NewsBlog Fall, 2021

Contents: Use the cursor/hand to click on the section to jump to it

President’s Message
NorCATA Workshops
Regional Rep Series
Creative Submissions

Upcoming Workshop Register here!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Jen Bloomer, Amber Simmons, MFT and Stephanie Garma Balón, MA, AMFT

Co-Creating Anti-Racist Community

No seat limit!

In this workshop we will explore five ways to use the arts for anti-racist introspection and community change. We’ll share stories and examples of those who are doing this transformative work in the world. Time will be given to using the arts to reflect on our own journeys and to connect and share in small affinity groups. We will also engage in large group discussions focused on widespread change and building ongoing community. 

Jen Bloomer is an artist, facilitator, mama, and the founder of Radici Studios in San Francisco. For the past two decades, she has painted and taught art in California, Colorado, Guatemala, Kenya, Italy, Eritrea, Thailand, and India. Jen has a BA in Latin American Studies, a Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Painting, and a Masters Degree in Expressive Arts Therapy. She has created art with people aged 1 to 81 giving space for them to find their unique creative voice in the world through the arts. Jen’s own activist art can be seen in local murals, at marches for social justice around the country, and across social media. Her work has been shown internationally by Amplifier Art, and is included in the Library of Congress archive. Jen is a white woman married to an Eritrean/Italian man with whom she is raising two mixed race children. She believes that the intersection of creativity, connection, and community holds the answer to our personal and collective healing.

Amber Simmons MFT is a Black American mom, wife, spoken word artist, and therapist from Oakland, Ca. Amber received her Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Communications and Maters of Arts (MA) Degree in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Expressive Art Therapy. She has worked in the mental health field for over 10 years and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Amber is the co-Owner of Simmons&Simmons Wellness Center. Simmons&Simmons Wellness Center strives to support healing through various therapeutic and holistic approaches because they believe that every person is on a different life journey. Through the wellness center, Amber strives to make mental health services more readily available to those that need it, especially for folks from marginalized communities. Amber has had many opportunities to witness healing through art modalities with children, families, adults, and in group settings. Amber believes in using the arts as a processing tool to break down barriers, develop understanding, gain clarity, and find meaning in ones life.

Stephanie Garma Balón, MA, AMFT (she/her) is a second-generation Pinay-American, & proud Mama—born in SF, raised in Daly City/SF (Ohlone Land), and of Ilokano & Visayan decent. As an Expressive Arts Therapist at StarVista in Northern San Mateo County (SMC) providing individual and group therapy to youth, parents, and families, Stephanie leans on her belief in the transformative healing power of the arts. Her heartwork and hustle includes over 20 years of experience in health & human services, namely a community mental health advocacy background addressing health inequities amongst hxstorically marginalized populations. As Co-chair of the Filipino Mental Health Initiative of SMC, she co-founded the first social enterprise cultural center/cafe in North SMC (anticipated to break ground in 2022) that aims to increase access to culturally responsive mental health support and provide an intergenerationally engaging, healing & creative, gathering space for the Filipina/o/x community.


2021 NorCATA Board


This workshop is three hours long without a break and 3 CE hours can be obtained. Please note that breaks and meal breaks are not included in CE hours that can be obtained.

All workshops and conferences sponsored by NorCATA are accepted for continuing education by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). NorCATA has been approved by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) as an Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP 6832). Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified.

All courses meet the qualifications for 3 hours of continuing education credit (TBD) for Registered and Board Certified Art Therapists, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Educational Psychologists, and Other Mental Health Professionals as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. NorCATA is approved by the California Association for Marriage & Family Therapists (CAMFT provider number 57985) to sponsor continuing education for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs and LEPs. NorCATA maintains responsibility for this program/course and its content.

Activities such as breaks, meals, and/or casual receptions are not offered for continuing education credit.

It is each participant’s responsibility to determine whether her or his licensing or credentialing body will accept the continuing education units earned at NorCATA’s workshops and conferences. NorCATA continuing education is defined as the number of actual clock hours spent in direct participation in a structured educational format as a learner. ​

President’s Message, Fall 2021

By Fiona Ruddy

I am feeling excited and inspired after collaborating with my fellow NorCATA board members during our virtual retreat in August. The purpose of the retreat is for Board members to spend “time for brainstorming and envisioning our path forward for the next year.” AATA announced their new, including a new Mission Statement, Vision Statement and 5 Key Pillars that embody the goals of the organization. We are pleased that AATA has responded to members and prioritized diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Prior to our virtual retreat, NorCATA Board members were sent rocks and paint pens, and were invited to reflect upon the last very rocky year and make art inspired by thoughts about why we participate as board members, our challenges and successes, and which of the five pillars are most important to us. We reflected that often challenge begets success and we are proud that we have continued to provide quality workshops and our Regional Rep Series that provides our members with opportunities for self care and connection. We are excited about ideas for increasing the visibility of art therapy to undergraduates and the community at large, providing scholarships, and fostering a new relationship with Dominican University’s Art Therapy Program. A priority for our board is to increase diversity and we strongly encourage our members that represent marginalized populations to consider serving on the board and/or becoming more involved. 

