Offering Virtual Art Therapy and Grief Support to Kids and Teens in the Midst of a Pandemic

My name is Katie and I am currently a graduate intern working with Capital Caring Health & Capital Caring Kids. I am originally from Philadelphia but have been living in the DMV for almost 3 years now. Over the past two years I have been attending graduate school in an art therapy program. Art therapy is a mental health profession that utilizes art in a therapeutic way to help clients explore feelings when maybe the words are difficult to find; art therapy is for everyone and no art experience is required! I fell in love with art through photography but have really enjoyed exploring watercolor and printmaking over the past two years in my program. Half-way through my second semester, the pandemic began, and we had a swift transition into these virtual spaces we are in today.

I don’t know if I fully knew what to expect coming in as an intern, in the middle of the pandemic, during my final semester in graduate school. I had a small glimpse into grief & loss work in previous internship roles but had never worked solely with bereavement. Very quickly into starting this internship I could sense that this would be an experience I really wanted to explore further. I felt a very warm welcome from all the staff and the support I needed in going through orientation, receiving resources, and moving forward into building a case load- all virtually!

While it can be difficult being completely remote, Capital Caring has done a wonderful job at ensuring resources are readily available. At this point in the pandemic I am used to the virtual nature of everything, but sometimes that does not make it easier. Conducting sessions in my apartment can be weird – not having the opportunity to meet anyone in person or use the art therapy room presents new challenges in the therapeutic world. However, there are some unique aspects that add levity. For example, at this point, most of my clients have gotten to virtually meet my dog. Additionally, providing virtual sessions allows our services to be more accessible, which is wonderful. I do not think virtual therapy will be going anywhere anytime soon and because of this internship, and past year, I have been able to grow a new skillset and level of comfortability with the situation.

I’ve learned to push myself outside of my comfort zone in a variety of ways, which is allowing me to grow both professionally and personally. Having the opportunity to observe and co-facilitate groups has given me the chance to learn more about the grief process with adults and teens. I have also gotten to see and work on the process of creating each session in a short-term support group. With individual clients, I can work independently after the initial referral to create my schedule and plans for the subsequent sessions. As an art therapy intern, I can explore the different ways of incorporating art into sessions at an age-appropriate level, as well as try new interventions due to the pandemic. Being virtual presents new challenges especially with co-regulation and attuning to these young clients when I cannot be sitting next to them. However, these children show up each week and engage in difficult conversations and share their artwork with me.

The experiences I’ve had as an intern at Capital Caring have been unique and have allowed me to grow in ways that I did not expect. While having a virtual internship was not something I could have imagined a few years ago, I am very grateful for the opportunity to build skills that will help me support clients in many situations in the future.

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