Mental health and wellbeing are an increasingly important and relevant issue that people of all cultures, backgrounds, and professions try to maintain in a variety of ways.

One way is Art Therapy, a strategic and professional combination of art techniques and psychology to treat a wide variety of both diagnosed and undiagnosed conditions.

When looking at Art Therapy from the outside, it can look like a therapist is just coloring with someone. However, there are strategies being used to assess that person and help them, according to Libby Schmanke, assistant professor of Counselor Education at Emporia State.

“(Art Therapy) can be a really powerful tool for people who have trouble describing their situation in words,” Schmanke said.

Amy Eli Huxtable, a former ESU student and current Art Therapist at the University of Kansas, recently wrote a book on Art Therapy called “A Graphic Guide to Art Therapy” with the help of Schmanke and Gaelynn Wolf Bordonaro, professor of Counselor Education.

The idea for the book was originally given to Schmanke by a publisher she had worked with in the past who was looking for a book similar to a graphic novel about Art Therapy. Schmanke and Wolf Bordonaro both thought Huxtable would be a good person to write the book because of their background in both graphic design and Art Therapy, as well as their motivation.

“A lot of the research I did was about how visual aids and graphics can be helpful when you’re learning something new,” Huxtable said.

The book was part of Huxtable’s master’s project. “I had always thought about maybe trying to create a children’s book, just trying to write and illustrate,” Huxtable said. “I don’t think I ever really thought I’d write something that would take so long like this did.” “A Graphic Guide to Art Therapy” was originally aimed at undergraduates working toward a career in Art

Therapy, but the team realized it could also be used for any level of education, from people simply interested in the subject to those working professionally and looking to brush up on the principles of the study.

Schmanke will even be using the book in her undergraduate Art Therapy class.

“I’m really looking forward to redesigning the course based on this book,” Schmanke said. “The one we used before wasn’t bad, but I think this one will actually be a lot more comprehensive and also a lot more fun for the students to read, so that will be great.” 

After almost three years of work, “A Graphic Guide to Art Therapy” was released Sept. 21.

“It feels really weird,” Huxtable said. “I think it’s just not quite settled in yet that it’s out, and I don't know if that feeling of accomplishment will come or not, it’s just like wow I guess it really is out.”

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