We have sent out a call for volunteers for the nominating committee and for members interested in serving on the Board in 2022. I’d like to again personally invite all members to get involved with NorCATA, whether it’s joining a committee or our Board, attending a Regional Rep Series Event or our quarterly programs, or offering to write an article for our newsblog. Make an impact, we would love to hear from you!
Contacts are at

NorCATA Spring 2021 Workshop

Art Therapy and Chronic Pain: Making the Transition to an Online Interdisciplinary Outpatient Program,
presented by Christine Hirabayashi, Ph.D, LMFT, ATR-BC

By Dr. Victoria de los Santos Mycue

The NorCATA Spring Workshop took place on Sunday April 18, 2021, where around twenty-five Northern California art therapists attended a Zoom presentation on managing chronic pain by Dr. Christine Hirabayashi.  Dr. Hirabayashi was in the first cohort of Ph.D students at Notre Dame de Namur University; she also holds a Master of Arts in Marital and Family therapy with an emphasis in art therapy, a License in Marriage and Family Therapy, and is Board Certified in Art Therapy. Since 2004, Dr. Hirabayashi has worked for a medical interdisciplinary clinic known as Integrated Pain Management (IPM), where she helps injured workers learn to manage their pain and return to their fullest functioning capacity. Not all IPM centers have an art therapy program, but at the IPM in Los Gatos, Dr. Hirabayashi facilitates art therapy groups in a Functional Restoration Program (FRP) that helps participants develop the psychological flexibility necessary to accept their pain and live more fully in the present moment. Over the past year (2020-2021), Dr. Hirabayashi effectively transitioned to telehealth during the height of the pandemic in order to deliver art therapy via Zoom in the FRP and aftercare programs at IPM.

This NorCATA workshop was organized into three parts, each taking about an hour. The first part offered an overview of chronic pain from both a biomedical model and the more current biopsychosocial model. Dr. Hirabayashi defined the treatment at IPM as an integrated approach called functional restoration, where patients are encouraged to learn non-pharmacological approaches to manage pain, improve fitness, and increase emotional well-being while moving toward achievable goals. Dr. Hirabayashi carefully braids acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) alongside the tenets of functional restoration and art therapy to create healing workshops that are embraced by her clients. In one particularly striking example, clients use simple paper pulp masks to depict the stark differences between their external experience (depicting what others see) and their internal experience (of enduring physical pain). The clients used paint along side such varied collage material as children’s toys, crumpled papers, and images of Japanese anime characters.

Another interesting aspect of Dr. Hirabayashi’s workshop was seeing how client art changes over time, which Dr. Hirabayashi demonstrated in depth through a case study during the second part of the presentation. As treatment commences, a suicidally depressed injured veterinarian draws a half-dead tree broken and torn in the trunk as a metaphor for herself. She later redraws the tree, explaining the first one did not fully and accurately represent her; the second one has green leaves, a solid trunk, and a community of other trees nearby. The client notes the importance of including other trees because it is her close friends that have helped her (and encouraged her to attend the art therapy group). Through the process of making a mask and looking at different aspects of her identity, the client becomes aware of how her perfectionism and rigid thinking has further inflamed her depression and her pain. Toward the end of her treatment, the client voices the capacity to look reflectively at her own process, both through her art and through talking with Dr. Hirabayashi. This skill is known as self as context, and is one of six key cornerstone skills that are defined as goals in the ACT approach used at IPM.

During the last part of the workshop, Dr. Hirabayashi encouraged us to turn our focus inward and review our own self-care efforts using an art directive she credited to learning from Dr. Arnell Etherington. We began by drawing, coloring or painting an apple, and were then asked to identify three things that we are doing for self-care and write them in the center of the apple. We were asked to add a checkmark by those self-care acts that we are practicing daily. Outside of the apple, it was suggested to write down recommendations we give to others about self-care practices they might incorporate. Then, after reviewing these recommendations, we identified and circled one action that we suggest to others that we feel the most resistant to incorporating into our own lives. Finally, looking at these lists, we were encouraged to find one thing we want to integrate into our apple of self-care practices during the upcoming week. Once this was established, the group was divided into pairs and we zoomed off to discuss this exercise with each other and share our artwork. The goodbye to this well-crafted seminar involved sharing in the larger group what we had discussed in the small groups. Ending with the self-care apple exercise and the personal exchange with a fellow art therapist had an equanimous effect on participants; gently a wave of well-being and sense of mastery moved over us, perhaps as gently and carefully as Dr. Hirabayashi weaves hope and healing into her daily work with chronic pain survivors.    

