Local art therapists find creative ways to help patients during isolation

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While treating someone over video chat seems more difficult, art therapists are getting creative with it

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Some people in the Valley are turning to creative outlets to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. For art therapists, however, their patients already use creativity to manage tough times.

Telehealth is now a primary way many are receiving routine healthcare. While treating someone over video chat seems more difficult, art therapists are getting creative with it.

“They say, ‘Hey, what do you have in the house?’ ‘I don’t have anything.’ ‘Do you have a piece of paper? Everybody has a piece of paper. Do you have a magazine?”‘ said Terri Digennaro, CEO of the HELMS Foundation.

She works with art therapists and other local groups to provide art to people who are struggling with mental health issues.

They also work with people who have developmental and physical disabilities.

On Thursday, Digennaro was video chatting with two art therapists to work on a new project.

“It’s very helpful and it’s surprising how creative people are and how easy it is for them to make that transition. At first, it feels awkward for a hot minute, but then they just take off with it,” said art therapist Heidi Larew.

Larew works for Alta Care Group and brings art therapy to kids in the Mahoning Valley through teletherapy.

“You have to encourage them to really make it their therapy time and set up a space for themselves so you aren’t hearing other family members,” Larew said.

Larew said art therapy can make patients feel empowered in situations they feel they don’t have control over. This is especially the case during the COVID-19 pandemic when they may think they can’t do anything to help or stop it.

“Because so much of our lives have been disrupted with their schedule, it’s good for us to be consistent,” she said.

Outside her work with art therapists, Digennaro has also been giving back to the community.

“HELMS in the House” is donating art projects to local shelters and organizations. Then, Digennaro posts a video online on how to do the project.

“We tried to come up with something that is accessible, like if somebody decides that they want to continue doing art or they feel like this is something they want to make part of their daily activities, their daily life,” Digennaro said.

Both Larew and Digennaro said that art therapy is not something that you can do without the education and certifications needed to become a licensed art therapist.

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