Art therapists help patients express feelings without words

When it comes to therapy, a picture may well be worth 1,000 words.

Eden Pastor is one of just a handful of licensed art therapists in Southern Nevada, and she has worked with multiple children’s centers and addiction centers. She has her own practice that operates out of a space in The Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston Blvd.

“In a lot of cases, people might not even know what they’re experiencing internally, so it’s hard for them to express it with words,” Pastor said. “For some people, if I give them a pen or paint, they can draw or paint what they are feeling more easily.”

Pastor’s sessions are private, as most therapy sessions are, and to a fly on the wall, what she does with her patients might look like art lessons, but behind the drawing, painting and sculpting, there’s a lot going on.

“Art therapy is an application of the creative process and visual art that is shared within a therapeutic relationship,” Pastor said. “I’ve been able to apply art therapy to addiction issues, life transitions, and a lot of other issues. It helps improve any psychological, social, physical, cognitive or spiritual health issue that an individual might be facing.”

Pastor did her graduate work in Boulder, Colo., a town she says is oversaturated with art therapists. In the Las Vegas area, she believes there are fewer than 10, although there are more than that who she said use the term erroneously.

“Some people think art therapy is something you do alone or something anyone who does art can do,” Pastor said. “I have a clinical psychology background as well as an art therapy degree. I’m actually called an art psychotherapist.”

While the emphasis is on therapeutic and psychological aspects of an interaction with a patient, her training includes a large portion of practical art technique. She explained that an art therapist needs to know how each material works because each material has its own unique qualities and applications.

“For example, watercolors are very difficult to control,” Pastor said. “If I’m working with someone who is at a particular place in their life where they’re feeling a lot of chaos and loss of control, I may not want to have them work with watercolors at that point. I might have them work with a material that emphasizes more fine motor control, like colored pencils or pen and ink, so they feel more in control.”

Her clients find the process more effective and less intimidating than traditional therapy.

“I’ve had a few therapists, but Eden was the first who can keep up with me and understands me,” said a 15-year-old girl who has been working with Pastor for a year. “She makes me do art even on days when I’m not feeling it, and it always feels helpful.”

The girl’s mother said that her daughter had a hard time talking to people and discovered Pastor and art therapy at the same time while looking for an alternative form of therapy for her.

“Because she’s working on the art and she’s focused on that, she’s more relaxed and can open up more,” the mother said. “She isn’t on a couch being asked questions; she’s actively doing something and expressing herself verbally and through the art. She doesn’t think of herself as a visual artist, but she’s created some very interesting art during the sessions.”

Pastor said that the art and the therapy go hand-in-hand. While there are times where working on the art allows her clients to relax and open up about their issues, there are other times when the solutions happen silently.

“Sometimes the therapeutic experience happens when I’m just there to bear witness,” Pastor said. “Sometimes, we don’t need words to heal.”

Individual sessions are $100 for 50 minutes and $150 for 80 minutes. Couples/family counseling sessions are $125 for 50 minutes and $175 for 80 minutes. A sliding scale is available for a limited number of clients depending on individual circumstances and need.

Payments accepted are cash or check. Insurance is not accepted.

Visit, email or call 702-595-6818.

— To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email or call 702-380-4532.

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