By Michael Cuneo
One of the newest businesses in Fayette County takes a unique approach to therapy and mental wellbeing.
Jill Bourns-Howell, the owner of EmOceans Art Therapy, says that art is one of the best ways to categorize thoughts and emotions and calm any uneasy nerves.
“Art therapy has always been seen as helpful and beneficial to someone’s health,” Bourns-Howell said. “It’s relaxing. People just find it a way of getting what’s inside out.”
The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) defines the practice as a combination of mental health work and psychology through the facet of art.
“Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.” the ATTA states on their website.
Bourns-Howell says she started her therapy business in the pursuit of helping those in need, especially as annual reports show depression and suicide rates rapidly increasing.
Her office, surrounded by art supplies and encompassed by a giant ocean-themed carpet, is small yet quaint, with a sort of quiet eeriness that forces one to slow down and address the inner ramblings of the mind.
The name of her business, EmOceans, isn’t just a clever play on words but also represents the underlying approach to how she looks at the human mind and consciousness.
“Our thoughts are deep and deserve respect like the ocean. Our moods and feelings can be tumultuous and feel out of control, but they can also be calm.” Bourns-Howell said.
Bourns-Howell has been practicing art therapy on and off since the 1990s, more recently working with mental health patients at a hospital.
In one particular case, Bourns-Howell described how art impacted an extremely dangerous mental health patient at the hospital she works at.
“I worked with one individual who has been extremely violent in the past, extremely violent,” Bourns-Howell said. “You know he’s very dangerous, but at the same time, he said to me that it felt like a dream, like he couldn’t wake up from a dream.”
“So you know I got to thinking he needs something, something to look forward to, something stimulating, something to help him focus. I have been working with him on very simple art techniques and activities and he is doing so well now. Just giving him that little extra attention and choices because there aren’t many choices that they are allowed to have, provides that something to them that they can control, something that they can choose and make their very own.”
“There’s something very healing in that, having choices, having the ability to produce something that no one’s ever created and calling it your own.
Bourns-Howell touched on the current state of mental health among teens, showing concern for the negative statistics that seem only to rise.
“I think there was a 50 percent increase in teen female suicide rates in the past year,” Bourns-Howell said. “It’s disturbing. It’s getting worse.”
“That’s what drove me to start a private practice. I’m not here for the money. I have my own career. I feel like helping the community right now is so important. Teens tend to shut down, and art therapy is kind of perfect for that quiet or insecure or introspective teenager who maybe has difficulty expressing their moods or emotions.”
The ethos at EmOceans Therapy is not about the art or even the result of said art. Instead, the process of creating and producing is the central focal point that allows individuals to express themselves in a way they otherwise would not. Whether through crafting collages or simply mixing colors, Bourns-Howell says a real difference can be made and that people can be touched