Spotlight! A Therapist Enriches her Life and Work

Published: Fri, 09/18/15


What if you could change your mind about your creativity?
Many of us carry old beliefs about "not being an artist".

What if you could move through fear and discover your authentic creative self?
Are you ready? Willing?

What if you could ignite the power of creativity in others?
You can start where you are and begin today.
Welcome to today's Spotlight Interview with
Pam Hirons, LMHC.

Pam shares how she moved past some old fears and into exciting new personal and professional territory.

This is the second in our series of "spotlight" interviews with graduates of our certificate training program. You will hear from therapists, educators, healthcare practitioners, artists,
and more.  We hope these conversations will provide you with glimpses of some innovative real-life applications in the field.

Kathleen Horne recently interviewed Pam, and we share the dialogue here.
A Conversation with Pam Hirons
A Therapist Enriches her Life and Work

Meet Pam: Pam Hirons lives in Sarasota, Florida, where she has a private counseling and life coaching practice. She facilitates a weekly expressive arts group for female inmates in the transition program at The Bradenton Bridge. She leads "Self Esteem Boot Camp" which utilizes the expressive arts to bring interactive, creative experiences to the women while they work on honoring the Self. One of her participants recently told her, “These three hours each week have done more for me than years of therapy.”

Pam is a proud retired educator who worked with young people for her first career and is now enjoying working with adults. She has a BS in elementary education, an MA in Education and received her MA in counseling in 2011. She just graduated from Expressive Arts Florida Institute. She participates in ongoing training in psychodrama through the South Tampa Psychodrama Training.
KH: Pam, I thank you so much for this interview! Just reading your bio, I am struck by your dedication to serve and your quest for lifelong learning. I am thrilled to see how you are taking your Expressive Arts training into the world! To start off, could you share a little about what drew you to the certificate training program?

PH: I was just completing my Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling when I first heard about it. My motivation at the beginning was simply to add to my tool-kit and learn additional strategies for working with clients.

KH: Let’s talk about what happened for you in the training. Could you share something about how your actual experience compared to your expectations?

PH: At first I thought I was going to be learning fun creative tools, and I didn't anticipate the depth. However, I quickly became intrigued about how the experiential expressive arts work made me feel, and how I was going deeper within myself. This was a bit surprising to me, and I loved it.

KH: So you were surprised by the depth and challenge of the work?

PH: Even though I knew it would require me to face my fear of art, I didn't understand the substance of the work and the challenge! However, the great benefit I derived is because of exactly that - it required that I give myself fully to it, and, because of that, my learning was huge, both personally and professionally.
KH: You mention your fear of art. Could you say more about that?

PH: I had a strong belief that I don't have artistic ability or talent. At first, i thought it was because of my past art teachers, but, as I explored myself a little more deeply, I realized that it is a story I have been telling myself for a long time. I have a bunch of collected experiences, where something artistic didn't work out the way I wanted. Over time, I found that I didn't want to even start something of an artistic nature because I knew I would be disappointed and quit. This was all hanging over me - an expectation that anything involving art would be threatening - when I began my training at EAFI.

KH: And yet you enrolled anyway! 

PH: Yes, I took a couple of short classes first, and tested it out.  I kept saying to myself "I am willing". The way the program is set up and the way the three of you work with us, it actually wasn't threatening at all. It became enjoyable and I was finding myself feeling good! I learned that there isn't really a right and a wrong way when we approach the arts in this manner. Every time I felt resistance or fear come up, I repeated to myself "I am willing".
KH: The training covers a lot of territory. Can you identify something that stands out for you as a major turning point?

PH: There was one experience I will never forget. I had taken a break because of an injury, and I was back in class again. I had lost my momentum and felt like quitting. i created a presentation piece and I had colorful scarves all draped over me, like veils. I asked my classmates each to remove a scarf, saying things like "remove the veil of doubt", "remove the veil of fear", "remove the veil of lack of motivation". As one person at a time removed the veil of whatever was blocking me, I experienced a shift in a very tangible way. As long as we are growing and changing, we will always have new stuff come up and makes us afraid.

Now I say to myself: "Here's fear again; I must be doing something new. Good for me!"

KH: It is not unusual for people to have fear around art-making, and I appreciate you sharing your experience. For some, it is with visual art, for others, it may be movement, or using the voice that is scary. Expressive Arts reconnects us with our creative birthright, and helps us connect with our own authentic expression in all arts modalities. Being willing, as your point out, is such a big part of changing our experience.

PH: Yes, and as I became less fearful, and replaced the old story with a new one, I found myself approaching everything in life more creatively. I learned to access and trust my right brain as well as my left in everything I encounter. I now feel much more balanced.

KH: So by overcoming your fear of art you have learned new life skills?

PH: Yes, I am more comfortable with approaching things creatively. I engage in life with a lighter spirit. I trust more. And I love that!
KH: Let's talk about your work, Pam. You are a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and you are facilitating groups and working with individuals. At this point, I think, you are incorporating Expressive Arts into all aspects of your counseling practice. What were you doing before you took your Expressive Arts Training and how has your work evolved?

PH:  Before I did my expressive arts training, I was doing primarily cognitive behavioral therapy. It provided a good, solid foundation, but I found myself trying other approaches to enhance it. There was a cry inside me, saying "I am sure there are better ways!"

