Q & A with Expressive Arts Therapist Kate Donohue

Meet Kate Donohue


One of the Grandmothers of Expressive Arts, Kate Donohue (Ph.D., REAT) is a licensed psychologist and registered expressive arts therapist who has taught at many international universities. Kate is a co-founder of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA) and was awarded the IEATA Shining Star Award in 2005. Passionate about the arts she has spent 25 years studying Indigenous and ethnic dance forms, West African and Afro-Cuban Dance. Kate offers Jungian expressive arts cultural journeys to Ghana and India. This two-week residency is designed to allow participants to directly experience the rich diversity of that country’s arts and culture, by exploring the healing potential of the arts.

Kate Donodue

Q & A with Kate Donohue


Why did you choose expressive arts therapy as a career?

I have loved anthropology, the arts, dance, drama and music since childhood.

I was drawn to the ideas of Carl Jung in the realm of psychology as a graduate student. With these varied passions, I was trying to find a way to weave them together in my life. After pursuing many avenues of study, the integrating of the arts in my therapy and social issue work ignited that little quiet voice inside of me saying this the way for you. I have pursued expressive arts work by interweaving cross-cultural exchange programs in Ghana and India.


What do you love most about your job?

I feel the love and passion for my work most when the creative spark is ignited and opens the person to the truth and to the real alternatives life offers them. It is a felt experience of the self and one’s authenticity through the language of the arts.


What tends to happen in an expressive arts therapy session?

Each session varies with the person or group’s needs. In most sessions one would exchange verbal stories of whatever is painful or needs attention and then expand the dialog to include the language of the various arts to more deeply understand and uncover what is needed to metabolize or resolve the issue at hand. So, one would use verbal language and the language of the arts in direct art processes.


You are a pioneer in the field of Expressive Arts. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen over the duration of your involvement?

The greatest change I have seen in my 40 years in the field of EXA (Expressive Arts) is the acceptance of integrative arts as a valid and viable approach to healing and social change. Initially, many did not know or understand what EXA is or what it could provide and was often considered “new age” and not solid. With the development of the field and the subsequent writing and research, many especially in the field of trauma have come to accept and pursue training in the field of EXA. Really EXA is going back to the roots of healing and clearly not “new age”. My concern with this acceptance is folks using these processes, calling themselves Expressive arts therapists without training. The psyches work is very delicate, and one needs to understand by direct experience and training the power of the arts to heal when used constructively.


You are a forerunner in sharing the Expressive Arts globally, what is the most impactful experience you have had in sharing the expressive arts globally?

As a Jungian oriented expressive arts therapist, my global work has reinforced the existence of the collective unconscious, that at the core, we are so similar and that are images speak in core ways. When I work with trauma in other countries, the visual, kinesthetic, dramatic and acoustic symbols are the same in the language of the arts. I have also loved the cross-cultural exchange that occurs in my expressive arts cultural journeys when we study and experience the arts of another country in that country.


Other than being a trained expressive arts therapist, what is your personal relationship with art?

I continue to participate in arts practices: dance classes, writing groups, and visual arts practices. My most meaning arts processes currently are dance and visual arts.


What are the challenges you regularly face in your profession?

In my therapy practice, there is a challenge of acceptance of the power of the language of the arts. Some clients are fearful of the direct experience with the arts. Culturally with the arts is always striving for cross-cultural appreciation not appropriation, being respectful of the difference.

What are your highest hopes for the direction of Expressive Arts in the near future?

I would love to see the direct experience of the arts alive in each person, community and globally. I feel if the arts were more integrated into our lives, we would be moving towards healing communities and global dialog.


Winnipeg is a unique community, as is every community. What do you see as the greatest potential in sharing Expressive Arts with the Winnipeg community? (And the Sioux Lookout community?)


Winnipeg has the potential to become a Canadian leader in the field of expressive arts training and education. There is a small number of trainings programs in Canada and WHEAT has the potential to become a leader in Canada.


I have just had one interaction with the Sioux Lookout community and feel this is a powerful sharing of the arts as healing to a community that needs to reconnect to their roots and their early healing arts practices. There could be a potent interchange of learning and healing for both WHEAT and the reserve at Sioux Lookout.


Expressive Arts Classes 2019 in Winnipeg and Sioux Lookout


WHEAT is excited to welcome Kate Donohue back to Canada! She is WHEAT’s lead consultant and provides online group supervision with our Expressive Arts diploma students. She last taught her classes in Winnipeg during summer 2017 and was present for the IEATA Conference held in Winnipeg in October 2017.



IEATA Conference 2017 held in Winnipeg (Kate Donohue pictured far left)

Kate’s first class Working with Trauma using Expressive Arts August 3-6, 2019 will introduce participants to the experience of trauma and how to address it as an expressive arts therapist. This course will also introduce the traditional definition and theory of trauma, brain research in relationship to trauma, the stages of trauma and indigenous healing practices that address trauma. There will be an exploration of the Jungian understanding of trauma and how it interlaces with expressive arts.


Kate’s second class Expressive Arts Therapy and Its Relationship to Psychopathology and Developmental Psychology August 8-11, 2019 will introduce participants to the archetypal and developmental approaches to character/personality development using mythological themes that underline human development and the complexes that create the psychopathology framework. Participants will also be introduced to art as healing from an indigenous perspective including discussion of traditional symbolic cross-cultural healing practices and concepts of healing and wellness; the origins of the arts as a diagnostic tool from traditional perspectives, complexes as a healing function and the use of multi-arts processes to address the healing of developmental, traumatic and cultural wounding.

Kate’s classes are open to artists of all genres, school counsellors, therapists, healers, coaches, educators, resource teachers, and Elders wishing to integrate the arts into their personal or professional practice. American and International students are welcome to register for professional development. Visit https://www.wheatinstitute.com/eat and email info@wheatinstitute.com to learn more.


Kate will also be teaching her four-day Working with Trauma class in the small rural town of Sioux Lookout in Northwestern Ontario. Brenda Dovick, Program Coordinator for the Sioux Lookout Youth Reduction Strategy Project, envisioned bringing expressive arts training into her community last year. Since July of 2018 WHEAT has been offering the Expressive Arts Certificate program in Sioux Lookout, bringing in instructors from Winnipeg, across Canada and now international!

Learning to listen,

in colour.

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