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The Wonders of Art Therapy - Art therapist Reina Lombardi combines her artistic talent with her passion to help others

Jun 17, 2015 08:28AM ● Published by Kevin

Art therapy is a hybrid profession rooted in the disciplines of art and psychology. The origination of using the arts as a healing agent is evident throughout human history; however, the professional practice of such in America only dates back to the 1940s. The field was influenced by numerous important theorists and clinicians in the fields of psychology, psychiatry and education.

Perhaps you have heard of Sigmund Freud, Hans Frinzhorn, Carl Jung or Florence Goodenough. How about Reina Lombardi? You are about to find out.

Reina Lombardi was an artist before finding an enticing connection with the medical field. With a newfound focus, she discovered her calling and earned a Master of Arts in Expressive Arts Therapy and Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis in art therapy from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2004. She is also prepared in the fields of music therapy, dance/movement therapy, drama therapy and intermodal or multi-modal expressive therapies. The latter incorporates aspects from all of the disciplines within clinical treatment.

“Early on in my college career, I thought I would become a nurse,” recalls Lombardi, who has been a member of the Union Artist Studios since 2013. “After a few months of working in the [nursing] field, I realized that it was not the appropriate career for me. Instead, I began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in art,” adds the talented visual artist.

DSC_0006Art therapy practice can be found in a variety of settings and with people from all ages, backgrounds and human experiences. These programs exist in hospitals, schools, mental health agencies, veterans’ programs, nursing homes, museums and others throughout our country and around the world. The therapies may be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, trauma, grief and loss. In addition, these practices help with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, addictions, dementia-related conditions, autism and other developmental conditions or life adjustments.

The artist herself has used the healing power of art regularly. “Art has always been a foundation in my life. Making art—whether it looks good or not—helps me to cope with life’s emotional ups and downs like no other process,” expresses Lombardi, who will be leaving the Union Artist Studios later this year to pursue the opening of her own private practice. “I longed for the ability to find a career that would allow me to use art to help others.”

“Reina is a brilliant artist and she does bring a sense of serenity to our studios,” says Union Artist studios managing artist Paul Rodino. “Her approach to art is a perfectly balanced mix of art and medicine,” concludes Rodino who also produces his encaustic photography artwork in the space.

The process that Lombardi practices involves using the creative process to express, explore and develop insight and understanding about life issues. It can serve as a container or vessel that holds on the outside our thoughts and feelings difficult to tolerate on the inside, or one that boldly expresses them in a way that cannot be explained with words alone.

Art therapy can be used to assist a person towards developing coping skills, solving problems, resolving conflict, behavioral changes, building esteem and emotional healing. No artistic experience is required to be able to benefit from this process, only a willingness to try. “I place emphasis on the word process, because it is a process-oriented activity. The end goal of an art therapy session is not to produce a quality piece of work, though that may happen. If you search the existing literature on art therapy, you will find varied approaches practiced,” adds the art therapist.

The types of interventions an art therapist offers to a client will vary based upon the therapist’s theoretical orientation, the goals of the individual, clinical issues to be addressed, chronological age as well as their stage of cognitive and emotional development. Art therapists use all variety of art mediums and art-making processes.

“My personal preference is a mixed media approach,” adds Lombardi. “Opening my own private practice will allow me to provide therapy and arts-based wellness services to individuals and small groups. In addition to therapy services, I plan to offer arts journaling groups, vision board groups and other arts wellness workshops to the community,” concludes the artist.

Lombardi’s private practice will be located in the Whiskey Creek area of Fort Myers and will have its official grand opening this summer. For more information about these services and their benefits, visit floridaarttherapyservices.com.

Written by David Acevedo, a visual artist, curator, former gallery owner, arts writer and current managing artist at The Union Artist Studios in the Alliance for the Arts campus in Fort Myers.

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