Erin Plew Lyles - Artist & Art Therapist

My desire to become an art therapist is motivated by my interest in the human spirit and the way people relate to one another. As an art therapist, I hope to guide people to achieve their mental health and emotional goals using art as an extended vocabulary in order to help them develop a better understanding of themselves. Having had excellent experiences with personal therapy and trauma healing, I would love to extend to others what I have received in abundance. 

Exploring Unknown Depths, watercolor on paper.

Clinical Applications

The education I received at Southwestern College has taught me to remain open-minded and willing to be molded throughout the process of becoming an art therapist. I hope to grow into myself as a therapist through the utilization of art therapy in a variety of modalities and applications. I plan to gain experience helping adults with trauma move unconscious material into consciousness through techniques like EMDR, hypnotherapy and sand tray therapy. I am passionate about assisting children and people with different abilities to create images and use their imaginations through art and play therapy to articulate things they may not be able to as easily verbalize. Additionally, I plan to utilize art therapy techniques to help clients dealing with difficulty in areas of relationships, addictions, sexuality, grief, and death. In all of these areas, I will continue to grow in cultural responsiveness, advocating for people from marginalized communities and operating in a way that creates brave and accepting spaces where all people feel comfortable bringing and expressing their full selves

The Skeptic, oil on canvas. 

Birthday Boy, oil on canvas. 

Artist & Art Therapist

As an artist and an art therapist, I am cognizant that each practice will inform the other. The intention of my artwork is to create a mood or a feeling to express ideas that are not easily articulated. I am fascinated by people and the nuances of their personalities. I love to explore the subtleties of body language and the ways that people communicate without using words. When I paint a person, I attempt to capture elements of their psyche while simultaneously adding parts of my internal self to the piece. Painting this way creates an opportunity for unconscious material to surface. Additionally, I intend to utilize my artistic practice to create response art as a way of processing projections and issues that present for me during clinical work as an art therapist. 

Inner Landscape, watercolor on paper.

Education & Experience

After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Watkins College of Art Design & Film in Nashville, TN, I was certain that I wanted to pursue a Master's in Art Therapy and began taking the psychology prerequisites necessary to apply. I worked for Middle Tennessee Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition, organizing and exhibiting art shows with work created by artists experiencing mental illness. I taught art classes in mental health facilities in the Nashville area. During this time, I began working in the art department on film sets as I had experience working on student films during college. This blossomed into a ten year career in the art department where I moved up the ladder to Production Designer in the film industry. Simultaneously, I began working with a mural artist whose work I admired and eventually started my own business creating murals during the parts of the year I wasn't working on film sets. You can view my mural and film work here.  

The pandemic in 2020 caused the film industry to shut down and my mural work was halted. This gave me much needed pause to reevaluate and I realized that I was ready to retire my film career. I still had this passion to help people which led me to return to my former plan of pursuing a Master's in Art Therapy. I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and began my degree at Southwestern College. Since then, I have had the incredible experience of working as a Board Certified Autism Technician at Center for Autism and Related Disorders and working as a Navigator at Tierra Nueva Counseling Center, connecting community members with resources in Santa Fe. As I embark on practicum and internship in the coming year, I look forward to seeing how my career develops. 

Using Format