advocate for therapy and self-awareness. She knows firsthand how intimidating it can be to share experiences of your life, and said a non-verbal approach like art makes therapy more accessible.
Over the past two years, Henderson worked in a psychiatric ward, transition homes, community groups and directly with individuals, providing her with a broad range of experience.
“Paint is fluid, drawing is not fixed so something can be created in the moment. Often I’ll find when someone is creating something that new insights come up. It’s almost like the art takes the lead and says ‘this is what I want you to look at today’ and it helps us understand our emotions,” she said.
“There’s no art experience needed to participate in art therapy. It’s not an art class, it’s just about playing and tapping in into your creativity.”
Under the name Gentle Fire Art Therapy, Henderson is in the process of setting up an art therapy service available over both Zoom and in person. She intends to be a client-driven therapist and allow the client to dictate the pace and nature of their sessions. As the pandemic goes away, Henderson would also like to offer group therapy sessions, which she said can be really powerful.
She is excited to be offering these services in her hometown.
“I felt drawn to come back. I left when I was 18 and I was sure I was never going to come back,” Henderson laughed. “But I really love the landscape and the openness of the sky that called me back to build a life here.”
Anyone interested in art therapy is invited to contact Henderson via 250-706-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.