Category Archives: Therapy

Is Art Therapy for You?


Ever wonder what art therapy is about?

Art therapists are trained as psychotherapists with at least a master’s degrees in expressive therapy. Utilizing art as a form of therapy has proven to be one of the most effective ways to overcome psychological blocks – damaging mental blocks that often prevent individuals from reaching their highest potential.

Art therapists analyze the drawings of their clients in several different ways.

Drawings are used to uncover the underlying issues causing difficulty in someone’s life. I use a series of ten to fifteen drawings when I first meet a client. These drawings are used as a baseline to assess where the person exists emotionally. They also reveal unconscious material that lay at the root of a client’s struggles. These initial drawings act as a roadmap to treatment.

Art therapists are trained to understand which materials will be the most productive tools of expression. Often, when an individual begins therapy, they are ready to defend their emotions. They have a well-rehearsed story, but the drawings cut through the defenses and quickly reveal the deeper content. Art therapists provide materials such as paint, clay or pastels to foster the expression of what was previously being kept hidden.

I continue to be surprised by what comes up for my clients – content that has up until this time been suppressed. Often what’s revealed in the drawings isn’t what my clients think they need to address, but turns out to be the root cause of their struggles.

There is no artistic skill required!  As art therapists, we are trained to walk you through the process and ascertain which materials would work best for your course of expression.

It’s the pure expression of feeling, not artistic talent that we are looking for to begin the healing process. Art therapists treat the same emotional disorders and mental health issues that verbal therapists address. In fact, art therapists often work with verbal therapists if a client is blocked and unable to express their feelings verbally.

At the termination of therapy, we review the drawings my client created at the beginning of our sessions. There is such a difference in the drawings from the start of therapy to termination, and they show tremendous emotional growth, insight and healing.

It’s always rewarding to be able to see progress and to keep a visual record of a person’s improved emotional well-being.

If you are interested in more information about art therapy, you can visit my website: or the American Art Therapy Association’s website:

Thank you for your time and happy healing!

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

Learn more on my Website!

Please visit and like my Facebook page!

Visit my Etsy Shop for my hand-crafted healing items.

Email me!


Share This Blog Post

The Art of Listening. (Without judgement!)

Stop and Listen Blog post

When a fellow therapist told me about this quote, I started to reflect on the art of listening. As therapists, we are eager to give advice and make a person’s problems go away. However, there are times when this is not what the person needs or wants. Sometimes, one of the most powerful tools we have are our ears!  Listening without judgment or the intent to solve their problem can be a welcome change for some of my clients. This truly is a gift and we rarely give that gift to one another. Listening helps the other person feel like they are being seen and heard.

I can see this more clearly now as I reflect on the relationship with both of my parents. I remember always listening with the intent of fixing things for my mother. I look back now and realize that she just needed to be heard. This also reminds me of situations when my Dad complained about my Mother’s Alzheimer’s and my reaction was to jump in and try to find solutions to prevent her deterioration.

There are times when we just need to process our thoughts and feelings, and when someone listens it gives us the space to fully express ourselves. This process takes time and we don’t often feel like we have the time or are allowed to make the time.

It’s important to make a conscious effort to try this with a friend and really listen. See if this makes a difference in your own life. When you see the value of stopping and listening, it can remind you that you have the same needs in your own life.

Thanks for reading…and listening!

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

Please visit and like my Facebook page!

Visit my Etsy Shop for my hand-crafted healing items.

Email me!

Learn more on my Website!

Share This Blog Post


In a previous blog I mentioned that I was excited about an art therapy technique called SoulCollage. SoulCollage was created about 30 years ago by a psychotherapist named, Seena Frost. She was interested in combining creativity, insight and healing for her clients who felt they were not creative.

SoulCollage Photo

Art therapists have used the collage process in their practice for years. The SoulCollage process is different because no words are  involved, only images. In addition, the collage is limited to a 5” x 8” card consisting of only 3 to 4 carefully selected pictures. Each person makes his or her own personal deck of cards with no set number of cards. The photograph above is from my personal deck. I made this card when my mother was dying.

