Monday, August 14, 2023

The Healing Power of Art

by Vanessa Mortillo, LPC

Making art is like giving a gift: evidence of your spirit and that you are here. – Patty Mitchel

I have long been fascinated with the ways that visual images offer new pathways of communication and a deeper way to learn about the self.  To give an example, I was recently with a client who was struggling with controlling anger. I prompted him to draw his anger as a creature. The client took to the page readily, intuitively sketching out an anger monster, and surrounding it with images from his life. What I did not expect was how this drawing led to a profound shift in his ability to control anger, and how the image said so much more than he had previously been able to put into words. The insights he gained from seeing it on the page, and the process of art-making itself, offered a new sense of freedom for him.

Making visual art may have helped my client in more ways than one. Art has many therapeutic applications, including art therapy, expressive arts therapy, and even hospital wellness programs.  Below are just a few of the myriad benefits employed by visual arts that can make a world of difference.

Externalizing the problem

Art can help us put our problems outside of ourselves. When we put feelings or thoughts into an image, we get separation from our struggles as well as a sense of perspective.  We start to see that our challenges do not define who we are. We get a bird’s eye view of the issues at hand. For some, drawing scary feelings — contained in the boundaries of a page — can create a manageable way of exploring traumas.


Doodlers and coloring book enthusiasts experience the relaxing qualities of moving pen, pencil, or paint brush across a page and adding calming colors. The process itself has been shown to have calming effects.

Another Way to Process

Art allows us to use metaphor and symbolism rather than words. Expressive Arts therapist Shaun McNiff writes, “The psychotherapeutic use of the arts offers an opportunity to integrate scientific knowledge about the psyche with the more imaginative and spiritual hemisphere of the mind, where the power to heal lies.” Because visual arts engage our sensory system and both sides of our brain, they offer another way to process our feelings and traumas, especially when we struggle to find words to express our emotions. Our artwork can also be a way to bring unconscious materials into the light of awareness. 

Intrigued? Already someone who enjoys creating or perhaps curious to see what you’d discover? I invite you to engage the healing power of visual art-making by exploring some of the activities in the links below or joining me for a new monthly offering of mindful art-making. Let’s create — together. 

Vanessa Mortillo, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in play therapy, mindfulness, and the use of art in play. She has worked with adults and children from a variety of backgrounds in home, school, and outpatient settings and is committed to advancing equity and social justice. She can be reached at 267-507-5793 or

Art Activity for Kids: Feelings Heart

by Elizabeth Campbell, MS, LPC, RPT-S

As a play therapist and a mother of two, I am often encouraging children to find ways to express their feelings.  Children’s language is play, so putting things into words can be a challenge.  Acting out a feeling with behavior or play and expressing it with creative arts give their feelings a release valve.  Below is an activity I use both in play therapy and at home to support kids in learning about and expressing their feelings.

Supplies needed:


Crayons, markers, or colored pencils

Scissors (optional)


Draw or cut out a heart.  Encourage the child to draw all of the feelings in their heart today in the heart using a different color for each feeling.  You may want to give examples about feelings in your heart that day (ie. I felt happy when I saw the sun shining, frustrated when I stubbed my toe).  Note that we all have feelings and they are ok.  

Elizabeth Campbell is a Licensed Profession Counselor who provides empowerment and strength-based support to individuals in personal growth and change.  She specializes in play therapy with children, support for Highly Sensitive adults and children, and EMDR using an integrative, mindful approach to address the whole individual and promote healing.  .If you would like to connect with Elizabeth, reach out at or 610-757-8163 or learn more at

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Conceptual Journey

by Michael Shapiro 

What is taken for granted?

What goes quicker than we thought?

What can be wasted the most?

What is something that is sought?

When younger can seem quite slow 

When older moves way too fast

Never have enough of it

For time isn't made to last

Perhaps taking a time out

Noticing the stars and moon

All the beauty in nature

Lovely scents of spring's first bloom

Spend more time with family

Tell your spouse how much you care

Be present with your children

Enjoy all the love you share

Why put off 'til tomorrow?

