By Janene Allen, Miriam Learning Center Lead Counselor
As a close-to-graduation Social Work student, I heard about the field of Art Therapy from a classmate, and I knew that my career path had forever changed. Art Therapy is a wonderful marriage of counseling and creative expression, in which art of any form is used to aid in the expression and understanding of thoughts and feelings. I earned my Masters in Art Therapy Counseling in 2000, and, as an artist myself, I have truly loved using my skill set to help clients grow and change ever since.
After 20 years of intense therapy work with sex offenders, victims of sexual abuse and teenaged boys with severe behavior challenges, my transition to Miriam Learning Center last fall was seamless and wonderful! I work both within private schools and with private clients at Miriam. While the clients have nowhere near the severity or complexity of issues that I have worked with in the past, the clinical foundation I use is the same. Counseling is a wonderful opportunity to watch clients grow and change, able to handle difficult emotional and behavioral problems they have faced in the past with success.
I have seen firsthand the countless benefits that counseling provides. The counseling relationship has a beginning, middle and end, where healing and learning occurs. This may be the first healthy relationship clients experience in their lives, where they can test boundaries and learn new skills. It is a practice relationship, designed to be beneficial. When the counseling relationship comes to an end, the client is prepared to build their own healthy, supportive, mutually enjoyable relationships.
Isolation is so prevalent in our society through an increasingly virtual lifestyle, further magnified by the Covid 19 crisis and resulting quarantine. Counseling provides a clear avenue to learn the value of connection, and the ability to make those connections. Clients learn to identify their thoughts and feelings, and then to express them clearly to others. While the extent of issues clients bring to counseling have varied, I have watched each person leave our relationship changed by the process. When people are struggling with complex thoughts and feelings in their life, counseling provides a safe place for them to find successful resolution.
I especially love working with children and adolescents. Adults are set in their ways and sometimes not open to feedback, whereas my clients are primed for growth, and fun to work with along the way. I primarily use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in my sessions, combined with creative approaches to engage my clients. As lead counselor at Miriam, along with my duties as a counselor, I provide supervision to the other counselors to further develop their skills as clinicians. I love this part of my job, as I am able to pour into other counselors as we grow together.
My favorite thing about Miriam is the staff. Everyone works together with a unity of purpose and support, and it has been an amazing experience. I primarily see clients at Miriam Academy and Miriam School, and the energy and love for educating children is pervasive. I am so grateful to be part of these two teams.