profileWelcome to Airhart Therapy.  I specialize in art therapy for school-aged youth through adults, offering a variety of expressive therapy techniques (art, sand tray, journaling, creative writing and play therapy) in addition to traditional talk therapy.  My passion is self-care and wellness for all, including helping professionals who often struggle with finding the optimum work/life balance.  I offer a creative, client-centered and solution-focused approach to therapy that benefits people of all ages.  I welcome you to my website and invite you to read more about my art therapy practice!

Ruth Airhart, Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Art Therapist

Art Therapist Squared exhibit

Meet my newest creation, a mixed media collage on wood panel, exploring my ongoing quest for self-care, both personally and professionally!  This art will be included in the South Texas Art Therapy Association (STATA)’s 3rd Annual Art Therapist Squared exhibit at Stinson’s Bistro at Deep Eddy:  http://www.deepeddygrill.com/. The exhibit will be showing from January 17 to February 28, 2015. Opening reception will be January on 31, 4:00- 6:00pm.

Interview from UT Psychology/Sociology Student

Brooke Brown, a University of Texas undergraduate student, recently interviewed me for her Psychology of Art course she is currently taking in Lima, Perú.

  • How would you define the type of art therapy you practice?

I am eclectic and client-centered.  I blend in my expressive arts practice into either deep psychodynamic work or brief solution-focused approaches, depending on the client’s needs.

  • What drew you to the work? Did you know you wanted to go into the field a long time prior to doing so, or was your path to the work less planned out?

I was in high school when I first learned about art therapy from my older sister.  In college I ended up majoring in art studio and minoring in psychology.  During my junior year I searched the college’s career data base for art therapist alums and found 2 in the D.C. area.  During my Fall Break I visited them and knew immediately upon seeing their work that it was what I wanted to do.

  • What media do art therapists use? What medium do you primarily use?

Clay, assemblage with mixed media or recycled materials, collage, painting, oil and chalk pastels, pencils, charcoal…the possibilities are endless!

Each media used elicits different results in the therapeutic process.  This theory is called the Expressive Therapies Continuum (Lusebrink).  For example, if clients are very cognitive, they tend to gravitate to more controlled media such as pencils, rulers, etc.  However, to access feelings, I may gently encourage looser art media, such as oil and chalk pastels, painting…and eventually clay.  This is why I state in my work mission for Airhart Therapy:  To connect head and heart with hands to make art in therapy.

  • What is the goal of art therapy? How does it work to achieve this goal?

To create a safe and confidential place for clients to share their thoughts, feelings, and needs using their words and their art.  My goal is to integrate the right and the left brain and to make meaning out of the struggles of life.  In general, I structure therapy sessions to include three components:  1) feelings check-in 2) expressive art activity and 3) verbal processing.  

  • How do art therapy and more traditional styles of therapy differ?

Traditional therapy relies heavily on verbal communication, which can be intimidating and analytical for some.  Art therapy, however, uses art and words in a very integrated approach that uses the right and left brain together (the feeling with the thinking) and doing so through via the creative process.  Some people can hide behind their words, but art is a truth teller.

  • When and why might you suggest art therapy as an alternative to more traditional counseling?

Art therapy is an excellent modality for clients who are introverts and highly sensitive people.  It allows clients to slow down and communicate their thoughts/feelings in a deep and meaningful way that is not intimidating.  It is also ideal for non-verbal clients.

  • What sort of clientele (in terms of client demographics and client issues) are best suited for art therapy?

It is appropriate for all ages and client issues, even people who are not artistic. The American Association for Art Therapy has a great one-page resource that describes in more detail this same question:  http://www.arttherapy.org/upload/whatisarttherapy.pdf

  • During therapy sessions, do art therapists engage in a creative project along with the client, or only observe and facilitate the client’s project?

I love making art alongside clients but I also enjoy watching/supporting others make art as well.  It is magical to see the process unfold.    With many of my teen clients, I make art in response to their art/issues and this art becomes a catalyst for healing.  It also allows for more comfort for the client, since many teens do not want someone watching them make art due to self-consciousness.  However, many of my younger clients need assistance in making their art and I serve as an assistant to their art process.

  • Have you personally benefitted from art therapy as a client (or from individual artistic pursuits)?

