Name: Pamela M Hayes
Licensing Info: California LMFT, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, ATR-BC, Board Certified Art Therapist (#97-055)
Where you live: Los Angeles, CA
Hometown: Shaker Heights, OH
Amount of time working at Talkspace: eight months
Time spent working as a therapist: 24 years
Why are you working in therapy/mental health?
I consider myself an artist and always have. I was first introduced to the idea of Art Therapy when I was a teenager. I have always been artistic, and my high school art teacher, Mr. Hoffman, took our entire class on a field trip. He brought us to a gallery exhibit of artwork, not by artists, but by people suffering from migraine headaches. The creative representation of their pain entranced me. It never before occurred to me that art and medicine could be so interwoven.
I continued my artistic path to Parsons School of Design in NYC — where I had dreams of a career as a graphic designer — but I remained interested in the idea of “art as therapeutic.” I fell in love with painting, drawing and sculpting, so I abandoned my commercial art pursuit, and completed my studies as a fine artist.
After graduating with a BFA, it occurred to me that I had set myself up to live the life of a “starving artist,” something that made me a little nervous. Still, I worked in galleries in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. For a few years I even worked in art restoration.
As a Christmas gift one year, my roommate gave me a calendar featuring artwork psychiatric patients had created. This simple appointment book reignited my original interest in Art Therapy – even though, at this point, I had no idea this was an actual field of study or a feasible career.
On the back of this calendar was a name and number. I took a risk and called. I said, “I want to do what you do. How do I do that?”
The woman on the other end of the line graciously introduced to me the world of Art Therapy. Within a week, I quit my gallery job, applied to Notre Dame de Namur University’s Art Therapy graduate program and, after almost 25 years in this field, I have never been disappointed with that choice. I love using a creative language to guide my clients through their journey of self-discovery and self-improvement.
What made you start working at Talkspace?
Staying on top of innovative psychology and technology is critical to me. When I first read about Talkspace, my first thought was, “This is an important shift in mental health services, and I want to be a part of it.” I have been facilitating webinars and online therapy and supervision for almost 10 years, so being involved in Talkspace made sense to me.
In addition to my work at Talkspace, I travel throughout the world facilitating seminars and workshops on Art Therapy. Talkspace fits into my schedule. I can stay connected to my clients while I am in a hotel or on the airplane, and they do not have to wait a week or more for me to return to my office in Los Angeles.
What has made you feel the most pride in your work at Talkspace?
As a therapist, a parent and a person, I have experienced the limitations the traditional mental health field has created. It can be expensive, inconvenient and can carry a stigma.
Talkspace has removed all those aspects and retained the essential component of one-on-one, personalized therapy from experienced and licensed therapists. I am proud to be a part of that.
I am excited to be working with people from all over the world who may not have access to the specific type of therapist they need. I feel good knowing my clients on Talkspace can reach out to me and get a response when they need it, and not have to wait a week or more to address their concerns.
Do you have any special credentials, specializations or modalities you use as a therapist? How do they complement your work as a whole?
Besides being licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I am also a Board Certified Art Therapist. With traditional talk therapy, words are our primary method of communication, but often words cannot express the complexity of our internal and emotional lives.
The process of art-making provides us with a means to our subconscious that is unrefined and uncensored. I have my clients draw, paint, collage and sculpt as another means of communication. I have been able to continue this work with my clients here at Talkspace. I will give my client an art directive and they will draw or paint at home, send me a photograph of what they made and then we will discuss the relevance and what their art ultimately reveals.
Often times, at first my clients might feel scared or intimidated that they are not “artistic,” so I tell them, “You don’t have to be good, you only have to be willing.” I have found this allows my clients to go deeper with their therapeutic work and ultimately bring them greater insight and growth.
In addition to the Art Therapy, I also specialize in working with LGBT clients as well as anyone struggling with sexuality shame/acceptance and alternative lifestyle, such as polyamory, open relationships, BDSM and kink. Many clients might not have access to a therapist who can address these issues.
Talkspace is a safe place for these populations. The text format allows my clients be honest and express themselves without having to look me in the eye. They will be honest and genuine much faster than in traditional face-to-face therapy.
Why is what you do important?
Everyone needs to be heard. Therapy has always been a catalyst to allow people to tell their stories, whether it is about a relationship, anxiety or goals in life.
We all have the same job during our lifetime, and that is to share with others. We each have a unique mission of sharing. Some share their money, some share their innovations and some share their empathy.
I feel what I do as a therapist, and especially as an Art Therapist, is share by guiding people to tap into their own creativity to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and how they relate to others. In that way my clients can get past their own fears and find their true way of giving back to others.
Can you think of a specific instance or moment in your work that was inspiring?
There are so many moments when I am inspired by my clients growth and personal insight, it is hard to only choose one. Nonetheless, I have been working with a female cisgender, lesbian client on Talkspace who inspired me recently.
When she came to me about six months ago, she was in an emotionally abusive relationship, struggling with alcoholism, depression and crippling anxiety, and self isolation. In the short time we have worked together, she has left that relationship, stopped drinking, exercises regularly and has connected with people on a whole new level.
Our work together has allowed her to change her perspective from “victim” to “student.” Each time life seems challenging, she is able to learn, change and grow from that experience. She has noticed that others respond differently to her because her intentions toward herself and others are different.
She recently saw her ex-girlfriend. The girlfriend tried to engage her with passive aggressive behavior, and my client did not get sucked into old patterns. She said to me, “I am thankful for this opportunity to interact with her. This is the first time I am seeing her, and I am really seeing the changes that I have made. I don’t want to rekindle this relationship, because I now realize we were never a good match. Even though this has been hard to go through, it led me to this positive place I am in now.”
I am inspired when others are able to shift their perspective, and let go of anger and fear.
If you had one piece of advice for a therapy-seeker, what would it be? Be specific.
Don’t be afraid! Therapy can be whatever you make it. If you want someone to listen to you or if you are looking for guidance and perspective, Talkspace is a safe, convenient and affordable option.
What do you do for fun?
I am also an artist (painting, drawing, collage, sculpture), a runner, a 2nd Dan Black Belt and the mother of two daughters (now in college) whom I homeschooled for the first 10 years of their lives. I love museums and being outdoors. Combining parenting, fine arts, teaching and Martial Arts has furthered my own understanding of discipline, focus, creativity, perspective and family dynamics.
I love to travel and learn. I travel around the world giving lectures and seminars on the power of Art Therapy. Check this video where I was making others happy with art.