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Hoto Art Therapy

Hoto Art Therapy

Arielle Bush is an art therapist who runs Hoto Art Therapy in London, Ont & area. We had the chance to sit down with her to discuss what art therapy is, how she got started, her pet rabbit and much more. We even got the chance to try out a few art therapy techniques. It was a very cool experience. 

Describe yourself in a couple of words.

Creative, kind and vibrant.

How did you come up with your name? Does Hoto stand for something special?

The process of coming up with a name was difficult. I wanted it to sound inviting,  approachable, fun and unique. Eventually I came up with the name HOTO which is my rabbit’s name. I was inspired to name my private practice after HOTO because of her resilient and playful nature. When she was young she had an accident and her front paw needed to be amputated. Though she only had three legs she bounced back so quickly.  Her resilience was and continues to be such an inspiration.  I also chose this name because it translates well in French and I offer bilingual services. For many reasons Hoto seemed like a great name!  

What led you to art therapy?

I’ve always been connected to the arts as a form of self expression. In grade 9 I was diagnosed for a short period of time with clinical depression. I received mental health services from a team of healthcare professionals including a family doctor, psychiatrist and social worker. However, found I had a hard time expressing myself in more traditional talk therapy environments so I started to create art and write poetry about what I was going through.   I would bring this artwork to my therapy sessions to show them where I was at, this was before I knew anything about art therapy. This strategy worked well and treatment was extremely helpful. Eventually I went to school for fine arts education. I started volunteering as a mental health advocate and I became more interested in art therapy as I realized the opportunity it provides for growth and healing. As a result I went on to study art therapy at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. I worked in the social services field for a few years and then went out on my own.

What is art therapy and how does it differ from traditional therapies?

Art therapy is an arts based therapeutic approach where art is used as a tool for self-expression and communication. Art making is therapeutic, it’s grounding and helps with stress relief and healing. Not only is the act of art making helpful but in art therapy you also have a trained professional to guide you through your concerns. 

How old are your clients and why does art therapy work for people in this age group?

Art therapy is great for people across the lifespan. I work with children, youth and adults. Art therapy molds to the individual. It’s typically a good fit for children and youth because it’s developmentally appropriate. It matches the way they communicate and express themselves. Additionally, It’s great approach because it’s less hierarchical and as a result it puts those attending sessions at ease and provides a safe space to freely explore emotions and experiences. Art therapy can be a successful approach for adults as they can gain a lot of insight from the art they create. 

How does art therapy benefit someone who has endured trauma or lives with mental illness?

Art Therapy provides an opportunity to connect both your mind and body because you have to incorporate both when you are creating art. Connecting the mind and body is especially important with trauma because it often shows up in the body.  Art helps to address this physical piece.Art therapy is also very helpful for people living with mental illness. Creating art externalizes your thoughts. It helps you to find relief from the negative or overwhelming thoughts and provides space to express your story and experiences in a safe way. It’s also important that individuals seeking support for trauma or mental illness surround themselves with the right team of supports for their needs.  Healing isn’t linear and what works for one individual might not be the right fit for you at that time. 

What might surprise people about art therapy?

People often think you need to be good at art making, that’s not true. If you can scribble you can engage in the process, and it’s the process that matters more than the product. Another myth is that art therapy is just for kids, however this form of therapy can be equally powerful and insightful for adults. Finally, people often think that the therapist is going to analyze your art and tell you what’s going on in your own head. This is not true, everyone has different experiences so the art therapist will work with you to explore what you’ve created.

What do you do?

Art therapy is tailored to each client. You could work with clay, collage, drawing, painting, mixed media, sewing, journaling, etc. A great thing about art therapy is that there are endless possibilities. One of my favourite things to do is to get people to scribble, it’s a great tension reducer, it helps get feelings out and helps to lessen people’s feelings of judgment and self-criticism.I focus a lot on emotional literacy. I often get people to draw what certain emotions look like to them and where they feel them in their body. This allows us to have a dialogue about emotions. It highlights how we see them, how we feel them, it helps us acknowledge them and cope with them. Overall this work normalizes emotions, none of them are bad-- they are all important.

Do you have a favourite medium/type of art?

I started with sculpture and installation, I enjoy it because there is a lot of freedom with the materials you can use. Lately I’ve been experimenting with gouache, watercolors, collage work and more abstract work. I enjoy playing with colour composition and texture this process has really come out in my participation in this year’s 100 Day Project where I’ve been creating an abstract watercolour painting each day based on an emotion. 

What’s next for you?

I will continue my art therapy practice, and I am hoping to have more workshops targeted at art therapy and emotional literacy in the community. A long term goal of mine is to set up a permanent art studio within the community.

How would someone access your services or art therapy services in their community?

Connect with me online or give me a call, we can discuss your goals, set up an appointment and discuss service fees. If fees are a barrier, I do sometimes offer community workshops that are free to attend. As well, some social service agencies have art therapists on their team that might offer free services. If you live outside of the London region I offer appointments through video conference. You can also go to the Canadian Art Therapy Association website for a full listing of art therapists across the country.To learn more, please see the links below: Instagram @hoto_art_therapy Facebook @hotoarttherapy Email:

Photos by mindyourmind