Dr. Christine Hirabayashi can be contacted at:

Dr. Victoria de los Santos Mycue can be contacted at:

Regional Rep Series

By Jane Vogel-Riley LPCC, ATR-BC, NorCATA Regional Rep, Sonoma County

It was my delight to meet all who participated in the June 27 NorCATA Regional Event gathering on Zoom, where I shared my enthusiasm for the Art Therapy Scribble Process. I’m heartened by your kindly feedback and would like to express my gratitude to all who took part in, what for me, was a uniquely treasured occasion. Since the event, I’ve received the following generous responses:

“Much appreciation for your guidance with us today”

“Thanks for the Scribble, very grounding and supportive of process, truly helpful”

“Thank you, thank you, that was relaxing and nice; my son was offscreen, but he joined in too. Honestly, the best part of it was the fact that I didn’t have to think. I took a brain break so it was just choice in that moment to be present with the group”

“Thank you for this morning, a swell reminder of the depth of this deceptively ‘simple’ intervention”

“I had a wonderful experience at our meeting. I appreciated the opening check-in during which we thought about our day and took a quiet moment to sense an associated color, which allowed us to reflect on and share what that color meant to us. I had done scribble drawings before, but never been guided to connect with the paper prior to scribbling, and the sensory experience of feeling its texture, edges and pressure on the table allowed me to be more present and mindful of my experience”

By Kayla Ormandy

My art: The Fox and The Raven. The two guiding images that are helping me to steep in the feelings of being in community. 

Settling into community once more, this August 22nd we met for an hour of open drawing for our Regional Representative Series. There were two central themes that came up in our peaceful time together: the importance of making art in the company of others, and the calling forth of a gentler way of holding ourselves. 

We each identified the difficulties behind us, and some of the hope in front of us. The space of making art together was a sacred pause between the moments. A pause after the business and exhaustion. A pause before “the new dawn” (which was echoed by a number of participants).

In our own ways, we were called into creating art that held secret messages about what we are holding that is keeping that flame of hope alive in each of us. The flame that is calling us nearer to patience, gentleness, and rest. Resting quietly before our next big projects. Being in the presence of these wonderful art therapists, while getting to hear the insights from a deeper level within myself, was truly food for my soul. 

Healing Community Art for Napa Psychiatric Hospital

Calling all heart-makers and change-makers!

NorCATA member Tracy Ferron and her Life on Earth Art team are enlisting artists, art therapists and community groups to collaborate on Unbound, a four-month healing community arts project and installation to begin November, 2021 at one of California’s largest psychiatric hospitals, Department of State Hospitals (DSH)-Napa. 

Unbound is a 60-foot sculpture of hundreds of papier-mâché winged hearts flying free from an antique birdcage. As the hearts fly from the cage, they grow ever larger, from six inches to nine feet, expanding and becoming more expressive. These hearts will be made by DSH-Napa patients, staff and outside community groups. This visceral artwork expresses our collective desire as human beings, for liberation, for beauty and connection.

In collaboration with the DSH-Napa Rehabilitation Services Department, headed by Camille Gentry, RTC, the project involves a team of rehabilitation and art therapists and four months of programming for hundreds of patients and staff, integrating other modalities such as music, movement, poetry and spoken word. The installation expands and grows over the four months as hearts are produced and hung on the sculpture. 

Evan Graff MA, ATR, an Art Therapist at DSH-Napa, proposed the project to the hospital and sees it as “offering hope, resilience and faith” to the hospital community as they recover from the isolation and difficulties of the past year. The project aims to increase compassion and decrease stigma around issues of mental health in our community.

Ferron states, “The intention of the project is for compassion and a sense of connection, of our common humanity, to ripple out as an antidote to the fear and division plaguing our society. It is my belief that personal healing, the forging of a robust social fabric and creating a just world are all intimately interwoven.” 

Bring heart-making to your community! Hundreds of winged hearts need to be pre-made for patients to paint. Community participants can also make and paint their own winged heart to be included as part of the exhibit. Life on Earth Art offers workshops and heart-making at their new studio in downtown Petaluma, and is coordinating school and community groups in Northern California. Tracy invites interested artists and art therapists to collaborate and explore how this modality can best be used for catalytic personal and community healing. 

Petaluma community heart-making with Life on Earth Art.  Please note that the following images are not associated with DSH-Napa, their patients and/or its employees.

Unable to make hearts? Please consider a tax-deductible donation in support of the project at

To get involved, please see or contact Tracy Ferron at or 415-755-7033.

Legislative News

SCR-60 Art Therapy Week of Civic Engagement

SCR60 did not pass the legislature. A stack of bills was left unheard in the Assembly and were not voted on before the legislative deadline and recess.—Robin Valicenti


“I am Lisa Sniderman, an award-winning artist battling chronic illness for 13 years. I created a powerful spoken word audiobook: “The Grieving Project” that sets the stages of grief to music, and secured a grant to donate the CD to music, art therapy and child life programs at hospitals, institutions and mental health/health organizations in the United States. I am seeking art therapists who are interested in receiving a FREE CD and using expressive art and music to engage their chronic illness community clients and patients to help them grieve and thrive. If interested, please contact Thank you!”