Kristin Schmidt found her way to art therapy after facing her own traumas

Many therapists discover their profession after seeing its benefits firsthand.
Kristin sitting at her desk

Many therapists discover their profession after seeing its benefits firsthand. Art therapist Kristin Schmidt is no different, and her personal experiences make a strong case for a discipline that’s become her career.

The Dodgeville native lost her beloved grandmother at 11 years old but did not take the time to process the loss. As an Edgewood College student, she found her way to an art therapy class that changed her life.

“On the first day the instructor told us to re-create a memory from our childhood,” says Schmidt, a partner in Creative Forces Therapy. “Suddenly I was at my grandmother’s farm again, in the field with the cows. I hung the picture that I created — a 9-inch-by-11-inch crayon drawing — in my dorm room and wound up changing my major to art therapy.”

Schmidt earned her master’s degree at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee. She met her husband in Platteville, where he went to college. He had a nephew with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a type of epilepsy, who was hospitalized in what was then American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison. He received physical and occupational therapy there.

“The family felt the therapy helped increase the child’s quality of life,” Schmidt says. “He was the inspiration for my thesis topic and research in grad school. I did work with two other children to conduct that research who were similar in age and diagnosis.”

Schmidt’s focus at Creative Forces Therapy, her private practice, includes kids with special needs.

Technically speaking, art therapy is far more than an intellectual or artistic exercise, which accounts for the strength of its influence, the therapist says.

“Art therapy is experience-based and sensory-based,” Schmidt explains. “When I meet with a client I first check their body cues to see where their emotions are that day. I then work to regulate their mental and emotional states so that they can find a level of calm and do some processing.

“If they can’t self-regulate, they may have to co-regulate with another person or an animal to reach that state of calm,” she adds. “A lot of people are seeking external sources of regulation these days by going into nature to find some level of calm.”

COVID-19 has increased interest in and the need for art therapy among various age groups, Schmidt says. Her client list has doubled and her waitlist has grown since the pandemic’s start.

“We’re all on an even playing field right now when it comes to pandemic exhaustion,” Schmidt explains. “We want to see that light at the end of this long, dark tunnel, but there is no light, which leads to increased anxieties.

“Creating art or employing some form of movement like yoga or dance can help us better find a state of calm,” she adds, “and that’s important for all of us right now.”

Read more about “The Healing Arts” here.

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