The Whole Truth: Coping Creatively with the Dark Side of Therapeutic Practice

The Whole Truth: Coping Creatively with the Dark Side of Therapeutic Practice

by Lisa Mitchell

A therapist reflects upon the dark side of the profession—stress, anxiety, and burnout—and offers helpful insights as well as activities for combating these negative states using professional community building and art making.
We are sitting down to dinner, like we do every night. My oldest son, home briefly from college, has reclaimed his seat to the left of me. Across from me sit my other two children, sweaty and satisfied by their after-school sports practices. The four of us chirp out a collective, “Thank you,” to my husband, the cook, for such a good dinner. We eat and talk and wind down our day.
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© LLC. Images © Lisa Mitchell.
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Lisa MitchellLisa Mitchell, MFT, ATR, is the owner and director of The Art Therapy Studio in Fair Oaks, California. For the last 20 years, with the use of art, she has helped adolescent and adult clients discover their own expressive voices and recover from depression, anxiety and trauma. She’s taught over a thousand therapists to use art to reconnect with passion for their lives and work, find alternate ways to communicate with self and clients, and to explore the ways in which their profession affects their lives. Her forthcoming book, Inner Canvas: Artful Self-Reflection for Therapists and Coaches, will highlight the therapeutic process as a creative process and offer a multitude of art invitations designed to inspire and sustain the beautiful work that therapists and coaches do. Lisa lives in Carmichael, CA with husband and kids and various artistic pets, some of which include cackling roosters. She can be contacted at (916) 276-0455 or
This is a thoughtful and accurate image of our lives as art therapists and mental health counselors. Lisa provides a cogent reflection, many academic resources, and her own brilliant ideas for navigating the shadow/light in which we all spend time. Much gratitude and appreciation for your article.
Susan Boyes, ATR-BC, LPC
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Examine the complex relationship between therapist satisfaction and self-doubt
  • Discover new frameworks for coping with work-related stress
  • Develop strategies for managing difficult feelings using artistic expression
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