Lisa Mitchell, M.S., Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Art Therapist
Hello! I’m Lisa Mitchell, MFT, ATR — and I’m an artist who happens to be a therapist.
Or maybe it’s the other way around.
In my world, it doesn’t really matter — because I believe that art + therapy both rely on the same creative process: a process of finding unexpected solutions, shifting perceptions, and transforming “mistakes” into masterpieces.
I became a therapist 20 years ago — and for the first 10 years of my private practice, I taught thousands of therapists how to integrate art into their work safely and effectively. As I walked along my teaching path, I made a surprising discovery. Most of the therapists I met already identified as “creative types” — but most were nervous about incorporating “creativity” into their work, with clients.
The prevailing sentiment seemed to be: art is great, but art is too risky. ‘Cause art means letting go of protocol. Art means taking emotional chances. Art means detaching from a preconceived outcome. Art means being vulnerable. Art means … people can get hurt! Right!?
There’s truth to the fact that art therapists are specially trained to use art in their work with clients, and it is important to have training in this area in order to use art safely. But I began to see how ALL therapists come alive and flourish– and frankly, become better therapists — when they embraced their creative spirits. So I had a hard time buying into the idea that art + therapy can only play together for the creative arts therapist. If all therapists are creative, then all therapy is creative!
Over the past 2 years, my passion for integrating art, creative problem-solving + therapy has reached, shall we say, a fever pitch.
I’ve become fascinated with one potent question: “What would my day look like if I approached it … like an artist?” In asking — and answering — that question, I’ve discovered that I tend to experience more moments of flow, bliss + amazement — and fewer moments of self-doubt, stuckness + dread. My work, both as a therapist + a trainer for other therapists, has taken on a flavor of ease that is quite delicious. Not to mention: addicting.
Today, I divide my time between my private practice at The Art Therapy Studio in Fair Oaks, California — where I help teenagers + grown-ups discover their most expressive voices, and recover from depression, anxiety and trauma — and The Inner Canvas, my online (and offline) training portal for therapists, coaches, and other professional healers.
I like to think of myself as an instigator + witness of beauty — the kind that gets splashed onto the canvas, the kind that emerges from a perfectly timed a-ha! moment, and the kind that flows from one heart + mind to another, in therapeutic partnerships, every day.
Thank you for being part of my virtual (and perhaps someday, real-tual) world.
Whatever you choose to do after you click away from this page, I hope you choose to approach it … like an artist.
random bits. (You know you love ‘em.)
: I am a process knitter. Which means I love to start new projects, but don’t particularly care about finishing them. I currently have 25 unfinished projects — further proof that beauty + joy can be found in the process, not just the final destination!
: I am in love with my Weimaraner, Sera. She’s 13 years old and eats Q-tips.
: I have 3 kids. Each was born on an election year. They are so awesome.
: I walk at the river and do yoga almost every day. In fact, I get my absolute best ideas for my therapy clients when I’m walking, stretching ‘n moving. (It’s not a coincidence. It’s part of the creative process .)
: Sleep is my number one priority.
: My husband of 25 years does all of the grocery shopping and cooking — I am sooo lucky.
: I make the best Halloween costumes. Stop by my studio and I’ll show you my collection
My book: Creativity as Co-Therapist: The Practitioner’s Guide to the Art of Psychotherapy (Routledge 2016) hit #1 Best Seller on Amazon in 4 categories!! It was my biggest art project to date and every word was a labor of love.
I live in Carmichael, CA with my husband and kids and various artistic pets some of which include cackling roosters.
what people say:
“Lisa was very creative in shaping a workshop to deftly fit the needs of bereavement therapists. She compassionately challenged my staff to look at their tendency to delay processing sometimes visceral trauma to their own detriment. The retreat was illuminating and healing for all attendees.
I have immense confidence in any project that Lisa undertakes. The therapy/counseling community is so much the richer for having her talents amongst us.” – Peggy Gulshen, ATR-BC, LMFT Coordinator, Children’s Bereavement Art Group, Sutter Memorial Hospital
“Lisa’s presentation style was engaging, encouraging, compassionate, playful, and creative. All workshops offered included art experientials, consultation, and Lisa sharing her experience, art, and expertise as a registered art therapist. All those in attendance were inspired and could not wait to utilize what they learned.” – Deborah L. Bennett, M.S.W., LCSW Program Director, FIT Program, Stanford Home for Children
“After the training, staff returned to their work with clients full of energy and passion. The tools and skills they learned at Lisa’s training rejuvenated them and proved to be very beneficial to our clients. Lisa is warm, engaging and most of all passionate, which captivates her audience and those she comes in contact with.” – Terrah Tillman MFT, Clinical Program Manager, Kids First
past speaking engagements:
Feel free to take a look here for way past events–so hard to keep up with them all! Past Events
Speaker, Workshop Facilitator, Cross Country Education, 2013-present
Director, Therapist, Trainer, The Art Therapy Studio, 2003-present
Clinical Consultant/Art therapist WIND Youth Services, 2004-09
Art Therapist, Laureate Learning Center, 2001-04
Licensing Exam Trainer, PASS, 1997-2002
Senior Mental Health Counselor, Sacramento County, 1998-99
Clinical Supervisor, River Oak Center for Children, 1996-98
California State University—Sacramento
Marriage, Family, Child Counseling and Art Therapy, M.S. 1994
University of California—Santa Cruz
Psychology, B.A. 1987
California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT)
Sacramento Valley Chapter of CAMFT (Secretary, 2005, President 2006-2007, Newsletter editor 2009), Most Outstanding Chapter Leader 2006
Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB)
American Art Therapy Association (AATA)
Northern California Art Therapy Association (NORCATA)
Marriage and Family Therapist MFC33800
Registered Art Therapist ATR #97-010
Board of Behavioral Sciences Continuing Education Provider PCE3497
CAMFT Continuing Education Provider
“The Fluffers”—Jamie Lynne Magney, Eileen Keaveny, Belinda Carter, Kate Mackenzie, Susan Doherty, Lisa Mitchell, Leslie Hill-Sokol
This group has been a source of support, love, inspiration, belly laughs, strength, creative stretching, artful adventure, and bliss. I recognize that they are a vital part of my creative process and I love them dearly. “Thank you, Fluffies!”