Category: An MCAC Update

Gratitude Bowl-Making Workshop

“For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” -Brother David Steindl-Rast

Gratitude Bowls

Gratitude is more that just a thought or a feeling. It is a consistent practice of recognizing moments, people, and things that you are thankful for. This past weekend, I led a Gratitude Bowl-making workshop to a group of 39 creative individuals at The Namaste Center, in Flat Rock. I am so proud of the bowls everybody made, and hope that this process strengthens their gratitude practices. Today, I am grateful for this life and this work of spreading the message that art can be used for wellness and healing.


“Much of what makes humans anxious or depressed originates from the way we think about the things happening around us. We tend to assume that our thoughts are always true, which affects the way we feel, and therefore the way we behave. Soon, we’re trapped in a negativity cycle, spiraling towards deeper and deeper anxiety and sadness. Practicing gratitude is not about denying reality, or only thinking happy thoughts, as most critics claim. It’s a way to create some space between our automatic thoughts and our feelings. It helps us pause long enough to notice how we have been thinking about our lives, and it provides an opportunity to get out of our heads and take a slightly different perspective.”


For more behind the meaning behind the bowl and instructions on making your own, check out my feature in this month’s WNC Woman Magazine.


Kara Ashley-Gilmore believes in the use of art for wellness and healing. She is a licensed counselor, art therapist, and mixed-media artist at Mountain Creative Arts Counseling in Hendersonville. She provides individual counseling and facilitates a weekly anxiety support group for individuals who feel crushed by the weight of their worries, dread their next panic attack, and live with over-active inner critics. Learn more about her work at

What is Trauma-Informed Counseling?

Trauma-Informed Counseling means recognizing that people often have many different types of trauma in their lives. In general, trauma is the experience of extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. People who have been traumatized need support and understanding from those around them. Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and community service providers who haven’t been properly trained.

Trauma is usually shrouded in secrecy and denial; and it is often ignored. However, we now know that trauma is a near universal experience of individuals with behavioral health problems. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, 85% to 95% of women in the public mental health system report a history of trauma. An individual’s experience of trauma impacts their physical, mental, behavioral, social, and spiritual lives.

Why does Trauma-Informed Counseling Matter?

Trauma-Informed Counseling is more that just a theory, it is an overall approach to counseling that includes everything from being mindful about the way the physical environment of the therapy room may affect clients, to understanding that even the most destructive behavior patterns are simply a way of adapting to the trauma and a method of surviving and managing current discomfort.

Trauma-informed counselors recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma, and believe that recovering from the trauma is just as important as dealing with the “issue” that brought the client to therapy in the first place (ie..substance use, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.). Trauma-informed counselors focus on and build strengths: life will inevitably bring new challenges, and reliance on these strengths is key to navigating those challenges and making it through to the other side. Furthermore, trauma-informed counselors make their own self-care a priority so they don’t burn out or experience vicarious trauma. Finally, and most importantly, trauma-informed counselors wholeheartedly believe that people with lived experiences of trauma can and do recover and heal.

Certification in Traumatic Stress Studies

Trauma-Informed Counseling--Certification in Traumatic Stress Studies

This summer, I completed a nine-month certification program in Traumatic Stress Studies through The Trauma Center at JRI in Boston. My teachers included some of the leading researchers in the field of trauma, including Bessel van der Kolk, author of “The Body Keeps the Score.” Throughout the past nine months, we learned the latest research and treatment options in these areas:

  • Neurobiology of trauma
  • Attachment theory
  • Understanding trauma in developmental context
  • Complex and acute trauma
  • Dissociation and memory
  • Stabilization
  • Trauma Processing: Cognitive, Expressive, Mind-Body, EMDR
  • Play therapy with traumatized children
  • Trauma and resiliency
  • Vicarious trauma and self-care

Why did I Invest in this Certification?

I found that while working with individuals struggling with stress-management, anxiety, and depression, oftentimes there is an underlying trauma or event that has had a major impact on the following aspects of their lives:

  • Self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Their view of themselves and the world around them
  • Ability to form and maintain new relationships with others
  • The thoughts and behaviors they use to manage discomfort and stress
  • Their ability to control their emotions, and their connection to their creativity and spirituality.

I wanted to learn more about why and how these things change, and, most importantly, how I could better help them in counseling. I value giving my clients the best possible care when they enter through my doors, and I owe it to them to stay informed about new developments in the field and apply this knowledge in the work we do in counseling.