As there are no guarantees

Live each day to the fullest

Much joy in each day to seize

Michael Shapiro has been writing for two and a half years following the passing of his wife on December 14, 2020. He writes mainly poetry and has been part of the Philadelphia Writers Workshop for the past two-plus years. He has also self-published a book of poems (One Pen Two Hands One Heart One Soul) on Amazon. His biggest joy is writing as he feels his wife writes with him and they become one through the words.


by Lisa Ben-Shoshan

A warm sweater coat, wrapped around me like my grandmother's arms, flapping in the wind as I walk the streets to work. It's thick and long, and gathers leaves behind me, sweeping them under my booted feet as I hurry. The sleeves are overly long, dangling past my cold fingertips even though they are rolled up twice, for style. There are pockets hanging way down low, too low to be of any real use, for style again. It's all about style, isn't it? How we dress, what we choose to represent ourselves. Why put on a boring article of clothing, why buy it, even, if it isn't going to make you feel that you are in your element? So the long sweater coat, which is really something I would love to curl up with on the sofa at the end of the day, is more than my protection against the elements. It is a reminder of love, of grandma's sweaters she used to knit for me when I was young when she was still here, of the Afghans she knit which I still keep and pull out when I want to feel that sense of remembering, that sense of sorrow. How lucky am I to have these small reminders of what family is, almost like it has been captured in a poem or story. And how lucky am I that I can pass these things on to my children, like letting them read the story, and hopefully have them appreciate it as I do.  


Like my grandmother's arms, my time is a circle, I think, of time and family and love and remembering. Time, moving around the inside of my head marking the passing days and weeks and years, spinning now, spinning even faster as I get older. I hold onto the memories, I hoard the old sweaters and Afghan quilts, I hoard the letters and stories and photos and faces. I keep them in my mind, and I make the dead come to life again, or live still, in my mind. I delve into the memories of family, of my ancestors, searching for links through genealogy, connecting me to my past and theirs. I'm searching for a sense of continuity, of connection, a glimmer in an old photograph, faded and torn, which shows me that I have my great-great grandfather's eyes, that my son looks like my father, that the bits and pieces that make up all of us, our hair, our coloring, our skin and blood and bones, are more than pieces of DNA and dust. The things we remember, the pictures, the pieces of jewelry handed down, hearing my mother say I am just like my father—it is all part of who I am, and who I am is forever connected to the living pieces of everyone who has ever come before me. They live in me, in my mind, and so they never die.

Lisa Mellen Ben-Shoshan wrote and illustrated her first book, entitled “Valentine Wish” when she was in the first grade; the single edition was treasured by her parents. An avid journal keeper for many years, she parlayed her skills into a career in marketing communications. A positive outcome of her encounter with breast cancer set her on a path of investigating her family genealogy where she keeps the memories of everyone who came before her alive.

What is Fifteen Minutes?

by Rachel Kobin

Albert Einstein said, “Time only exists so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Until recently, I took this time-is-just-a-construct attitude so seriously that I thought fifteen minutes was not enough time to do anything “worthwhile.” Fifteen minutes at a time, I started finding it harder and harder to accomplish anything. I’d venture a guess that you may have had similar experiences. I hope, by the time you’ve finished reading this short article—less than fifteen minutes, I promise—you will feel inspired the next time you have fifteen minutes to spare. 


What do you do if you have fifteen minutes before the kids must be picked up, the laundry is dry, or before a meeting? I normally play Words with Friends or Solitaire or stare at the wall. That staring at the wall time serves as a meditation of sorts. As far as Words with Friends and Solitaire go, as Bertrand Russell said, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” But most of us have teetered on the tightrope between the lofty enjoyment of our free time and the descent down to the punishing pavement of procrastination. 


