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US second lady to meet with art therapists in Estonia

Second Lady Karen Pence and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the South Lawn at the White House. June 22, 2017.
Second Lady Karen Pence and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the South Lawn at the White House. June 22, 2017. Source: (Olivier Douliery/SIPA/Scanpix)

Second Lady of the U.S. Karen Pence, who is to accompany her husband, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, on a two-day visit to Estonia, will on Monday meet with Estonian art therapists and observe a therapy session at the psychiatric clinic of North Estonia Medical Centre (PERH).

"Art therapists at the meeting will share their experiences working with different target groups, including adult psychosis patients, children who have experienced trauma, suicidal individuals, patients with chronic pain and fibrositis and others," said Eha Rüütel, head of the roundtable which the second lady is to attend. "Art therapists in Estonia are mainly involved in psychotherapeutic care and rehabilitation. Many of them work at educational institutions. The subject can be studied at Tallinn University (TLÜ)."

Herself a watercolorist, Pence announced on the White House homepage that went live on Inauguration Day in January that, as second lady, she wanted to "[shine] the spotlight on the mental health profession of art therapy."

While this choice of cause sparked concern among some art therapists who found that some of the current administration's policies conflict with the ethics of their profession, the American Art Therapy Association stated in its January newsletter that the organization was "enthusiastic about Mrs. Pence's commitment to our profession" and looked forward to providing the second lady with "support and resources to further her efforts, as the organization advocates for expansion of access to professional art therapists."

At the joint roundtable, participants slated to introduce the work of Estonian art therapists include Eha Rüütel, professor of creative arts therapies at TLÜ, Kaire Aadamsoo, head of the Psychiatry Clinic at PERH, Katrin Heinloo, art therapist at the Psychiatry Clinic at PERH, Aleksander Pulver, lecturer of experimental psychology and behavioral sciences at TLÜ, art therapists from Nõmme Health Clinic, Adeli International Rehabilitation Center and the Children's Mental Health Centre in Tallinn, and Katrin Tibar, chairwoman of the Estonian Society of Creative Arts Therapies.

"In 10 years, the program has trained approximately 70 therapists, who are valued specialists at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private practices and other institutions," Tibar said. "Art therapy helps with different traumas, depression, anxiety, autism and behavioral disorders, and it is also used for recovery from brain damage, during dementia treatment and so on. In some cases, art is the patient's only way of communication."

The master's studies program in art therapy at TLÜ is unique in Estonia. For the last 10 years, the university has been the center for study and research into art therapies and the psychiatry clinic at PERH has functioned as the main place of practice. Certifications issued in Estonia include the fields of visual art therapy, music therapy and dance and movement therapy.

According to a press release from the Office of the Second Lady, while in Europe, Karen Pence will also visit an art therapy program and participate in a roundtable of art therapists in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS, ERR

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