“Before the fellowship, I felt weighed down by the trauma my work exposes me to. Now I feel gratitude for having followed my vocation for over 30 years.”
For expressive arts therapist Liza Hyatt, renewal meant addressing the compassion fatigue and secondary trauma that came
with her work. She began by interviewing artists and art therapists around the U.S. about their experiences with compassion fatigue and how they still managed to cultivate vitality. Key figures in this process were art therapist pioneer and elder Maxine Junge and award-winning poet Rodger Kamenetz (The Jew in the Lotus,
1994) who took on mentor roles. Encouraged by these mentors, Hyatt made weekly contemplative art reflections and wrote a first draft of an unflinchingly honest compassion fatigue memoir. “Through memoir writing, I described with raw honesty personal traumas and my struggles as one of the first art therapists in Indiana,” she said. “This writing helped me let go of limiting patterns within my personal and professional life.” Hyatt also immersed herself in art-based meditation retreats, attended Kenyon College's Beyond Walls Spiritual Writing Conference, created art and hiked mountain trails in New Mexico, and practiced yoga in Costa Rica. “Each journey outside my comfort zone led serendipitously to people and resources I didn't know I needed, which catalyzed my renewal.”
Hyatt plans to continue logging her art therapy self-care. While some of the products of her experience will remain private (like the memoir), she intends to use her log to develop self-care workshops for other art therapists and to craft essays about art, healing, and compassion.