Second Lady Karen Pence visits Tallahassee

By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 18, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Second Lady of the United States was in Tallahassee Wednesday, spotlighting art therapy and how it can save lives.

She also announced her art therapy initiative, "Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART."

Lisa Strope says she's been struggling with an eating disorder for more than 27 years.

She's a client at Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center. This is her fourth time in a residential treatment center.

Strope participates in the art therapy program. "I'm learning a lot more this time; discovering more about myself. I'm really enjoying the activities and programs that we do here," she said.

Second Lady Pence visited Canopy Cove to learn more about the program.

"Art therapy is changing lives and it is saving lives," Pence said.

Pence also visited FSU to roll out her initiative.

She emphasized how art therapy can help struggling teens, grieving families, to those with autism, eating disorders, or PTSD.

"I have heard some incredible stories. Like the one of a soldier who told me that art therapy helped bring him out of a dark place. He said, 'I don't go to that dark place anymore.' He was a soldier who worked with clay," Pence explained.

Pence's initiative goals are:

  • To elevate the profession so that people understand that art therapy is a mental health profession, and not arts and crafts.
  • To help people understand that art therapy is an option for various conditions, illnesses, and life experiences.
  • To encourage young people to go into the profession.

    Pence, a former elementary school teacher and a watercolor artist with a Master’s degree in art education, is committed to educating the public about this mental health profession.

    “I chose one initiative to champion, and it is art therapy, which is near and dear to my heart,” said Mrs. Pence. “It is evident when I visit art therapy programs across the United States and world, that art therapy is making a positive difference. Unfortunately, art therapy is not well-known, but I hope to change that.”

    ​​​The American Art Therapy Association joined the Second Lady and other champions of art therapy.

    Rachel Nelms says she discovered art therapy at age 16. She's now a doctoral candidate at FSU.

    She said, "One of the best parts about being an art therapist is it's not about my personal identity. It's the willingness to bear witness to other people's stories, as Mrs. Pence stated, when they're at their lowest points in their life."

    Pence chose FSU to announce her initiative because of the program's national and international acclaim. FSU is one of only five programs nationwide that offers a doctoral program in art therapy.

    The FSU Art Therapy master's program, which attracts students from all regions of the country and the world, boasts a more than 90 percent job placement rate within three to six months of graduation.

    Second Lady Pence will be blogging her visits across the country on art therapy. They can be found on the White House website.

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