In my next post, I will be sharing a few things that I think are important for everyone to know about trauma. As I stated earlier, trauma is shrouded in secrecy, and survivors feel isolated and often avoid seeking treatment. However, the reality is that trauma is common across all races, genders, and cultural backgrounds. It’s time to shine a spotlight on the commonality of trauma, so healing can begin.

Trauma-Informed Counseling Resources

To learn more about trauma-informed counseling, please visit the following:



Kara Ashley-Gilmore is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, Art Therapist, and Founder of Mountain Creative Arts Counseling. I provide trauma-informed counseling to adolescents and adults who feel crushed by the weight of their anxieties, and want to live more present lives. I often incorporate the creative process into therapy sessions to help clients use their creativity for their own growth and healing.



Happy Creative Arts Therapies Week!

March 12-18 is National Creative Arts Therapies Week–a week to celebrate and learn more about art, dance, music, drama, and poetry therapies.

 In honor of this event, I’m sharing 7 interesting facts about art therapy.

 Art Therapy Fun Fact #1

Art Therapy Fun Fact #2

Art Therapy is appropriate for all ages! At Mountain Creative Arts Counseling, I work with adolescents, adults, and seniors individually and in groups.

 Art Therapy Fun Fact #3

I keep a wide variety of paints, pastels, drawing materials, various types and sizes of blank paper and canvas, clays, collage and scrapbook papers, wire, magazines, boxes, and more on hand for your use.

 Art Therapy Fun Fact #4

 My studio art training included classes in oil painting, printmaking, graphic design, book-making and book arts, interior design, basic drawing, figure drawing, 3D design, and pottery. I choose to further my knowledge by continuing to take art classes​ and workshops, and experimenting in my home studio on a regular basis.

 Art Therapy Fun Fact #5

In my workshops and groups, I often include music, writing, poetry, and a few very basic yoga techniques specifically for self-regulation and grounding purposes.

 Art Therapy Fun Fact #6

Free association is one of my favorite techniques for helping clients process their artwork. Sometimes, I combine this with writing for an even deeper experience.

 Art Therapy Fun Fact #7

I have coloring books available in my office, and I occasionally use one at home, but there’s nothing like creating art from your own imagination. Also, neither is a substitute for therapy, which happens within a relationship.

To learn more about Art Therapy, visit the following resources.

The American Art Therapy Association

The Art Therapy Blog

The Art Therapy Alliance

International Expressive Arts Therapy Association

Art Therapy Credentials Board

Kara Ashley-Gilmore is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, Art Therapist, and mixed-media artist at Mountain Creative Arts Counseling. She provides counseling to adolescents and adults who feel crushed by the weight of their anxieties, and want to live more present lives. She often incorporates the creative process into therapy sessions with clients, helping them access their creativity, and use it for their own growth and healing.

Happy New Year and Winter Preview

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. As I’ve spent the last two years building this business, there hasn’t been much time to really slow down and relax. Even on vacations and days off, I would find myself browsing the internet for articles to share with you on my Facebook page, or planning workshops, or coming up with activities to do with the seniors at Spring Arbor.

During the week before Christmas, up until the week after New Year, I gave myself a true break where I rarely touched my phone or computer. I did the minimum amount needed to keep things in flow and gave my mind a break from all the planning and hustling that I had grown used to. And you know what happened after this period of hibernation and rest?

Vision. Clarity. Focus. Connection to Family. Acceptance. Joy.

I found myself ready to tackle projects that I had been avoiding, like the living room remodel that has now entered it’s third year of stagnation, birthing different groups that have been on the back burner, taking a hard look at this business’s finances, and clearing out all the clutter that was distracting me from having the white space in my life that I needed to maintain the gains in rest and rejuvenation that I had achieved (like, turning off most of my phone notifications, unsubscribing from all the various email lists, and tossing out clutter).

So, that’s where I am. I’ve made a few changes to the workshop offerings and getting rid of things that just weren’t working or were not providing the energy for growth. My goal is to offer opportunities for you to develop your creativity and to remove as many obstacles as possible. This means providing a rich environment  where you are free to explore and play with every supply available for your use. As a result, the times, length, and prices or workshops are no longer static–and in some cases, the price has increased–but they are still affordable, and you will still receive the same value and “Art Spa” experience that you have grown accustomed to.

Oh! I really wanted to share this with you. It’s a blog post by Kelly Rae Roberts, a social worker turned professional artist, and one of my favorite humans. In this blog post, she writes about coming back to our own brilliance and protecting our time to allow space for our intuition to come forth. Oddly enough, I only read this last week, but what a dear reminder that I’m on the right path.

