Healing and Growth through Art Therapy
There is power in the freedom to express ourselves creatively. According to Psychology Today, the arts can be used as therapy to tour the parts of our subconscious mind that may reawaken memories and assist in managing emotions, addictions, stress relief, depression, and anxiety. Art Therapy is not about the quality of the work, but the way creative choices may reflect one’s inner life.
Robyn Schindler, owner of Paint the Stars Art Therapy in New Jersey, has built the foundation of her passion and career on this ideology. Her practice combines a “wide variety of creative outlets to be used alone or alongside talk psychotherapy” to help children cope with various issues.
She’s loved creating art since childhood, and always knew she wanted to find a way to help children. So, she declared a major in Fine Arts where she went on to obtain Master’s Degrees in both Mental Health Counseling and Clinical Art Therapy. After working in her field at various children’s centers for many years, she left her New York roots and relocated to New Jersey where she began working at mental health facilities. It was during this time she began pursuing the dream of owning her own practice.
Paint the Stars Art Therapy was established in 2010 as a part-time venture turned full-time within three years. Now, she has two locations she is able to work her practice out of. Schindler takes on children ages 3-21 in both individual, family, and group art therapy sessions. She says the most important step is to create a comfortable, therapeutic environment for children to feel safe lifting boundaries with her. From there, Schindler creates “specific directives to pull out active negative symptoms like anger, anxiety, and depression.” In elaboration, she gave us this example:
“When doing mask making, I might ask a child to create two different types of faces for me—their inside face; how they feel on the inside, and their outside face; how they appear to others on the outside. To that child, they are following an art task and not dissecting the meaning of it, but what they provide to me in return is a deeper look at what is going inside their minds.”
Schindler notes that looking into specific symptoms through art therapy allows her to teach children “how to recognize their own triggers.” She says this helps them identify the causes, as well as utilize the art as a positive coping mechanism that they can take with them into their normal daily functions. She creates specific art therapy lesson plans for each client and tries to dabble in everything to find what works best for each child. “From paint to clay, collage to scrapbooking, plaster to wire, woodworking to crayon melts…there is no art medium that we don’t use!” she says- including Edible Art.
Clay, however, was noted to be one of her most useful art tools, as she mentions she sees various kids find the texture and movement of clay to be grounding for them. It assists children in being able to take deep breaths, control their hands, quiet their minds, and concentrate a bit deeper. Schindler said, “It is truly amazing to watch how holding and molding something like that in one’s hands can be so calming and also, it comes naturally to everyone.”
Raised in a large family-oriented environment in Queens, New York and on Long Island, New York with 28 cousins and three siblings, Schindler believes her passion for creativity and helping others has been strengthened all her life by the love of family. Now that she has a husband and two boys of her own, she says she seeks creativity in everyday routines. “We try to find magic in everything we do.”
But the balance between owning her own practice and raising her children is not always easy- though worth it every time. She says she struggles with feeling adequate in both her career and motherhood at once. Because she cares about her clients so deeply, she finds it hard to hit a turn-off button on her work hat. When she sees e-mails/texts about their well-being, she says it’s not always easy to find her center at home. But, all the same, there are plenty of times she is at work and missing time with her children.
However, it has also positively impacted her ability to parent. Her oldest son suffers from anxiety, and Robyn uses her skills to help her son find his center and talk to him calmly by getting on his level. Plus, encouraging play and art in her home as a necessity, Schindler labels herself as “the messy/crazy parent” who enjoys the opportunity to allow her children to explore art all around them. She says squishing mud in hands, jumping in puddles, and using edible paints are just some of the “sensory explosions” she promotes for her family.
But she runs a tight ship! With all of that fun, Schindler says creating consistent routines, rules, and chores for her children- ages two and four- not only helps build their confidence and independence, but also helps them appreciate and understand their role in the family. Plus, she believes a child can be disciplined while still trying to find a way to bring good out of a negative situation. To her, it is beneficial to explain how their actions can be different in the future, while also commending them for having a constructive conversation with her. “Discipline and correction are super important but so is finding a positive. Healthy self-esteem comes from not just knowing what you are great at but being able to recognize when you are not so great and still managing to find something ‘okay’ in that moment,” Schindler noted.
There is still so much Robyn Schindler hopes to accomplish in her career despite all of her triumph thus far. She’s still got her eyes set on obtaining her PhD- though she says she’s saving that for more far-future plans. She’s also decided to pursue a dream of publishing her own children’s books that are based on overcoming real-life stressors. While exploring that passion, Schindler says she also has some ideas for a third art therapy location. And she’s got high hopes that she’s not biting off more than she can chew.
As Florence Nightingale said, “Variety of form and brilliancy of color in the object presented to patients are an actual means of recovery.” It seems Robyn Schindler understands that notion well, as she continues to embark on a journey to help generate recovery through various, colorful art forms.
To keep up with her artistic ventures, or find out more about the services that Paint the Stars Art Therapy provides, you can explore their Instagram @PaintTheStarsArtTherapy, or visit their website here.