Hillary Verçosa-Kaufman, ATR, LMHC
Registered Art Therapist & Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Hi! I am looking forward to meeting you and working therapeutically in the art studio or playroom. As a naturally creative, curious, intuitive, and empathic person, I am passionate about using creative and expressive therapies to get to know clients and to help you know and understand yourself on a deeper and more holistic level. This process will help to support the desired changes or healing that you (or your child) may be seeking from therapy.
I am a licensed art therapist (ATR) and mental health counselor (LMHC) and am currently training to become a registered play therapist. I enjoy working with kids, teens, and adults and exploring the different expressive and healing potential that art can hold at different developmental stages.
Each client gets to choose which modalities (I use a wide range of art materials, toys, and sand tray) that interest them- we start there, and then the therapeutic process and creativity will often lead the way. To me, creative modalities such as play and art expression are a natural language to tell one’s story, process life experiences and heal past traumas, explore relationships, transitions, stuck-ness, self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and return to the simple joys of creation and play… and so much more!
What Led Me To Becoming A Therapist
I knew that I wanted to become an art therapist since my senior year in high school. I participated in an intensive art program for half of my school day but was interested to learn about everything I could academically as well as work with people, and help others through the arts. Someone told me about art therapy and I was able to arrange a month-long internship where I shadowed art therapists at a school, hospital, and outpatient therapy program. During this experience, I viewed the art therapists as “magicians” who always seemed to know “the right things to say” and how to help their clients feel deeply seen and valued. I also wanted to do this type of healing work in the world.
I went on to study art, art history, and psychology in college followed by a masters degree in art therapy and counseling. Almost 15 years later, I never stop learning, growing, and training in new ways of working with clients (or new art media). Working as an creative arts therapist is truly my life’s calling and I feel lucky to have discovered this path at a young age.
What I want for you during our sessions
In my therapy sessions, I combine art therapy, counseling techniques, and play to create a safe and welcoming environment to connect with oneself, process emotions and experiences, and learn new skills. I feel that it’s also important to provide education and tools to help clients increase their ability to self soothe, relax, connect with and understand emotions, and learn self-regulation techniques as well as work with one’s unhelpful thoughts, patterns, and actions.
Building an authentic and trusting therapeutic relationship is at the core of my work and what I see as creating a safe container in order for a client, of any age, to do the important inner work. My role as an art therapist is to help you feel seen and to guide YOU towards a deeper connection with yourself. I will serve as a guide for you to express what is inside, working at your pace.
I consider myself a lifelong artist, I trained in a commercial arts program in high school followed by studies at Washington University in St. Louis in studio art, art history, and psychology. I also attended The School of the Art Institute in Chicago to obtain a degree in art therapy and counseling.
So much of our art education or training can be about “making something that looks good, pretty, or realistic” which was definitely my early education as well. While making beautiful art definitely has an important role in our society, its important to note that art and play therapy takes a much different approach. Creative arts therapies are about learning to express yourself and seeing what’s there. Your art, sand tray work, or play can reflect deep pain, suffering, discomfort, confusion or messiness- which most of us know is nowhere near “pretty,” organized or neat – but it is crucial to express these feelings to reduce their power in your life, transform, and work towards healing.
I feel my most valuable education of all was while training to be an art therapist where I was able to do deeply introspective and self expressive creative work myself. This depth based experience informs me in creating a space to guide others in uncovering their own processes and needs for transformation and healing.
“I should advise you to put it all down as creatively and carefully as you can-in some beautifully bound book. It will seem as if you were making the visions banal-but then you need to do that-then you are freed from the power of them. Then when these things are in some precious book you can go to the book & turn over the pages & for you it will be your cathedral-the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. For in that book (and in your art) you will see your soul.”
Carl Jung, The Red Book