Therapist helps Calgarians deal with trauma through art

Art Therapist: Jennifer Seniuk and her dog Frankie pose in Work Nicer Coworking/ Rail Yards in Calgary on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. Seniuk has been an art therapist for seven years. (Photo by Laura Horvat/The Press)

For nearly a decade, art therapist and counsellor Jennifer Seniuk has been helping people overcome mental health barriers through sessions of art therapy. 

The therapy involves the exploration of trauma or anxiety through art. It offers an alternative to speaking directly about difficult situations.

“The art is the language that we speak through,” said Seniuk.

“Instead of overwhelming them (clients) with information when they don’t have the words to explain how they’re feeling, we make art.”

Seniuk sees clients in-person at Vivid Psychology & Wellness, as well as through Belly Eye Art Therapy, which she founded in 2021. Art therapy sessions are open for teens, adults, and children. Seniuk offers her sessions in groups and regularly accepts invitations to events and retreats.

Even if there are language barriers, clients are often able to find common ground with Seniuk using art. 

“It does not matter what demographic you are or where you live,” she Seniuk. “The arts are a mutual ground. That way, we can communicate with one another.”

As well as painting or drawing, Seniuk offers activities such as using playdough or breaking paper to help clients express anger. No prior art skills are required in order to attend art therapy.

The creations are only examined by Seniuk if they hold a deeper meaning. 

“People think I am secretly judging them, but I am not,” she said. “There are just things that I am keeping as information.”

Seniuk also records podcasts that are available on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. This provides an option for clients who are unable to show up in-person for appointments.

Seniuk assists individuals who are hesitant to engage in art for different reasons. 

“So we talk about that,” she said. “Why is there resistance? Do you notice resistance in any other area of your life? How do you navigate that when you’re feeling resistance?”

“Is it fear? Is there shame coming up? Is there something else going on?”

Art therapy was not Seniuk’s first choice of career. While studying to become a high school teacher at the University of Lethbridge, Seniuk took art therapy in order to boost her GPA.

“I was like, ‘I’m good at art. That’d be great,’” Seniuk said. “I can easily boost my grades with that and it changed my life forever.”

Seniuk finished her studies in the U.S. and became a licensed art therapist. After returning to Calgary, she founded Belly Eye Art in 2021.

“I think that art therapy should get more recognition because it helps people in a way that I never thought was possible,” said client Branden Vicencio. 

Art therapy is a newer profession that not many people know of. Through Seniuk’s years of experience, she feels that art therapy improves the mental health of those individuals who attend her sessions. 

Art Therapist: Jennifer Seniuk and her dog Frankie pose in Work Nicer Coworking/ Rail Yards in Calgary on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. Seniuk has been an art therapist for seven years. (Photo by Laura Horvat/The Press)
About Laura Horvat 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Laura Horvat is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.