When she was a senior in high school, Morgaine Denison was awarded an art scholarship to East Central College. She didn’t know it at the time, but it started the St. James native down a path to helping people in need.
“Creating art has always provided a space where I feel confident that my voice is heard and understood,” she explained. “It has always been my voice and sanctuary.”
After her time at East Central College, Denison transferred to Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville.
“While I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, I had the opportunity to shadow an art therapist at a community mental and behavioral health facility,” she explained.
It was an eye-opening experience for Denison. She soon after decided to pursue a master’s degree in art therapy counseling. The degree combines the therapeutic uses of art-making with the skills of a professional counselor. Art therapy counselors are able to help people work through trauma, mental health issues, illness and challenges in living, as well as help those who seek personal insight and change.
“A common misconception is that art therapy only suited for children,” she said, “but art therapy has been proven effective among a variety of populations!”
When trauma occurs, Denison explained, the brain stores information from the event on both sides of our brain. Complications from trauma arise when people are unable to access the verbal processes in the brain. That’s when art therapy can be a useful tool.
“If we cannot speak about the experience, it makes traditional talk-therapy difficult to engage in. Art has the ability to move information from the ‘feelings part’ of our brain to the ‘speaking part’ of our brain. I feel this makes art therapy such a viable treatment modality for many,” she said.
Denison’s artwork is currently on display in the East Central College Art Gallery. Titled Art Therapy Expanded, the exhibit gives the community an inside look into art therapy. All works were created by the art therapy graduate students from Southern Illinois University—Edwardsville, as well as a few faculty members.
A reception will be held for the exhibit February 15 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in Hansen Hall, 1964 Prairie Dell Road in Union. It will give the community a chance to interact with the artists.