I’ve posted a flyer with all the groups and workshops above. You can find detailed descriptions on my website, and can register via the new MCAC store (no more PayPal!). Would you be so kind as to help spread the word?

With love, gratitude and appreciation for your support,

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Neil Gaiman said it best:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.

You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”


I don’t do resolutions, but I do choose a theme for the year. If you’re looking for a new tradition to guide you through the next year, read more about this practice here.

Anxiety Support: Anxiety vs. Fear

Anxiety Support Group: Anxiety vs. Fear Twist Card

The creation of “twist cards” illustrating the differences between anxiety and fear helped us integrate the lesson

The anxiety support group is heading into its third week. During this past week’s group, we discussed the differences between anxiety and fear. Anxiety is future oriented (relating to things that could possibly happen in the future), requires lots of thinking, and can last indefinitely. Fear, however, is present moment oriented, doesn’t require much thought, and lasts for short duration. Both these emotions are important and normal parts of the human experience. They motivate us to take action and help keep us safe and out of harm’s way. Anxiety helps us take steps to plan for our futures. Fear heightens our senses so we can be more aware of our surroundings, and helps us fight or run away when we perceive danger. Fear helps us take quick action.

How has your anxiety served you in the past? How has it protected you?

How has it held you back?

When anxiety or fear occur when there is no risk of harm, or when they occur too frequently, too intensely, or for too long of a duration, it can interfere with our lives. The struggle to avoid or suppress our anxiety also contributes to our distress. If we can learn to view anxiety as a normal human experience, it can evolve from a life-restricting problem into a tool for growth.

I am excited to continue facilitating these groups to offer the tools to support you in accomplishing this goal.  If you are interested in joining us, visit for details.

Art Journaling for Insight


Smith & Sons

This won’t be your typical art journaling class. This is for the seekers. The ones who are on a journey of listening to their gut, trusting their intuition, and honoring the path that is unfolding before them.

You will be guided in using writing, painting, and collage to find the answers to questions pressing on your heart. Come prepared to make a beautiful mess and leave with a greater knowing of your truth.

Saturday, August 20th
All supplies included. No art experience required.

A Summer MCAC Update

The Summer Line-Up is Here!

This summer marks a full year that I have been blessed to facilitate workshops at MCAC and in the Hendersonville community. I cannot thank you enough for your continued support as I fulfill my mission to bring “Art for Wellness” to this beautiful city.

I’m constantly evaluating the way we do things, and after experimenting with shorter workshops, I’ve found that 2.5 hours just isn’t enough time to complete a project and have time for processing at the end. Therefore, workshops are, once again, a full 4 hours; but we’re starting earlier! So, you’ll still be able to have a full afternoon of summer Saturday fun. Also, I’m now offering Art Journaling 101 at MCAC, AND I’ve added an evening class, so those who work during the day can also have an opportunity to partake in this offering.

Finally, I love collaborating with other agencies, so be on the lookout for additional offerings throughout the season.

2016 Summer Poster


Art Therapy Groups Forming

This fall, I’ll be forming two new art therapy groups:

1. A 12-Week Creativity Development group based on “The Artist’s Way” author, Julia Cameron’s, latest book: “It’s Never too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond”

2. Art Therapy for Anxiety and Stress-Management
This will be an open, ongoing, trauma-informed, art therapy group that will combine evidence-based curriculum from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Committment Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Trauma and Resiliency models with art-making to provide coping skills for managing stress and anxiety.

Dates, times, costs, and further details are in the works.
Email me if you are interested:


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My Social Media Round-Up


I’m pretty active on my favorite social media sites. I use Facebook to share interesting articles I find about art, art therapy, creativity, and wellness; and I share pictures of my creative process on Instagram. Here are some of my favorite posts over the last month.

On Facebook…

  1. Learn the bad habit that prevents you from achieving your goals
  2. 5 ways to change your “too busy” mindset
  3. Seek Joy
  4. Loneliness is a liar
  5. Meet an amazing five year old artist with Autism
  6. How art plays a role in the mind-body connection
  7. A scientific explanation for the adult coloring trend

Over On Instagram…

I shared some pictures from my vision board workshop on the 16th.

Preparing the space and eagerly awaiting my students' arrival

Preparing the space and eagerly awaiting my students’ arrival


First layers


Vision Board Detail


Completed Vision Board

And I shared the beginnings of a new painting.

So many layers...

So many layers…

That’s it for this month! Check back here next month for another update, or join me over on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest for daily articles, photos, thoughts, and inspiration.