Laury Rappaport

LaLauryury Rappaport, Ph.D, MFT, ATR-BC, REAT, and Certifying Focusing Coordinator, pioneered and developed the creation of Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy (FOAT®)  and Focusing-Oriented Expressive Arts Therapy (FOAT®)—based on 30 years of clinical work.

Laury’s clinical work includes thirty years of experience in a variety of settings, including inpatient, outpatient, community mental health, day treatment, private practice, and wellness centers. Specialty populations include working with clients and families with life-threatening illness and health related issues. Laury is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (MA) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (CA), a Board Certified Art Therapist with the American Art Therapy Association (ATR-BC), Registered Expressive Arts Therapist (REAT) with the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association, and a Certifying Coordinator, Focusing-Oriented Therapist and Trainer with The Focusing Institute.

Laury is an Integrative Psychotherapist with the Institute for health & Healing, Sutter Health in Santa Rosa and Marin, CA;  and Part-Time Faculty at Sonoma State University.   She has been on the faculty of Lesley University in Cambridge, MA for over thirty years, where she was the Academic Coordinator of their International Expressive Arts Therapies programs, former Associate Professor at Notre Dame de Namur University, and has also taught at Meridian University, Cambridge College, California Institute of Integral Studies, Wheelock College, Regis College, and SUNY at Buffalo.

Q. What motivated you to become an arts therapist?illumination2.enhancedJPG

The inspiration to become an art therapist and expressive arts therapist began in high school. During those adolescent years of angst and searching for the meaning of life, I discovered drawing from within. I would come home from high school, close the door, sit on the floor and eventually close my eyes. For some unknown reason there was a drawing pad and charcoal sticks in my room. I think someone must have given it to me as a gift.

After some time of sitting with my eyes closed, an image came…not from my mental mind but from my body-sense. I drew the images. Most of were portraits of people suffering. Although I thought I had no creative talent, these images resonated deeply and I felt I was finding my true self. The art provided a means to hold the pain…and transform the suffering to self-compassion.  It was then that I knew of the healing potential in creative expression.

During that time period, I also became a volunteer in an after school program for children with disabilities. There were kids with all kinds of issues-deaf, blind, developmentally delayed, cerebral palsy, autistic, and other forms of “emotional disturbance.” I loved working with the kids and I learned that to create a connection, I needed to use more than my words. It was here that I discovered movement mirroring, play, music, art and other creative forms.

Q. Where did you train? What is your most memorial experience while training – good or bad?

I began college in 1971…and so there were just a handful of art therapy programs in the country. Most were in areas that seemed to be quite far from a New York upbringing. I transferred colleges 3 times until I found a program at the State University of NY at Buffalo where I was able to design my own degree in Art Therapy. I took psychology and art courses, attended the American Art Therapy Conferences, read the few books and journals on the subject, and created a practicum at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital for Children.  During my last year, an art therapist, Georgianna Jungels began to teach an Introduction to Art Therapy Course at a nearby college, which I also took.  I loved my whole experience.

FullSizeRender-4I also took a course, Art for Social Change, in which we worked with a low-income community and created a mural on the Lackawanna Health Clinic. It was inspirational. After graduating, I taught the course with a friend— and we worked with the community to create a mural at the Buffalo Women’s Bookstore. The store had been vandalized and we worked to rebuild it with the community. Those were amazing times.

After training and completing my degree, I wrote up a proposal and created an art therapy position at DeVeaux School in Niagara Falls. It was a residential school for adolescent boys. I learned so much there-particularly around limit setting and finding the right materials that would engage adolescents. Although I used drawing and some painting, I found more “adult” media worked best— and taught them silk-screening and video. Somehow I intuitively starting doing drama therapy even though I hadn’t really been exposed to it.

After being self-taught at the bachelor’s level, I decided I really needed to learn from others. I was excited when I learned that Lesley University (at the time, Lesley College) offered the only program in the world on expressive therapies—where students would learn how to incorporate all of the arts modalities—art therapy, dance-movement therapy, music therapy, psychodrama, poetry therapy, and intermodal expressive arts.

That was probably the most inspiring experience of my training as I was at the beginning of it with the founders— Shaun McNiff, Paolo Knill, Norma Canner, Peter Rowan and Elizabeth McKim. Today, 38 years later, they all became dear friends and colleagues, and live within me and inform my work (even those deceased).