KH: I know that you are now integrating expressive arts into your groups and individual practice. How did that evolve?

PH: Early in my training, I began doing expressive arts in my group with incarcerated women, and they absolutely love it! I have an expressive arts group each week, and a self-esteem group in which I incorporate arts experiences. I love sharing the work this way, and it is so well received and so beneficial.
KH: That is so great, and I love the way this work adapts to so many settings. When did you begin bringing the arts into your work with individuals and how did that happen?

PH: My internship was what pushed me into that! And, I found not only that i could do it, but that it was embraced by my clients and benefited them greatly. I had some fear about that initially, but I overcame it during my internship.

KH: So we are talking about fear again, and overcoming it.

PH: Yes. I had to overcome the barrier of fear, and when i did, there were the riches!
As therapists, or helping professionals, it is so important that we know this lesson from the inside out. Overcoming our fears is huge, and, each time we ask a client to do something new or scary for them, it takes a lot of courage. And, the real riches are on the other side of the fear.

KH: Can you identify what your own fear was about in offering expressive arts to individual clients?

PH: Yes. Once I realized how deep the arts can take us, I was hesitant to try it for fear of making a mistake. And then, because i was offering something new or different, I was concerned about looking silly, or having my client question my competence.

KH: And what have you found?

PH: The opposite, really. Although people are sometimes reluctant, or fearful, their body language usually indicates excitement about doing something new. I need to encourage them, and help them past their fear, just as you did for me. And then, everything becomes richer and deeper in our work together. My training has given me the skills to know how to proceed, and I continue to learn. I will always continue to learn!
KH: Pam, thanks so much for sharing that. I think that your words will provide encouragement, both for other therapists, and for anyone seeking therapy. Therapy is intense, and it can so easily be experienced as painful and difficult. Creative process is positive and life-enhancing, and when we bring that spark into our sessions, it makes the whole therapy process more exciting and enlivening.

PH: Absolutely! And the benefits are remarkable! I am more excited about my work and my clients are more excited too. I am more in touch with myself since taking the training, and that makes me a better therapist. I have come to believe that there is no better way to get in touch with ourselves than through the expressive arts.
KH: in our training program there are therapists, healthcare professionals, artists, educators, and others, all together in the classes. This is a somewhat new model for teaching this work, and I am interested in knowing what that was like for you.

PH: I loved that! I learned so much from every single person, and what they shared. It made the program very rich for me, and I see it as a total benefit, with no disadvantages. Since you were my advisor/mentor, and you are a therapist, I had the individual guidance I needed, which supplemented the intensives, the electives, and the readings. 
Being with such a variety of people gave me a much greater idea of the scope of the field and its applications. It inspired my creativity to think all the time about different ways I might share it.

KH: Let's talk about your plans, Pam, as you have completed your training and are thinking about what's next.

PH: Right now I am integrating expressive arts more fully into my private practice, and I am excited about growing my practice in this direction.  I am also doing my groups with incarcerated women. I am considering a lot of options and keeping my heart and head open for new possibilities. One thing I know is that if I were going to design any group, on any subject, I would include a strong expressive arts component. That is my sensibility now, and I am happy about that.
KH: Now that you have completed the program, how do you keep your personal practice alive?

PH: I have a weekly "art night" at my house and invite my friends. This is my commitment to myself and to others, and it helps me both with my personal practice and with trying out ideas that help me in my professional life. I really love having time dedicated to the arts. I also do a brief practice every morning and every evening. I think that the personal and professional work overlap - like a mandorla - two overlapping circles with so much common area in the center.  I have learned so much in the program that I can apply in my own life, and also share with others. That's the way Expressive Arts is: you start down that path and you are working with creativity in some way, every single day.

KH: Is there anything else you would like to share about the certificate training itself?

PH: The three of you (Faculty) teach every intensive together, and that makes for a great student-teacher ratio and lots of individual help. Also, I enjoy the three different personalities, backgrounds and styles, as that helped me see different ways of approaching the work. It is an outward manifestation of how the expressive arts can be so powerful for any type of personality.
KH: Do you have any advice for anyone considering taking the training?

PH: I would say if you are feeling a strong pull, jump in and do it! If you are sitting on the fence, take some of the individual workshops to explore. If you are considering it, take one of the intensives and then you will know if it is for you.
KH: Pam, it is always a pleasure to speak with you, and I thank you so much for sharing of yourself in this way. Your clients are fortunate to have you as a therapist, and I know that your work will continue to grow in wonderful, creative ways! Is there anything you would like to say in closing?

PH: I have learned that Expressive Arts is a rich, deep and expansive field. It is truly sacred and soulful work, and by entering the training, I met exactly what I needed without knowing I needed it. I am grateful. And, to quote  Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind):
"The future belongs to the right-brained people!"
To find Pam and learn more about her work we encourage you to visit her website
She is accepting clients!

Interested in registering for a weekend intensive to find out if this is for you?
Dive in in November!

Did you miss our recent Spotlight interview with Tammie Norton?
Thanks for being part of the community!
Kathleen, Victoria, Tamara

Kathleen Horne, MA, LMHC, REACE
Victoria Domenichello-Anderson, MA, REACE
Tamara Teeter Knapp, BA, Certified K-12 Art Teacher