Alum & Art Therapist Jen Berlingo on Self-Care & Authenticity

Jen Berlingo shot
Photo by Katie Day Weisberger / @SAYKATIEDAY

By Amanda Hart, Graduate Art Therapy student at Naropa University 

Jen Berlingo is an art therapist working out of San Francisco, CA, both online and in the community. She has wonderfully marketed herself on Facebook, Instagram (@JenBerlingo), and through her website JenBerlingo.com. Jen is an alumni from Naropa’s graduate program in Transpersonal Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Art Therapy.

In this interview, Jen answers questions about her experience and the importance of offering diverse supports such as online and on location workshops, one-on-one counseling, and the SoulSpace online series for therapist’s self-care.

Hart: With all that you do, can you talk about the importance of self-care, what it means to you, and what you do for yourself?

Berlingo: “I am so grateful to my Naropa training for emphasizing that self-care of the therapist is paramount to career longevity. Most of the clients I’ve worked with in my practice are also therapists and healers. Through their stories, I’ve discovered that in most other therapy training programs, this piece was not addressed.

That is why I created the SoulSpace Series (SoulSpaceSeries.com), to open this conversation around sustainable, bite-sized self-care rituals those in the helping professions can create and fold into their daily lives in order to alleviate occupational hazards such as burnout, compassion fatigue, isolation, self-doubt, and vicarious trauma. Sure, I love taking a vacation or getting a massage, but because waiting for those grander self-care splurges isn’t any way to live, I pepper each day with what I call micro-self-care rituals, infusing intention, presence, and meaning into small moments like my morning tea, opening the door to a client, or taking an energetically cleaning shower at the end of the day.”

Jen Berlingo Art
Jen Berlingo/@JenBerlingo

Hart: It seems you really put effort towards embodying your role as artist as well as art therapist (I really appreciate you as a self proclaimed Art Sorceress), maintaining a strong personal practice while also keeping an awareness for how this plays into your role as therapist – can you talk more about this?

Berlingo: “I have to keep my art practice and personal ceremony space alive and well to sustain not only my work, but my soul. Well, in many ways, those aren’t two separate entities for me — work and soul. With time and experience in the field, I’ve grown into a place where I don’t view my role as an art therapist as being separate from who I am in all other aspects of my life. I’ve come to intimately know my boundaries as a therapist, thus am freed up to bring more of ME to how I hold my therapist seat.

I am not a fan of “putting on different hats” for work and for play. I try to show up authentically in all settings, and bring my human- ness into each room and relationship I enter. I am an artist, a writer, a lightworker, a witch, a mother, a wife, a friend, and so many other things. Each part informs the art therapist role and gets to be visible in some capacity.”

Hart: You have created the SoulSpace Oracle deck of cards, can you talk more about these and how they can be used in personal practice or practice with clients?

“I’ve been an oracle card junkie for decades, and I have always wanted to create my own deck. In early 2016, I made a deck for my own personal use called the SoulSpace Oracle. It became the happiest of accidents that shortly after sharing an image of it on Instagram, I began to sell the deck on Etsy. Oracle cards naturally tie into the work of an art therapist — we are explorers of the imaginal realm, of what imagery evokes within each person, of the meaning made from the image.

Soul Space Oracle
Photo by Jen Berlingo/@JenBerlingo

The SoulSpace Oracle is a very open-ended deck of intuitive, abstract watercolor paintings, each with a soulful word offered for contemplation. They can be used individually or in spreads for self-reflection, to seek insight, for dream invocation, or simply for inspiration to tape to your bathroom mirror. While many oracle and tarot decks come with a guidebook, I made the conscious choice not to offer a guidebook with this deck. That way the imagery and word are left open to the interpretation of the deck-keeper, which brings the most in-depth, personal meaning and associations… I mean, come on. I’m an art therapist. ;)”

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