Community//

Lindsay Lederman of ‘The Art Therapy Project’: “Doing art is a practice that allows me to get outside of my head and connect with my mind and body”

I think being in tune with your body, recognizing burnout and stress, and finding a creative outlet are all habits that work for me and my emotional wellness. When things get out of balance, it becomes so hard to know what we are feeling, why we are feeling it and how to manage those feelings. […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I think being in tune with your body, recognizing burnout and stress, and finding a creative outlet are all habits that work for me and my emotional wellness. When things get out of balance, it becomes so hard to know what we are feeling, why we are feeling it and how to manage those feelings. Sometimes our body gives us cues — headaches, clenched fists, holding our breath. So getting in touch with those sensations can help us recognize that something might be worth looking into that might not be going right. This leads me to recognizing burnout. If we give and give without taking time for self-care, it just lands us in the position of being unable to be helpful anymore. Making sure we include self-care in our routines allows space to support others we care about.


Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingLindsay (Lederman) Rosenberg.

Lindsay (Lederman) Rosenberg, ATR-BC, LCAT, ATCS is the Clinical Director of The Art Therapy Project (TATP) and has dedicated her career to bringing art therapy to children, adolescents, and adults who are most in need. Her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and her Masters degree from the School of Visual Arts, Art Therapy Program, have provided her with a strong foundation both in and out of the classroom. Lindsay began her career at St. Luke’s — Roosevelt, as the first art therapist in its child and family outpatient clinic. She went on to join CARES, its adolescent day program, and just prior to joining TATP, started the first art therapy program for Nemours Hospital for Children. Lindsay is a dedicated supervisor, therapist, presenter and leader. She has a passion for sharing her belief in the power of art therapy to help those who have endured trauma.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in the New York City area and always knew I wanted to help others. I remember a day driving with my mother to the doctor after I had dislocated my elbow. I was in pain, staring out the window, and saw a young homeless man on the side of the road. I turned to my mother to ask if we could stop to help him and she told me that we had to take care of me before we could help anyone else. This stuck with me over the years on my path to becoming an art therapist. Many of us are “wounded healers” who have experienced our own traumas and issues and, in a sense, wish to pay it forward by training and learning to help others. I learned quickly that I had to work through my past in order to become a good art therapist. My past has informed me — my training helped me manage that past and use it to become an empathetic, strength-focused art therapist.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I always wanted to be in the helping profession. When I dropped out of a pre-med program, I found psychology. After graduating I found a few odd jobs, but nothing that seemed to fit just right. I ended up taking art classes — art being only a hobby at that point — and one of my professors commented that my artwork was “emotional” and asked if I had ever heard of art therapy. This was in 2004 and I had never heard of it, but quickly went home to research. I immediately felt a sense of connection to the basic tenets of what art therapy is and how the universal language of art can access feelings that cannot be expressed with words alone.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I have had many mentors over the years and certainly have been supported by my family as well. There is one who stands out from the very beginning of my journey. After learning about art therapy, I quickly got applications and portfolios together to apply to graduate school. The School of Visual Arts (SVA) was my top choice, and after my interview, I received a call from the Chair of the Art Therapy Masters Program, Debi Farber. She told me that I was an excellent candidate, but that I was very young and had limited real-life experience that demonstrated my readiness to take on the graduate program. Debi encouraged me to look into opportunities to really make sure that art therapy was right for me. I was disheartened to have just been rejected, but instead of getting down on myself, I took her advice. I was able to volunteer with an art therapist at a children’s hospital in New York City. That time taught me so much, exposed me to the real world of art therapy and motivated me to reapply to SVA. When I met with Debi again, I felt so much pride in sharing how I used the feedback she had given me. My volunteering solidified my passion for art therapy and she could see that clearly. After dropping pre-med in college, I remember feeling defeated and being deflated. This experience was a reparative one; instead of giving up, I stuck with my gut and was inspired along the way. I will always be indebted to Debi for her help in showing me this side of myself I didn’t know I had.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

During my second year internship in graduate school, I worked at an outpatient substance abuse facility, running a group for individuals in recovery. There was a woman in the group who, every week without fail, would make something as a gift for someone else. It was clearly meaningful for her to spend her time giving back to others, making amends and use her time in art therapy to support those needs. In my mind, I wondered why she never made anything for herself and instead of being curious and asking her about this, I just told her to try it. She became incredibly angry with me, told me off and shut down emotionally for the remainder of the group. I debriefed with my supervisor later on and talked through what had happened. In doing so, my supervisor highlighted the importance of “meeting clients where they are at.” It was such an important lesson as a therapist — my inclinations and needs were not what mattered; I had to adjust my thinking and realize that asking this client to make something for herself was so disconnected from where she was on her path to recovery. I always keep this in mind when in session, I am there to help support, not to direct or force behaviors, feelings or outcomes.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

