How can I work in alignment with my authentic self while serving others?
What’s it actually like to be an Art Therapist?
How do I create a solid foundation in myself so that I can truly hold space for my clients?
If you’ve ever considered a career in a healing profession, you might have wondered these questions too. Students of Naropa’s clinical mental health counseling programs live unique experiences—weaving transpersonal mindfulness practices and experiential counseling methods together to create a strong foundation in their counseling career. When they graduate, many extend compassion and contemplative-based practices into their careers as tools for themselves and clients.
One such alumnx, Kate King, recently spoke with Kelly Watt, Senior Director of Admissions and Alumnx Relations, and Olivia Phipps, Graduate Admissions Counselor, about her experiences as a therapist after her time at Naropa.
Kate graduated from Naropa’s Transpersonal Counseling Psychology: Art Therapy program in 2010. She’s gone on to build a private practice, author two books, and is now a public speaker and workshop facilitator. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified, Registered Art Therapist. Her most recent book, “The Radiant Life Project: Awaken Your Purpose, Heal Your Past, and Transform Your Future,” is a portal to exploring the self.
Her story is one of compassion for self and others. After graduating from Naropa and working as the Academic Advisor for the graduate art therapy program, Kate worked diligently to create a highly successful private counseling practice. By modern-day metrics of success, she thought she had it all. And yet, in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kate found herself in a place of burn-out and great contemplation. She recalled a time in one of her classes at Naropa, where students were asked to create a piece of art and after their creation they tore it all apart. Then, they were asked to create something new from these pieces.
During the pandemic, she realized it was time to disassemble and reassemble so that she could align with the here and now. She decided to do something fairly radical in the eyes of her helping profession: take a sabbatical. With all the work that goes into building a steady client base for a successful private practice, taking time away is usually an unpopular decision. And yet, she knew the importance of taking time for yourself as a guide of others’ healing work. And so, she found a supportive network for herself – one that included friends from her Naropa cohort – and took a break from her private practice.
She described it herself as a time of reintegration: “We’re going to reintegrate all these pieces and parts, and we’re going to come back in a way that’s stronger and more vibrant, more accessible, more willing – and from that place, that’s how we’re going to make our impact in the world.”
She allowed herself to disassemble that which she had poured so much energy into. She helped her existing clients find therapists to work with, and out of the pieces of her practice, she formed something new. She tended to her health and her inner fire, and worked to get clear and align with what actually wanted to express through her, which allowed her energy to flow into a new book: The Radiant Life Project: Awaken Your Purpose, Heal Your Past, and Transform Your Future.
In this book, she guides others in how to to honor the pilot light within and allow it to ripple into the world. The book offers a path of compassion for oneself while also doing the inner work. Each chapter is a new portal, allowing you to examine, heal and inhabit different times of your life. She imagines it as a book to keep as a companion throughout your life, referencing it at different touchpoints along your life path.
Through an artful approach to healing, Kate now has returned as an Art Therapist and Radiant Life Coach. She’s blending soul-work with practical tools by hosting retreats & workshops, offering individual Radiant Life Coaching sessions, and guiding meaningful inner work. Her coaching modalities include body-centered and somatic work, art therapy, and meditation & healing imagery. All her work and writing is steeped in creativity, support, and magic.
She says of this new way of working: “Now, my work is less on what’s wrong with you, it’s more on what’s right with you. It’s surrounded around your own pilot light inside of yourself and fanning it and letting it shine. Noticing when it’s burning low and nourishing it with all the resources and the strengths-based inner structure that we have to support ourselves. So that when our pilot light can burn strongly, we can impact huge growth, healing, and change in ourselves. And from that place, even without trying, it ripples out beyond us. We can positively impact the lives of our families, our communities, and our the world at large. We can only do that when our inner pilot light is burning strong.”
Her time at Naropa was foundational to the work that she is now bringing into the world. As a student, she was part of a small cohort of students where they learned the skillset of how to sit with anything. She experienced a depth in herself through the transpersonal work and art therapy modalities, and her time in the program created a broad and deep threshold where she now feels able to meet clients in any dark places that they’re coming from.
Of Naropa’s counseling programs, the Transpersonal Art Therapy concentration especially encourages art and creativity as a tool. The art-making process can provide meaning-making, not just a cathartic experience. Kate refers to it as a backdoor into the psyche, allowing individuals to access their experiences in a completely different dimension.
And – the process is not just for those in the client role. Therapists can thoroughly benefit from taking an artful approach to self-reflective practices, fully nurturing the cultivation of their own mind-body-heart connection. As therapists do their inner work, they can have a greater capacity for sitting with others. She encourages The Radiant Life Project to be explored by everyone—it guides readers through a container of support so that they can fully engage in deep, transformational work.
Kate puts it best: “I, as the therapist, have to be in a healthy place if I’m going to be the greatest, highest, healer that I can possibly be.”
Post Author: Olivia Phipps, Graduate Admissions Counselor