Turning Therapy into Art at The ART Hotel Denver

the art hotel denver

In celebration of National Mental Health Awareness Month, The ART Hotel Denver, Curio Collection by Hilton, presents certified art therapist Kate King and ART of Therapy: a two-night exploration of healing through creativity.

On May 30 and 31, the healing properties of art come alive in an intimate and creative setting. As a board-certified therapist and licensed professional counselor, Kate King earned her masters in transpersonal counseling psychology — “where psyche and spirit meet,” she explained. With 17 years in the field, the transformative power of art-making now guides King’s professional practice.

“I’ve been an artist my whole life,” shared King, recalling art classes with her grandmother and watching her dad work on his stone sculptures. After studying both art and psychology, King was looking for a way to integrate both interests professionally. “I didn’t realize art therapy was a thing,” she said, with a laugh. “I typed into Google, ‘What do you do with an art and psychology degree?’ and Google responded with the Naropa Institute.” There, King discovered how art could inform her counseling work.

ART Hotel Denver presents the art of therapy
Harnessing the healing properties of art

In 2010, she started her private practice, helping clients discover more non-traditional ways of healing the mind and finessing the spirit. “From grief work to eating disorders, helping new parents and those grappling with depression, anxiety, or trauma—all the good issues,” she said. 

Knowing there’s a certain mystique surrounding art therapy, King strives to make the medium both accessible and enjoyable. There are two camps of art therapy, King explained.

There’s art as therapy, the healing and growth-inspiring aspects of art itself: “This is why doodling in the margins when we’re stressed can help.” And then there’s art as psychotherapy—what King and her clients explore.

the art hotel denver
The ART Hotel in Denver showcases one of the city’s best-curated art collections. Photo provided by The ART Hotel Denver, Curio Collection by Hilton.

“My office has a seating area and then an art space, fully stocked shelf with tools—oil pastels, watercolors, colored pencils, stacking and nesting dolls—those are one of my faves,” she said. King guides a client through the different metaphorical qualities of an art medium or tool and suggests tasks to harness their power. 

“For example, if they’re experiencing a lot of chaos, I’ll ask them to create a storm that represents that quality.” Art therapy helps us view issues or challenges more metaphorically, she explains. “By projecting our experience onto an external piece of paper clay, painting, it can be a backdoor into the psyche. To see what you’re dealing with displayed externally can be like another entity in the room.” 

To that end, the ART of Therapy event will include a roundtable discussion in the private dining room of FIRE restaurant, a Q and A and a workshop around tree drawings, one of art therapy’s most powerful diagnostic assessments. “A tree is a natural, metaphorical representation of the psyche,” shared King. From holes in the trunk to flowers growing along branches to animals living in the limbs, how one’s tree manifests, so to speak, may reveal underlying issues–what’s under the surface— more so than traditional talk therapy. 

“Tree drawings can be used in non-clinical sessions too, to gauge where you’re at. And drawings can change over time based on how we see ourselves.” The visual metaphor can feel like a mirror for some people. A client recovering from an eating disorder drew a tree with a stronger, more proportionate trunk, while writer types may discover a deeper experience by shifting to visuals.

the art hotel denver, fire terrace
Free fireside chats for the ART of Therapy will be held at the FIRE Terrace at The ART Hotel Denver.

“When we do collage art, I won’t let word-oriented people use words. Just stick with images to convey their emotions, as images can speak louder than words. Art therapy can challenge them to express themselves differently.”

The key is to find your way into the drawing and see what evolves. “Let yourself go without overthinking it, and see what comes up. Analyze it later. I find tree drawings really fruitful,” she said.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an ideal time to raise awareness and introduce the public to less conventional, more creative methodologies to heal what may ail us. “It’s an important reminder that art heals,” said King. “It’s a time on the planet when people are navigating some tough things and truly, even a crayon from the grocery store can heal,” she said, with a smile. “The ART Hotel Denver is so supportive of the arts and community well-being. Joining together feels like a good match.”

In her new book, “The Radiant Life Project,” King further explores how art therapy regulates the nervous system, propelling us out of ‘survival mode’ and into a true enjoyment of life — more aligned relationships and a greater sense of day-to-day purpose.

“Art therapy is not about the final product or destination, a thing we’ve become attached to in Western society. It’s about living the process and the change that happens because you lived it.”

For more details and to register for the ART of Therapy, visit here.

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