I cannot claim I haven’t lost my balance and gone splat! into the pavement of procrastination recently. Hell, because I procrastinated months ago, I was late getting to work on marketing The Philadelphia Writing Workshop’s summer offerings and writing this piece for the newsletter. However, I am getting better slowly, bit by bit and step by step. 


In fact, it all started with steps. I read about a reputable medical study that found walking for fifteen minutes after meals steadies blood sugar more effectively than one long walk. So, I started walking for fifteen minutes after meals, which means walking around my house in bad weather. Boring? Yes, but fifteen goes by quickly, and music, podcasts, audiobooks, and calls with friends help a lot. 


Since last August, after ten years of no regular exercise, I’ve taken hundreds of fifteen-minute walks. I’ve added bodyweight workouts, more vegetables, and more water. I’ve lost weight and inches, and parts of my body now sit higher than they were. 


Most importantly, my attitude toward fifteen minutes has changed. Now I look at that construct—that chunk of time—as substantial. In fact, I started a new workshop called Daily Writing Prompts, where participants write to a prompt for fifteen minutes every day and then send what they’ve written to a partner who gives them only positive feedback. It’s amazing how much you write when you’re consistently at it for even fifteen minutes a day. 


What is fifteen minutes? It’s the beginning of the present time. A present to you. The gift is wrapped beautifully with bows and ribbons. Unwrap it and choose your next move. What will you do with it? Take a bath because you’ve been rushing through life without giving yourself a break? Fantastic. Buy yourself a Ukulele and start lessons on YouTube. Splendid. The possibilities are as unlimited as your imagination. Enjoy.

Rachel Kobin is the Founder and Director of the Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop. She has facilitated creative writing workshops and provided editing and coaching services since 2011. Read her most recently published poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction in the anthology, Through the Looking Glass: Reflections on Madness and Chaos Within

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Funhouse Mirror Repair

by Brittiney George, BS, MST, ICI, CEIM 

The poem below is a love note generated from multitudes of conversations with myself and my clients and the struggle of thinking you need to be perfect in an imperfect world.  

Life can leave us feeling like we are looking at ourselves through a funhouse mirror.  Funhouse mirrors distort reality.  They shorten us, overextend us, pull us out of alignment and can leave us feeling unrecognizable sometimes even to ourselves.  

Maybe you have been caught in the funhouse mirror room and didn’t realize it.  

This poem is for you.  It’s for me.  It’s for all of us.  

Funhouse Mirror Repair 

by Brittiney George

I am not going to apologize for myself anymore.

Who I am.

What I wear.

How I look.

How much I feel.

The energy I have available.

That is the equivalent of amputating a piece of who I am to make you feel more whole.

I will assist you, but I will not amputate any part of myself for you.

I am meant to live.

I am meant to live well.

So are you, and that won't happen by taking a piece of me.

From this point forward, I choose to remain not perfect,

I choose to remain intact.

I align with the core of me.

My core’s reflection is clear and it refuses to be altered by any funhouse mirror.

Brittiney George, BS, MST, ICI, CEIM, is a Master Somatic Therapist and Movement Practitioner specializing in Transformative Touch.  She is also the creator of the online comic  Her areas of specialty include working with highly sensitive persons (HSP’s), and helping people find movement when they feel bogged down by life.  Contact Brittiney at 610-389-7866 or  

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Nature Heals

by Therese Daniels, LPC, Certified Nature Informed Therapist

My love for nature and the outdoors began in my childhood — climbing the trees of the local parks, playing hopscotch on the streets in my neighborhood, catching minnows in the nearby stream, and going on countless picnics and hikes with family members. I did not fully recognize the healing aspects of nature until adulthood; it wasn’t until then that I was able to look back and identify the numerous times nature had been an emotional healer for me. Three moments really stand out in my memory. The first time was on a hike with my aunt in the Poconos Mountains when I was nine years old.  The hike was known for having a big waterfall along the way, and waterfalls were my favorite. Well, I fell within the first 5 minutes of the hike and scraped my knee pretty badly. My Aunt offered to turn around and head out, but after a few moments of letting the tears flow, I recall imagining the sound and the vast image of the waterfall, and I breathed in the fresh scent of the pine trees surrounding me. Then I picked myself up and hiked on to find that beauty — and it was well worth it. Nature gave me strength and courage.

