Andrea Boyadjis

Andrea Boyadjis, MFA, BS is one of Lakeview Behavioral Health’s newest staff members. As an art therapist and mental health practitioner, Boyadjis commutes to Grand Rapids from the Twin Ports area. 

Q: What is your title and educational background?

A: I am an Art Therapist and Mental Health Practitioner. I took both my undergrad and my masters in Art Therapy at the University of Wisconsin Superior. The program in Superior emphasized the combination of counseling education and learning how to utilize art materials effectively. . Currently, I am enrolled in an online program through Capella University for a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. My plan is to achieve an LPCC licensure to become a Therapist that specializes in Art Therapy in the great state of Minnesota. Between my educational experiences and the jobs I have held, I have completed a total of 5000 hours of experience in the mental health field. 

Q: Why did you want to work in Grand Rapids?

A: I enjoy working in Grand Rapids. I have found murals and sculptures all over the city. I find it both inspiring and hopeful for the acceptance of Art Therapy as an effective approach to mental health counseling. On top of that, I am enthralled by natural scenery. It is very therapeutic to interact with natural elements and Grand Rapids has a wonderful variety of parks in the area. 

I knew I wanted to work at Lakeview Behavioral Health the instant I sat down for the interview. The support they provide their employees is vital to the work environment I was looking for. I like to know that an employer is empathetic to the stress that can arise from being a mental health professional. I also found that Lakeview's approach to the growing mental health crisis is one that aligns itself with my professional approach and future goals as a mental health professional.

Q: What is the purpose of your work?

A: As an Art Therapist, I find the function of creative expression to be vital for a client to process their life experiences and how it impacts their mental health. To some clients, it can be difficult to verbally open up to a  Therapist. Creative expression through Art Therapy allows for a larger range of communication styles. By giving a client different ways to express their internal conflicts, it allows for a more poignant reflection which, in turn, allows the client to grow, explore, and empower themselves on a deeper level. Art Therapy provides a colorful range of approaches to the therapeutic process. 

I use a variety of materials in sessions. Anywhere between sculpture, painting, drawing, writing, collage, spoken word, music, sand, legos, games and costumes can all be utilized in the therapeutic context. When I tell people that I am an Art Therapist I often hear the response, "I am not creative enough to try that. My art would look horrible!" To that, I explain the purpose of creativity in session. In Art Therapy, it isn't about the finished product of your artwork. It is about the process it takes to make it. An Art Therapy session is a safe and supportive place to interact with your artwork. I encourage clients to rip up their artwork, throw it away, or leave it unfinished. As the artist or creator in the session, it is your art, therefore, it is your right to do with it what you will. 

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

A: I do a lot of prep work for clients. Some days are just focused on that. After the first session, I take into consideration their interests in different materials and hobbies. I often research topics of interest and apply them to a directive. Part of making these directives is to prepare the materials effectively so that session isn't interrupted by extra obstacles or snafus. It's pretty common for me to reuse recyclable materials in unique ways; cutting up cardboard for sculptures, using plastic covers as stencils, or reusing jars and small boxes. My favorite is cutting down bubble wrap because I get to play with it too! 

Q: What type of art do your clients do in their sessions?

A: The art we do in session is catered to each client. Sometimes that means using the materials they are interested in and other times, it means trying something new in order to develop growth. Depending on the situation, I will formulate directives that are more psycho-dynamic and personal in order to engage the client in their therapeutic journey. And, sometimes, a session means making art for the sake of making art; which allows for sensory stimulation that can help break down vulnerable barriers. 

Q: Is there a high need for art therapists in this area?

A: Because of the current mental health crisis, there is a high need for Art Therapists everywhere. Art Therapy can reach a multitude of people from a variety of demographics. I have practiced Art Therapy with a variety of people and communities. I know how effective it can be for the therapeutic journey and, all that's really required from a client, is their interest to try a different approach to therapy.

Q: Who would you recommend utilize art therapy?

A: In my years of practice, I have been able to work with adults, individuals living with post-traumatic stress disorder, people experiencing homelessness or poverty, those experiencing depression and anxiety, people of indigenous communities, older adults, families, toddlers and young adults.

Q: Is there anything else you would like the community to know about your work and art therapy?

A: I am really excited to continue working with the Grand Rapids community and I am looking forward to exploring how to contribute Art Therapy within the city. For more information, feel free to connect with the American Art Therapy Association. They can connect you to Art Therapists all over the United States. Also, the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association provides many resources for people interested in contributing to the field both nationally and internationally.

To contact Boyadjis for more information email andreab@lakeviewbh.com.

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