Thrive by IU Health

January 25, 2024

Art therapist focuses on best use of space

IU Health Neuroscience Center

Art therapist focuses on best use of space

Maggie Girard meets patients where they are and works within their creative arena.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

There’s an examination table, a blood pressure cuff, and a clock inside Maggie Girard’s “office” at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Her role is unlike other practitioners at IU Health’s LifeCare facility. Her attention is on a sink - to wash out paint brushes - and a countertop - to spread out art supplies.

For the past several years, Girard has provided art therapy to clients at LifeCare, the largest provider of HIV treatment and medical prevention services in the state. Located in the Methodist Medical tower, LifeCare provides services in a centrally located facility to those living with, exposed to, or at risk of HIV. Those services include diagnosis and treatment, health assessments and medical exams, access to lab work, immunizations and vaccines, education and counseling, and assistance with specialty and community referrals.

Girard is one person on a team of caregivers that includes physicians, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, and counselors.

“There are so many things in our lives that don’t fit into a neat place. Art helps us understand. It may be a scribble on a bad day or a flower that represents something beautiful like strength gained from a grandmother,” said Girard. She works at LifeCare one day a week and also works with patients at IU Health Neuroscience Center.

“With neurology patients, I see a lot of people with traumatic brain injuries, and patients treated for strokes and disorders of the central nervous system such as Parkinson’s disease,” said Girard, who also works with art therapist Ashley Hildebrandt. One of the projects created by their patients was a colorful flower mural displayed in the Neuroscience Center.

“Each person was given squares to paint and we put them all together. It created such great energy,” said Girard. Other flower murals represent specific neurological diagnoses.

At LifeCare, Girard checks in with patients and meets with them to help process their feelings through abstract art. “With HIV there is often a stigma and art helps clients express their feelings. It empowers them to tell their story,” said Girard.

Married to Chuck Girard, Maggie is the mother to two sons and a daughter. Her interest in art began at a young age. She remembers her mother encouraging her art with lessons, coloring contests, and supplies.

A graduate of North Central High School, she obtained her undergraduate degree in art and English from Hope College in Michigan.

She was working in AIDS Hospice care in Washington, DC when Girard met an art therapist.

“The more I learned about it, the more I felt there were a lot of my interests in one spot,” said Girard. She obtained her art therapy degree in 2010 and worked in mental health, school-based and private practice before coming to IU Health.

“When I was working in hospice care, with the patient’s permission, I spent time drawing their portraits. For me that was part of the healing process,” said Girard. “I see how powerful art is. It provides that space to explore and express feelings.”

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