The second big occurrence was the summer after I graduated from college. I decided to do some traveling, so I headed out West and landed in Wyoming — living and working in Grand Teton National Park for about 3 months. A small blip of time, but a life-shifting blip of time for me. Something that had dimmed and shut down inside of me during college, and it was re-lit and opened up. Within 48 hours of parking my car in Wyoming, I reconnected with my clarity about who I am and regained my confidence. I had never felt more myself than I did amidst those mountains. Nature gave me a renewed sense of self and courage.

The third memorable experience was in the summer of 2017 when I volunteered for Ronald McDonald Camp for the first time. The camp is held for children who have cancer (or who are in remission from cancer) and their siblings. At the time, I had been going through some things in my personal life that I considered difficult. Being in the middle of the woods with like-minded souls, in rustic cabins facing the elements of nature, with these beautiful, resilient, grateful children was eye-opening and perspective-shifting. The pure joy in these children’s faces, while getting to do the things that “normal” kids get to do all of the time, was nothing short of extraordinary. The conversations that formed naturally while walking from the cabins to the lake to the dining hall were deep and meaningful. It was then that I realized that I had a strong desire to combine my love of nature with my passion for my counseling career. This is where I belonged. Nature gave me motivation, new perspective, and the experience of pure joy.

Nature heals. Just being in nature and breathing in fresh air for as little as five minutes has been shown to lower heart rate, stabilize blood pressure, and decrease the production of stress hormones. A study done by Robert Ulrich in 1984 found that patients recovering from surgery who had bedside windows looking out on leafy trees, healed on average a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication, and had fewer post-surgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall. These are just a few of the numerous facts out there that identify the healing aspects of nature. People have generally become more “heads down” than “heads up,” constantly scrolling through social media, “snapping” friends, sending group texts, sorting emails, etc.… instead of looking up at the sky, admiring the trees, naming the shapes in the clouds, and counting the stars. It is believed that one of the reasons nature is so beneficial to our physical and psychological well-being is rooted in our biology. Our ancestors evolved in wild settings and relied on the environment for survival, so we have an innate drive to connect with nature. Being in nature regulates and resets our nervous system to its true natural state, free from all of the distractions of our modern world. So, I encourage you to get back outside, soak in the beauty and benefits of the outdoors, and get back to your roots!  Here's How:


The term re-wilding in relation to humans means to revert to a natural or untamed state of being. It is the process of reawakening our connection to nature and unearthing a more true, more wild, more holistic way of life that centers around nature and simplistic living. Some of the simplest ways you can do this are to go barefoot and sit on the ground. Take off your shoes and walk in the grass, dirt, or sand. Put away the picnic blanket and sit straight on the earth and feel the grass on your skin. And just breathe.

Sit Spot

Go for a short walk and find an easily accessible spot in nature where you can sit for at least 10 minutes a day. It can be under a tree, by a stream, on a park bench, or in your own backyard. It is best if it can be somewhere you can access easily, so it can be part of your daily routine (or as many days of the week as possible). Sit for 10-30 minutes and read a book, write in a journal, meditate, or simply breath. Use your senses to absorb the environment surrounding you.

Nature heals! Summer is approaching so get out there and take advantage of the medicine that is right at our fingertips whenever we want it!

Therese M. Daniels, MA, LPC has been in the mental health field for 20 years. She provides individual, couples, and family counseling for children, teens, and adults. She offers regular nature walks to introduce people to nature-informed therapy — and believes in the power of nature to support healing. She specializes in anxiety, depression, self-esteem, life transitions, and more. Learn more at / and Contact her at or 410-919-9673.