Choosing a career as an artist is a bold choice. Artists and many creatives are given the task to communicate, move, and inspire as the weight of deadlines, interviews, last-minute client decisions–the list goes on–never ceases to bog one down. While for some, albeit maybe most, troubles are as complex as finding self-worth in the maelstrom of competition–one must wonder how Van Gogh would do in our twenty-first-century grind.
It’s rare, as most artists try to find an outlet for their work, that an artist decides to be part of the listening aspect; taking the role as the conduit for other artists to clearly communicate to their audience–even to themselves. This is where artist and therapist TJ Walsh comes in. TJ is a traditionally trained graphic designer also holding an M.A. in Clinical Counseling Psychology. He writes and speaks about topics of art, culture, faith & mental health as he is both a counselor and working artist. During his ten years as a creative director where he did plenty of branding, marketing, and running campaigns, he also did a lot of problem solving, “I was acting almost as a therapist to my clients as I’d be solving problems.” TJ says during our interview. TJ started his path in psychology when he had to decide whether to go to graduate school to further his mobility as a creative director or explore his knack for problem-solving.
Beginning January of 2017, TJ will be starting a therapy group specifically for artists and creative people. His goal is to rekindle creative minds and help members of the group to communicate better by communicating with one another. Above all his goal is for members to gain a sense of relatability with one another and find relevance as they move forward. We were able to talk with TJ to discuss his approach and his goals.
Elizabeth Roan reports:
ER: What inspired you to begin an artist therapy group? TJ: I wanted to offer this group as a way to provide support for artists and other creatives to have a place to process with one another the issues, struggles, etc. that are common to them. Being a maker is hard work. Often times we do it all alone, without much steady support from others in the day to day. It can be lonely. We also have a hard time when we get stuck and are unable to create. Or, we get hurt when we receive a bit of criticism that we weren’t anticipating. Having a group of people who know what it’s like can be helpful to our process and our ability to carry on in our quest to make.
ER: What are your goals in therapy? both group and individual. TJ: People are complex, made up of several components: the heart, soul, mind, and strength. I take a whole-person approach when working with an individual or a group, for that matter. My clients are encouraged to explore their emotions, personality, thoughts, and behaviors. Through this exploration, the goal is that the individual(s) will grow and gain insight that produces a more complete and grounded self. In a group setting, the added support and challenge from peers often helps to speed up the process because a micro-society is created where problems and solutions are worked out in real life.
ER: Tell me about yourself, what lead you to get into psychology after receiving an arts degree? TJ: I took the step to pursue helping others professionally about five years ago when I arrived at a crossroads. The crossroad was the decision of whether I was to go back for my MFA or to get my graduate degree in psychology. The MFA would mean that I’d disappear into myself, while the psychology degree would allow me to explore other people. One thing that I know about myself is that when I am allowed to disappear into myself, I become self-destructive. I chose to pursue helping other people over myself. This decision played out marvelously for me because not only do I get to learn from and help other people navigate their path, but my artwork and insight about myself has grown and increased exponentially, too. It was the right decision.
If you are interested in joining this group, visit TJ’s site and complete the pop-up form. The group has limited space, but new participants may be added throughout the life of the group as it is an open group. The cost per group session will be $20.