North Superior Art Therapy Services uses digital to grow the practice
As a sergeant with the Thunder Bay Police for 30 years, Tamara Reynolds was often one of the first on the scene for homicides and sudden deaths. In 2016, while off on worker’s compensation for PTSD, her psychiatrist asked her how she wanted her life to look when she retired from the force in the next few years.
“I said, ‘I don't know, I have a teaching degree, so maybe I'll go teach part-time at the local community college in the police foundations program,’ ” recalls Reynolds. “She asked if I’d heard about art therapy?”
Reynolds hadn’t. But, before joining the Thunder Bay Police, she’d had the ambition of being a high school art teacher. Her therapist told her about it and she felt like she’d found her next path. Within a few months, she applied for the Toronto Art Therapy Institute and through distanced learning, while still working full-time, she became an art therapist and registered psychotherapist. In 2018, when she retired from the force, she launched North Superior Art Therapy Services – using art as a medium to help people experiencing anxiety, depression, grief, and post-traumatic stress.
“The beauty of art therapy is you don't have to be an artist to do it, it's just about being engaged in the creative process and being mindful when you're doing something,” says Reynolds.
For example, she might ask a client to draw a picture of themselves and write positive descriptors under it. Another method borrows from the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is put back together with gold.
“I’ll have them take a bowl and we’ll talk about how it's a metaphor for us and how we are functional as a bowl when we first come into life and then trauma happens and we get broken into various pieces,” says Reynolds. “Then they'll take a hammer and they'll smack the bowl and paint each of the individual pieces to represent something positive in their life.”
Although it’s not a new field of therapy, Reynold admits she does get a lot of clients who are curious but don’t know much about art therapy. Since launching North Superior Art Therapy Services, she’s been trying to raise literacy surrounding the practice. To do so, she’s been investing in her digital presence.
Recently, Reynolds connected with Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. She saw the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant and training videos as an opportunity to invest in the business’s digital marketing and help build more knowledge about art therapy in Thunder Bay.
Reynolds used some of the funding to hire Sociable Thunder Bay, a local digital marketing firm, to run a social media advertising campaign.
“I hired them to do some video and photographs,” says Reynolds. “And then they ran my social media campaign for September and posted on Instagram and Facebook – that helped to increase traffic.”
They also built some social media templates that matched North Superior Art Therapy Services’ branding to streamline Reynolds’ approach to social media. The grant helped cover the services.
“It was nice to have that money… I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay for stuff,” she says.
It’s a world apart from where Reynolds was sitting in January 2023. “I thought I was gonna have to close my doors,” she says. But since investing in her digital presence, she’s expanded her services beyond Thunder Bay.
“On Monday, I'm flying up to a Northern First Nations Reserve to do art therapy for the week and I think that came from the Facebook ads,” she says. “I'm getting contacts… people are calling and they’re asking questions.”
To apply for the Digital Transformation Grant visit here.
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.
Continued investment from the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) has allowed the ongoing expansion the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital across Ontario.