Definitely, I continue to learn and grow from my own art and from my own therapy.  I believe it is integral to my health and well-being as a therapist.

Art Show Features Local Art Therapists

Meet my newest creation entitled “Sunday.”  It’s featured in the Art Therapist Squared show at Austin Java Tarrytown throughout the months of June and July.  In this piece I’m exploring the challenges of keeping a weekly Sabbath, a day of rest that reconnects me back to my faith community, my family, and myself.  I’m also paying homage to my personal and professional hero, Mr. Rogers, who practiced slowing down and connecting with the world around him.

Restoration Over Exhaustion

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive is a recent New York Times article  that highlights the many benefits of introducing self-care practices into the work place.

Despite what our workaholic culture may say, people are not machines and our bodies and minds are not meant to be “on” 24/7.  This quote is a great reminder of this:

The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.

So before you power through the next work hour without lunch, consider taking a few moments to refuel first.  Balance out your energy expenditures so that you can receive as much as you give.  Restoration over exhaustion!

This featured image is a magazine photo collage I created with this very idea in mind. Breathe, stretch, and schedule in time to restore your mind, body and soul each and every day.  This small investment in time will not only benefit you, it will increase your creativity and productivity on the job.  Bonus!

Daring Greatly

I had the pleasure of meeting Brene Brown at the Texas Conference for Women, where she promoted her newest book, Daring Greatly.  This title was inspired by a wonderful quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Yes…busting through the fear of failure is true vulnerability…and is worth doing, no matter what the outcome.


Taking Care of Ourselves

 “I’ve known many people who have spent years exercising daily, getting massages, doing yoga, faithfully following one food or vitamin regimen after another, pursuing spiritual teachers and different styles of meditation, all in the name of taking care of themselves. Then something bad happens to them and all those years don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for themselves that they need to relate with what’s happening. And they don’t add up to being able to help other people or the environment.

When taking care of ourselves is all about me, it never gets at the unshakable tenderness and confidence that we’ll need when everything falls apart. When we start to develop . . . unconditional acceptance of ourselves, then we’re really taking care of ourselves in a way that pays off. We feel more at home with our own bodies and minds and more at home in the world. As our kindness for ourselves grows, so does our kindness for other people.”

-Pema Chodron, Taking The Leap (2009)

This quote gets to the heart of why I am leading  REFUEL:  A Support Group for Helping Professionals to Strengthen Self-Care Practices.   I am creating a filling station for the over-worked helping professional.  Each week we check in, make art and then process it together.  As a result, we feel  heard, valued, and truly refueled for the challenges ahead.  Come join us!  The next three groups are:  July 11, 18, and 25.  The cost is much less than a massage or even a tank of gas.


Running on Empty

On my drive to work on Saturday morning, I was literally running on empty.  With the fuel light on, I was racing the clock, trying to cram as much as I could into the little time that I had before my morning group at the treatment center.  Fortunately, during group I was able to slow down and be present for others.  It was a beautiful spring day and we had group outside.  I even made some art!  But alas, after work I was back to the grind.  I had just a little time left to refuel the car and then my stomach.  I ate as I drove to get yet another errand done before I had to report back home to my primary job at home as Mommy.

Running on empty…this is a chronic condition we all battle, especially helping professionals.  Once we get our work done, THEN we can rest and relax, right? But the problem is, our work and responsibilities are never ending! We defer self-care for when when we have more time, energy, resources, etc.  But the reality is that this time rarely comes UNLESS we schedule it.

So we are chronically running on empty and not making time for self-care.  We can beat ourselves up about this or we can accept it and work with it.  One gift of being empty is that we have the choice to fill ourselves up with what we really want.   What do you want?  I want a weekly sabbath, a dedicated time for me to slow down and focus on my own self-care.  I want to make more art for myself.  I want to reconnect with other helping professionals who are struggling with this very same issue and create a healing, creative place where acceptance, support, and inspiration happen.  Wanna join me?

I’m excited to announce that this summer I am launching REFUEL:  A Support Group for Helping Professionals to Strengthen Self-Care Practices.  It is a filling station for the overworked and costs much less than a tank of gas.   It meets six Wednesdays this summer from 10-11:30 at my office in North Central Austin.  It is an open group, so you can come for one session or attend all six.  Please pre-register to secure your spot (each group is capped at 6).