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Art Therapy within a Methadone Clinic

In May of this year, 2016, I graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School with a Masters in Art Therapy and Counseling. I applied for jobs all over Virginia and even in other random states just to get some bites. Sadly, it is a lot harder to snag an art therapy job than I had hoped. Out of the 25 jobs I applied to, I received two interviews for jobs; One in Virginia Beach for in-home and one in Pulaski, Virginia, at a Methadone clinic. I attended both interviews, driving 6 hours for the Pulaski interview.

I decided that Pulaski was a lot closer to home and my family and walked away from graduation with a job in my pocket!

My official title at Pulaski Medical is 'Substance Abuse Counselor' but I moonlight as an Art Therapist and use my skill set in individual sessions, as well as groups.

Let me tell you a little bit about my setting. Pulaski Medical is a Methadone clinic for adults who have battled with addiction to opiates and heroin for at least one year. Methadone is a medically prescribed medication, monitored by a medical team. Methadone does not provide the high that opiates and other drugs provide, while it does help to ease pain issues as well as withdrawal symptoms, allowing the Patient to eventually wean off of the drugs and medication.

I'm not going to lie, trying to get farmers, country folk, and people who have lived far more colorful lives than I have, to do art therapy has not been an easy task.

Although it has been a challenge, there has been a good handful of my 50-person caseload that has greatly benefited from art therapy. I have modified the "Bridge" directive and created a "Road to Recovery" intervention. It has been so amazing to see how people, who have had to hide and lie to protect themselves and their addictions for so long, open up through the means of art within the therapy. Clients who initially presented as extremely guarded have felt comfortable enough to go to a deeper level--telling me about the time they lost their kids to CPS, or that time they watched their mother die from an overdose. It wasn't until these clients began to respond to the art therapy, that I knew I had made the right choice in taking this job. leading up to this point, I had people sign up for my groups but never show up, or flat out refuse to participate in art therapy interventions in individual sessions, emphasizing how difficult this work can be. It has also been a challenge working under a supervisor who wants to build an art therapy program, but does not entirely know what that means or entails. However, the patients I work with have become the proof that art therapy isn't just doing a few 'art projects to relax the patients.' but provides much deeper work.

All in all, each day I am feeling more and more relevant in my position and it is going to be a process to get this clinic where it needs to be in terms of understanding the importance of art therapy, but we are getting there!

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