Arts and Entertainment

Art therapist focuses on healing through expression

Mayda Taney sits with her cat, Mortica, in her art therapy office in Federal Way. Taney uses art projects to help her clients deal with stress. - Kyra Low/The Mirror
Mayda Taney sits with her cat, Mortica, in her art therapy office in Federal Way. Taney uses art projects to help her clients deal with stress.
— image credit: Kyra Low/The Mirror

Sometimes, when the trauma is so bad, talking about it hurts.

Sometimes there are just no words to describe what happened. Sometimes it takes a drawing to let it all out.

This is where Federal Way resident Mayda Taney comes in.

Taney is a licensed mental health counselor and board-certified art therapist.

She treats a variety of patients of all age groups with a multitude of issues — and she does almost all of it with art.

"Art therapy allows them to express their feelings," Taney said. "On paper, it's more manageable. It's there instead of swirling in your head."

Taney works out of an office adjacent to her home. She uses several mediums with her clients, including torn paper collages, painting, coloring, masks and clay.

Taney works with all ages, from small children to adults. She also works with families.

She covers a range of illnesses including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, bereavement and attention deficit disorder.

After 17 years as a special education teacher, Taney switched to therapy. Taney often works with special needs students as well as their parents and teachers.

"Therapy doesn't have to be all, 'ugh,'" Taney said. "I try and temper it with fun, but we do go there."

One of the main principles of art therapy involves patients putting their feelings into the art.

"It's helping them take control of their grief," Taney said. "It keeps it from overwhelming them."

For Taney, the best part about her job is "when people begin to not hate me anymore" — and when they begin to have success in their life and start to laugh again.

"Watching people do art," she said. "You never know what is going to happen."

For more information or to contact Taney, visit

About art therapy

• Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages.

• Art therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.

• Art therapy integrates human development, visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture and other art forms) and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy.

• Art therapy is used with children, adolescents, adults, older adults, groups and families to assess and treat the following: Anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional problems and disorders; substance abuse and other addictions; family and relationship issues; abuse and domestic violence; social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness; trauma and loss; physical, cognitive, and neurological problems; and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness.

• Art therapy programs are found in a number of settings including hospitals, clinics, public and community agencies, wellness centers, educational institutions, businesses and private practices.

• Art therapists are masters-level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy or a related field. Educational requirements include: Theories of art therapy, counseling and psychotherapy; ethics and standards of practice; assessment and evaluation; individual, group and family techniques; human and creative development; multicultural issues; research methods; and practicum experiences in clinical, community, and/or other settings.

• Art therapists are skilled in the application of a variety of art modalities (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other media) for assessment and treatment.

Source: American Art Therapy Association

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