Part 3 Words of Meaning and Choices to Make

So, how does one pick a safe online art journaling course? That’s the $64,000 question isn’t it? This will be highly personal and different for everyone. I’ll give what I think to be some guidelines, add more in the comments. I’m interested in what works for you and what you feel has kept you safe online.

#1. Does the person offer therapeutic or healing classes? If so what are their qualifications? Are they a certified life coach or registered Mental Health Counselor or Social worker or Art Therapist? If you email them and ask about where they got their life coach certification do they tell you? They should be happy to tell you where they got it and how long they studied. In fact this should be somewhere on their website.

#2. Is this person willing to interact with you? If you email them asking a question about the class before you sign up, how long does it take them to get back to you? Do they answer all of your questions? Do they answer them completely? 24 hours is a reasonable wait time, many online instructors don’t answer email on the weekends.

#3. How do they portray themselves online? Will this be a good fit for you personally? Google them. Look for past issues with students. Read back in their blogs. Are they dramatic? If so, you can probably expect that in their classes. If their blog is full of accusational blog posts, even without naming names? If they are drama filled now, imagine what that will be like behind closed doors.

#4. Is the class offered as an art course or self help? In this case you have to ask yourself do you want just an art class or do you want self help. If you want just art you might find yourself less than happy with  a self help styled class.

#5. Do they proclaim special or magical abilities, mystical help? Do they offer a series of other add ons you can buy as part of their class? Is a skype “counseling” session you can buy from them? Again, with this one, go back to #1 and ask yourself, “Is this person qualified to help me with my issues?” If they are not a licensed mental health care professional or life coach (depending on your issues and need) then it is likely illegal for them to offer a phone based counseling session for money. This is a safety issue, not just a legal one. It is one thing for someone to offer advice to a friend, it’s another for them to pose as a counselor or therapist and take money. Not only is it likely not legal it won’t feel right*.

#6. As SusanJane suggested in her comment on part 1: Ask some of your online friends and past instructors about their good experiences. Recommendations are a great way to get a better idea of course content, the teacher’s methods, and how the teacher will interact with you. It might give you an idea of if you will like the person. I asked a friend of mine what she thought of a class I was thinking of taking and she told me, “Girl, I love her, but the cray cray is dripping off her and she’s a nutbag.” She then went on to describe all kinds of woo woo frou frou stuff I knew wouldn’t be right for me. So, I passed on the class.

#7. Money. Can you find a local class for less? Sometimes you can find an in-person drop in art center run by real honest to goodness art therapists with a sliding scale fee, or set lower cost classes. the Artful Life Counseling Center and Studio (in lovely Salem, MA) offers $20, $30, and $40 classes depending on length of class, they go from 1 to 2 hours. They also offers $10/hr of drop in open art studio time. That is real value for your money. (from their current brochure 2013) Now, if someone is offering an e-book for $100 with no one-on-one time is that a value for your money? If someone is offering you a class with no one-on-one time that will take you 4 hours to complete for $300 is that a value? If you don’t have access to a Place like Artful Life, then yeah, it might be. Again, I urge you to be aware of the monetary influences going on behind the scenes of these business. How much of this can you find on youtube?**

Now after reading these questions you’re thinking, “Hey so-and-so fits some of this… But, Less, they worked with this good person and this good person, and they are pretty famous. Shouldn't that tell me they are okay?”

Sadly, no. I’ve noticed that in several of the “big name” art journaling and mixed media circuses that there are many instructors who claim to be healers, offer therapeutic classes, and are downright horrible people***. The people who run these large grouped offerings are lending legitimacy to these horrible people because they bring in money, and a lot of it.

Let’s be honest for a minute, when you are paying $80, or $100, or $150 for a group offered series of classes, so are 400, 500, or 1000 people. The math is simple, it’s big bucks. When an art instructor can bring in an additional 200 or 300 people the fact is, that’s a lot of money exchanging hands. Am I suggesting that these group offerings aren’t worth it? Nope, in some cases they are absolutely worth the money. But I think you also have to be aware and understand that this is not only a class it’s also a business and sometimes when money changes hands perceptions change.

When you venture away from the big group classes, you need to be careful and know that some of the people in the classes are not safe people to take classes from, they may have been on their best behavior in the group. Even if they are involved in multiple big classes or have been involved in several over the years. You need to decide what classes are for you not let someone else decide.


Keep in mind that art is powerful medicine in trained hands. With the right help it can push you into uncharted areas of healing, make you feel better, and yes, even, soothe your soul. Art is one tool that can be used to assist you in healing. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, use online classes as a supplement to in-person therapy from a qualified person. Someone licensed who has devoted their life to healing. Art will make you feel better but you also need a safety net. If you are dealing with minor stresses an art class may be all you need, but again, I look at online healing classes as something you can do along with a therapist. If an online art class is your gateway therapy which will lead you in person therapy, try it out.

I can attest to the power of my initial training in mental health counseling and art therapy. I am evolving as a person, and my mindset and beliefs about people are changing. I’m learning more than I thought possible in a very short time. Graduate work in mental health counseling and art therapy is immersive and life altering. My life is better than it ever has been before, and I will be a better art therapist for it. Please expect more for yourself than people who claim to be healers who haven’t done the work. You are worth the time and effort of real therapy, or a drop in art therapy inspired workshop with a real art therapist.

Therapeutic implies therapy implies therapist.

*It doesn’t feel right because somewhere in your mind you know and feel that you are being taken advantage of. Maybe they are mimicking areas where you have been manipulated or abused in the past. Maybe they are using your shame and inability to ask for help in person (in real life as we used to say online) to use you for money. Being exploited never feels good, especially when it’s cloaked in an air of healing and art.

**Not suggesting that youtube is a substitute for all online instruction, just offering up a practical solution for those of us looking for something we can afford.

***I’ve been around online awhile I can speak from personal experience as to the damaging and manipulative effects of several online instructors. One of whom is involved in both of the mixed media/art journal circuses being offered currently. So no, not all who glitter are gold.