In SoulCollage we interpret our own cards. Even as a therapist, I would not interpret a client’s card. The images are selected on an intuitive personal basis and have meaning only for the individual. There is a phrase that is used when you look at the card and are attempting to glean information from the imagery. The phrase is, “I am the one who…” When we consult our SoulCollage cards we use the phrase, “I am the one who…” to begin speaking from the image on our own card and to answer our own questions.

For example, for this card when I begin with the phrase “I am the one who…”, I finish the sentence with, “…. is really scared about the unknown journey of my mother’s impending death.” This helped me realize that fear played a role for me in my interactions with her. At different times when consulting the card, the meaning and interpretation will change.

SoulCollage reminds us that all the answers are deep within us if we work to uncover them. Using SoulCollage can help us recognize these answers and bring clarity to confusing situations in our lives.

Sharing SoulCollage cards in a group or community is an important part of the process. SoulCollage brings people together in creativity, acceptance, and self-reflection.

This is just a basic introduction to the process. There are many more aspects and levels to SoulCollage. To learn more you can visit or contact me for an individual or group introduction to the process.

Thanks for reading!

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

Please visit and like my Facebook page!

Visit my Etsy Shop for my hand-crafted healing items.

Email me!

Learn more on my Website!


Share This Blog Post

Lending A Voice To Your Pain

Body Mapping is a technique used by art therapists to help clients illustrate, identify and voice their pain. Working with people who suffer from chronic pain, I have learned to recognize the connection between emotional trauma and the physical symptoms that may also exist.

Body Mapping


My 42 year old client Christine* suffered with painful abdominal symptoms to the point where she felt immobilized by her physical pain. She became overwhelmed and was unable to continue working as an elementary school teacher. Eventually, the pain became so unbearable that she had to quit her job and became housebound. Feeling depressed, her psychiatrist suggested she try art therapy to help express her feelings. Verbal therapy was stalled because Christine’s pain and depression did not abate, even with the help of medication.

When Christine began therapy with me she believed her depression and chronic pain stemmed from early childhood trauma. She spoke of consistent lower pelvic pain, but was resistant to traditional treatment by her physicians. After completing the initial drawings that I usually require of new clients, I asked her to draw a body map – an outline of a human form, (cookie cutter shape) and then asked her to describe the pain she was feeling with colors and lines; placing the lines at the approximate points on her body where she felt pain. This was in important first step, because when pain is attributed to emotional trauma, it’s better to illustrate the pain to help people “see it.”

I asked her to come prepared for the next session by using her body map image to write about her pain. I instructed her to share her thoughts about the pain, and what she felt the pain was trying to tell her – what the pain wanted her to know.

When Christine returned the following week, she read her description. She expressed that the pain felt “hot and angry” and that it wanted to be heard, that it was screaming at her, but she didn’t understand the language. Christine shared that she felt frustrated, but I encouraged her not to give up, and that I would help her discover what her pain was communicating to her.

That night, she had a nightmare about a trapped child crying alone in a dark tunnel. The following session we discussed the dream. As Christine talked about her nightmare she became tearful, she was tapping into a childhood memory of being left alone in her room, in the dark, essentially vulnerable and unsafe. The dream had triggered a painful memory of childhood sexual abuse.

Christine was shocked by this revelation, because she felt she had resolved the sexual abuse years ago. I explained that she may have addressed the sexual abuse earlier, but the untreatable pelvic pain was proof that her trauma wasn’t resolved. We discussed how her body had been holding onto the pain of her abuse because she was unable to express anger towards her abuser. Christine realized that the chronic pain was indicating that it was time to express that anger and release her feelings. She no longer had to hold onto the anger and store it within her body!

After this session, Christine was able to give herself permission to feel angry, and her whole body seemed lighter. I continue to work with Christine on expressing her emotions in a healthy way, but it has not been an easy process. However, the more she honestly expresses herself, the more her physical symptoms decrease. This has been an ongoing journey and I feel grateful to be able to assist her along the way.

Listen to your body. Never ignore physical pain. Understand that some forms of chronic pain are rooted in emotional trauma that can be illustrated, given a voice and healed!

If you, or anyone you know has ever been abused or traumatized, please seek professional help immediately.

Thank you for being here.

Karen Stabley, Art Therapy (ATR)

Please visit and like my Facebook page!

