As a child in the mid 70’s, I had a family member that struggled with depression. Back then they called them “Nervous Breakdowns”. Leather wallets, belts, and moccasins were a popular craft at the time. Then, I never really understood what depression was. I only knew that my family member was sad. When they got out of the hospital, they would be happy, and I would get a new pair of moccasins!
As a cook working in a long-term care nursing facility, I saw a person playing guitar with a group of people. Everyone was really enjoying themselves! I was amazed by what I saw! After the group, I asked them what their profession was. They replied: “I am a Music Therapist.” I had never heard of Music Therapy. As we talked, I shared that I have an Undergraduate Degree in Fine Arts. She said I should explore a career in Art Therapy. I had no idea Art Therapy was a profession, but the more I thought about the sound “Mike Hoelzer, Art Therapist”, the more I got excited to find out about the profession.
Fortunately for me, Milwaukee has a great University (a College in my time) for Art Therapy training, Mount Mary. In 1997, I committed myself to the profession, and have not looked back. During my time at Mount Mary College, I met many great and legendary Art Therapists: Bruce Moon, Don Jones, Lynn Kapitan, Shaun McNiff, and Stan Strickland, to name a few. At that time, as I remember, the program had the feel of another great art school, Black Mountain College. Both were programs where creative exploration was encouraged through most any means, whether it was visual, music, dance, sound, performance, poetry, or any combination! Always, we discussed the clinical significance of the creative process to further patient care and healing. Our studious focus on the parallels between clinical presentation and creative application never wavered.
I began my internship at Rogers Behavioral Health (then Rogers Memorial Hospital) under the guidance of another great Art Therapist, Mary Kay Crawford. Mary Kay was a bit of a radical herself! She embraced creativity and healing on all levels. Most importantly, she encouraged me to always stay true to my Art Therapist identity. I remember after I observed a process group run by a Therapist. I was telling Mary Kay how neat I thought it was. She angrily scoffed at me saying: “If you want to be one of them, you can, but we are Art Therapists!”
Looking back, I had always known creativity, healing, and wellness are connected. I am grateful for what the Art Therapy profession has given me. I am honored to offer Art Therapy to others as a pathway to healing.