Respect and love. It’s rare to read, watch or hear a leading news story that highlights goodness.
The simple explanation is that extraordinary events are newsworthy and common events are not.
Coverage of the lethal mayhem at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school earlier this month put mental health on the public agenda.
Community response following the unexpected violent act includes examples of the healthy feelings of respect and love expressed to those who are grieving.
Art It Out Therapy Center founder/director Teresa Woodruff believes that most children will hear about the classroom horror in Connecticut and suggests to parents, “Tell your version of the event, keep it simple, make your child feel safe. Tell them they are safe. You can talk about what their school plans are for emergencies, you can validate their fears.”
Woodruff is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Registered Art Therapist, Trauma and Loss Clinical Specialist, Certified Anger Management Specialist, and a Georgia Certified Art Teacher. Her belief is that teaching a child how to express feelings appropriately is the most important thing for sound mental health.
Teaching children and adolescents appropriate ways to release stress is the most common therapy goal at Woodruff’s practice. A reusable, kid-sized volcano model is the visual aid of choice for the therapists.
Baking soda is spooned into the hollow of the volcano, representing storing stress inside one’s self. Vinegar is used to represent new stress. New stress, when added to existing, stored stress, causes a physical reaction.
Playing with the volcano science experiment demonstrates how unexpressed feelings can grow to be destructive to self and others within eruption range.
Appropriate outlets for stress are talked about during the play session; creating art, writing in a journal, and exercise are things young people can do to release stress.
Art It Out, located in the Governor's Ridge office complex on Powers Ferry Road, was the first art and play therapy private practice in Cobb, according to Woodruff, who also gives notice that Georgia College in Milledgeville now offers a Master of Arts in Art Therapy. The program started this fall and is the first master level degree in art therapy offered in the state.
Woodruff is a member of the Georgia chapter of American Art Therapy Association. She is a painter who first used paint and paper to express herself at the age of five.
Woodruff employs three contract therapists, and one part time administrative assistant who is responsible for majority of back office work.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. Working with kids and seeing that the therapy helps them.
Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A. I love the families. They truly care about helping their children. I always give homework and the kids and families always do it.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. It’s a short commute, I live nearby. Once I started here, I developed relationships with school counselors in the area and other health care professionals in the complex. We work well together, is why I stay here.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. I started out as an art teacher in a public school. I realized that children had problems and I realized that I wanted to help individuals with their specific problems, so, after two months of teaching, I went back to school to get my masters and became an art therapist.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. All we do here is use art and play therapy. We believe in behavior modification. Learning social skills and learning how to express feelings appropriately helps most children.
Q. When did you start your business?
A. I started my own practice in 2008. I worked by myself and then in eight months I hired the next therapist and we’ve kept growing.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. In 2007, I had just graduated from the University of Louisville with a Masters in Counseling with a concentration in Art Therapy and came home and looked for a job.
There were no art therapy jobs available, so, I decided to create my own work.
I made cold calls to Cobb County school counselors and local psychologists.
I called counselors up and said, “Hi. This is who I am and what I do. Let me bring you breakfast and I’ll tell you about how I use art to help children learn how to express their feelings.”
Networking and marketing work.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Find your niche. Find something that is not offered or is not common and is something that you can be good at. People will come.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. Teach your children that it’s OK to have feelings. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to be angry, and then, model appropriate ways to be sad or angry.
Children learn from what they see, and, adults can model positive feelings.
Model what it is to feel love and respect for other people. Teach through example.