Visit my Etsy Shop for my hand-crafted healing items.

Email me!

Learn more on my Website!



Share This Blog Post

Who You Gonna Call?

Who You Gonna Call? Part 1


When I receive phone calls from strangers or potential clients asking if I can fill a medical prescription, it only confirms my suspicions –  the general public is quite confused by the world of mental health practitioners. The capital letters following a professional’s name can also add to this state of confusion and frustration. Navigating the system isn’t always easy due to the different branches and subdivisions of services available, but here’s the good news: It’s not as confusing at it all sounds.

In Part 1 of “Who You Gonna Call?” I will list a few of the most popular services in the industry, and in Part 2, I will address the variety of professionals and explain where they can be found within the mental health system.

There are several types of treatments available, a few include:

  • Behavioral Health Treatment
  • Substance Abuse Treatment
  • Inpatient Treatment
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)

People are sometimes overwhelmed by all the options and usually aren’t sure where to turn for help. To make it easier, I’ve created a simple list explaining the variety of local and national services available. This is just a general overview, and you should always consult your regular doctor before seeking additional services and before taking any medications.

Let’s examine the variety of treatment settings.

Crisis Intervention: Normally exists within an emergency room setting. In some communities it is free standing, or mobile.

Inpatient Treatment: Provides a safe therapeutic setting for those that could be a harm to themselves or to others. Usually within a hospital, initially for 72 hours during a period of crisis. If a patient needs long-term treatment, there are also a variety of 28 day facilities available. They include treatment for substance abuse, eating disorders and trauma.

Long-Term Residential Treatment: For individuals who have severe difficulty functioning at home or in the community. Individuals with severe mental health issues or cognitive disabilities are served in these settings. Usually owned by a larger organization. In the substance abuse realm these are privately owned as well.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP): Usually seen as a follow-up to inpatient treatment. This setting provides daily (usually about 10 to 12 hours per week) of group and individual therapy while the patient lives at home and functions within the community. These settings vary in terms of what disorder is treated. Some specialize is substance abuse, eating disorders and trauma, while others treat more general issues. These settings help provide coping skills, and help patients function within the community.

Outpatient Clinics: These offices are usually within a larger clinical setting. The clinicians  see a large number of clients per day. Often a psychiatrist oversees the medications of the clients. Owned by larger hospitals or businesses. Usually accept all insurances.

Private Practices: These are smaller clinical settings, usually privately owned. Operate with a smaller caseload per clinician, and often accept only a limited number of insurances. Smaller practices usually specialize in specific treatment options or diagnoses.

In Part 2 of my next blog, I will discuss the differences between the various professionals who are employed within these settings.

Here are some local numbers to call if you need immediate help or assistance:

To contact crisis intervention, please call (800) 673-2496 or (717)-851-5320.

Crisis centers are located in WellSpan York Hospital’s Emergency Department and 

WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Both facilities are open 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

Crisis Walk-in Services:

Edgar Square Walk in Crisis Unit                                                                                                                1101 S. Edgar St., Suite C, York, Pa.

Hours of Operation: Monday thru Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.     No appointments are necessary.

Mobile Crisis Unit:

True North Wellness                                                                                                                                              Call: 1-800-315-0951                                                                                                                                          Seven offices located across South Central PA (click link below for address and directions) Open: 24 hours, 365 days per year

The following list include a sample of Inpatient treatment, long-term residential and Intensive outpatient – all require a referral from a Mental Health Professional, a therapist or a psychiatrist.

Outpatient Treatment Options:

Wellspan Behavioral Health: (717)-851-6340

PA Counseling Services: 855-272-1653

Rost and Associates, Family Counselors                                                                                                       807 S George St #1, York, PA 17403  Phone: (717)-843-6561

Please remember, I am always a call or click away!

Karen Stabley, ATR BC Registered Art Therapist

262 E. Market St                                                                                                                                                       York, PA 17403                                                                                                                                                                               (717)- 852-9037

To Learn More About My Art Therapy Practice, Please Visit My Website

To Purchase My All Things Healing Craft Items, Please Visit My Etsy Page

Don’t Forget To Check Out My Facebook Page

Please Like & Share My Blog With Your Friends and Family!

Thank you!

Share This Blog Post