‘The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious’, by Carl Jung, impacted me greatly during my young adulthood. I found solace with parts of the book and connected to the ideas of finding projections of self and others in artwork. It also explains our connectedness with humanity in symbols and projections throughout history, and the artwork of his patients that showed examples of this. I didn’t know it at the time, but this laid the groundwork for my path towards finding art therapy.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own” by Jackson Pollock. This to me speaks of the need to embrace mistakes as opportunities, to understand that destruction leads to creation and that our artwork can help us address these themes outside of ourselves.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am currently the Clinical Director at The Art Therapy Project, the only non-profit in New York City dedicated to providing free art therapy groups to those who have experienced trauma. We needed to change our programming back in March last year due to the pandemic — we were used to meeting our clients in groups either at our beautiful Flatiron studio in a School of Visual Arts building or at partner sites around the city. Since this was no longer possible, we had to develop a way to continue to provide the mental health support our clients needed during such a trying time. Tele-art therapy was developed out of necessity and we have learned so much during the last year while connecting with our clients through the computer. Art Therapy can still be done! It looks different, but we can get supplies to clients and work with them on goals and needs just as we always have. I truly believe the landscape of mental health and art therapy specifically will be changed forever by what we have experienced due to this pandemic. Many people are finding that they can easily reach out and receive the support they need without having to leave their homes. I hope this allows us as practitioners to meet the mental health needs of more individuals who are seeking this support.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

My experience has taught me that there is no simple recipe for optimum mental wellness. Three good habits that I have seen be beneficial are — a good support system, a connection with nature or the outdoors, and finding a good therapist. A support system is like having a giant blanket wrapped around you when you are sick. It’s the people and places that can comfort, provide care, and be consistent when you need it most. The ability to connect with nature is another habit I think has similar benefits, but fulfilled in a very different way. Being outside, smelling the trees, and hearing the sounds of nature has a soothing and grounding effect. There is an unspoken process when you are within nature that somehow helps us connect to the larger world around us; it can help keep perspective when things are difficult and show us that we are part of a beautiful and balanced ecosystem. Lastly, having a good therapist that meets your needs can be an incredibly powerful addition to maintaining mental wellness. It does not have to be part of your life only when in crisis, but to have a relationship that is ongoing with the idea that insight and exploration of the self can support any of life’s challenges, large or small, and can help us start or continue down a path of mental wellness.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Doing art is a practice that allows me to get outside of my head and connect with my mind and body. It’s physical, visceral, and such a good outlet for any type of feeling or situation. It can be as simple as a doodle in my planner at the end of a day, or as complex as an ongoing oil painting.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

While I am not an expert in this arena, I think healthy eating, exercise, and good sleep habits are necessary for my own physical wellness. These are basic essentials to allow our minds and bodies to function in a way that is clear and open. When we are deprived of physical wellness, it can be that much harder to support mental wellness.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Again, this is not my area of expertise, but unmanaged stress, lack of movement, and poor sleep really get in my way when I am trying to eat healthily. Our body is an ecosystem in and of itself, and so this type of maintenance feels so necessary when trying to make good decisions for oneself, which includes eating healthy and feeding our body what it needs to function at a proper level.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I think being in tune with your body, recognizing burnout and stress, and finding a creative outlet are all habits that work for me and my emotional wellness. When things get out of balance, it becomes so hard to know what we are feeling, why we are feeling it and how to manage those feelings. Sometimes our body gives us cues — headaches, clenched fists, holding our breath. So getting in touch with those sensations can help us recognize that something might be worth looking into that might not be going right. This leads me to recognizing burnout. If we give and give without taking time for self-care, it just lands us in the position of being unable to be helpful anymore. Making sure we include self-care in our routines allows space to support others we care about.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

I don’t have particular thoughts about the power of smiling, but I do connect this with a similar idea of using what’s at your disposal to help shift your mindset. So for me, being able to create artwork helps my mood and allows space for me to process my emotions.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I think people should find what works for them, spirituality is so personal and for me, my art process and being in nature are what helps me stay grounded and connected.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

For me personally, being in nature helps me feel connected to the world in a very physical sense as well as an emotional one. The attunement that can happen when immersed in all the senses, becomes triggered in nature and is a profound experience that can help with feelings of being grounded, gratitude, and connectedness.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

My passion has always been understanding the brain and why we are the way we are. My wish is that people would be able to support their own mental health by using art for expression. We have only scraped the surface of understanding the impact, but the art process does wonderful things for the mind and spirit that I believe so many people could benefit from, even those who do not have any art experience.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I truly admire Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s candidness around mental health and would love to get to sit and talk with them about art therapy!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please read more at thearttherapyproject.org

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Dr. Kate Steiner of ‘LIFT Wellness Consulting’: “All or nothing”

by Ben Ari
Community//

Darcie Brown: “No one wants to worry”

by Candice Georgiadis
Community//

Melaney Wolf: “Food is our fuel”

by Ben Ari
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.