“Art therapy draws out things that often can’t be drawn out in other
forms of therapy,” says Williamsville Wellness founder Bob Cabaniss.
When a patient draws something to be interpreted later by a therapist
working with the patient, “You can’t hide. You can’t lie,” Cabaniss
Adds Laurie McArthur, Williamsville Wellness’s art therapist for the
past year and a half, “Art therapy gives a person a good way of looking
at themselves. It also slows them down—you can’t draw fast.”
And the latter is especially true because most patients lament when
first introduced to art therapy that they have no art skills and haven’t
drawn or painted since middle school, McArthur says. She tries to put
patients at ease by reminding them that they have strengths in other
areas, and she emphasizes that this therapeutic work is about gaining
information, not judging the quality of one’s art.
With art therapy now moving into digital formats along with the
traditional methods, patients can see their work in more vivid colors,
edit their work on an ongoing basis, and be readily reminded of past
works when doing so is useful to the treatment experience. “The
therapist can now e-mail a drawing to the patient and say, ‘Remember
this drawing?’” Cabaniss says.
McArthur says she conducts mostly individual art therapy sessions
with patients, in an organization that emphasizes individual therapy
overall. She does conduct one group art therapy session per week.
Patients typically receive two to four hours of art therapy a week while
in Williamsville Wellness’s art therapy program.
McArthur collaborates with the rest of the center’s treatment team
daily, which allows the art therapy to function as an integrated element
of the treatment experience as opposed to a stand-alone exercise.
“Without it, it would take a little longer to get information about
the patient,” McArthur says. “Patients don’t always want to report