Q. Who has most inspired you or influenced your work as an arts therapist?

In addition to the expressive arts folks mentioned in the previous paragraph, the other most influential person who has affected my work is Eugene Gendlin—renowned philosopher and psychologist who worked with Carl Rogers.  Together, in the 1960’s. Gendlin and Rogers conducted research on what makes psychotherapy effective. They found that those who spoke from their bodily sense—below the cognitive mind—were the ones who got better. Gendlin termed this, felt sense, and developed Focusing to teach people to access that place.  I found that the expressive arts naturally accessed the felt sense. Gendlin’s Focusing helps to work more precisely with the felt sense. I have spent 40 years developing the integration of Focusing with the expressive arts. I have named the approaches, Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy and Focusing-Oriented Expressive Arts. FOAT® is the umbrella acronym for the approaches.

Q. Are you employed as an arts therapist? Are you self-employed? Are you employed as something else but practice art therapy in your work? peaceprayerlrappaport

I currently work for Sutter Health, Institute for Health & Healing. It is an Integrative Medicine Clinic where I work as a team with physicians, acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and other providers. It is immensely satisfying since they hired me because of my expertise in expressive arts, Focusing, mindfulness, and guided imagery. After working for over 30 years on the fringes of healthcare and mental health, it is excited to be accepted within the system.

In the past, I worked in many different settings, including psychiatric day treatment, psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment, and private practice. I also have been teaching at Lesley University for over 35 years, and have taught at other graduate and undergraduate programs.

I currently also train others nationally and internationally in FOAT® through my institute: Focusing and Expressive Arts Institute (

Q. What populations do you predominantly work with?

I currently work with adults, adolescents, children, couples and families. Many have stress and health related conditions but I also see people with other issues including anxiety, depression, relationship issues, etc.

Q. How much of your working week is clinical work?

29 hours.

Q. What key theories influence your practice and how do you incorporate these into your daily work?

Focusing, Focusing-Oriented Therapy and Person-Centered Therapy are the primary theories that influence my work. I also see the value of different theories and practice approaches depending on the clients. For example, I may incorporate CBT or integrate psychoanalytic or Gestalt approaches. I incorporate these theories mostly through FOAT®. There are various FOAT® approaches: Basic FOAT® Step; Clearing a Space with Arts; Theme-Directed FOAT® and FOAT® Process (in-depth psychotherapy).

IMG_0191Q. Do you practice your own art? If so what and who has influenced you?

Yes- my favorite artist and teacher is Jeanne Carbonetti, a watercolorist who integrates teaching on TAO. Examples of my art are on the covers of my two books: Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy: Accessing the Body’s Wisdom and Creative Intelligence; and Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies: Theory and Practice (an edited volume with leading authors/practitioners in the field).

Q. What other interests do you enjoy when you are not working?

I am fortunate to have moved to northern California in the heart of wine country 8 years ago. There’s beauty all around—and I love being part of it, walking in it, breathing it, etc. I also am a student of Zen and enjoy the practice. And most of all, I love spending time with my family).

 Q. What keeps you motivated?

After 40 years of doing this work, it feels as alive and as interesting as when I first discovered it. I love doing it—whether working with clients, training, teaching, writing about it or collaborating with others. It all feels great!

Q. What significant changes have you noticed within the arts therapy profession over the time you have been involved?

I think the biggest change occurred when art therapy and expressive arts training got paired with mental health licensure. I look at it developmentally. In the early days, there was some truth that the training lacked the depth of training as a psychotherapist or counselor (in a way that other professions would take us seriously as psychotherapists and counselors). So in one way, others have begun to recognize us as equals in that way (psychotherapy) but I think it has also reduced and confused our dominant knowledge in the arts…and its application to fields outside of mental health. For example, I think expressive arts can be applied in education, community work, and even business. Now there is a lot of confusion with community artists, expressive arts therapists, artists-in-residence in hospitals, etc. I think we need to join together and open dialogues—looking at how what we do is the same, similar, and unique—and educating others about the overlaps and differences.  I think we need to see how we are all trying to accomplish the same thing and that there’s room for all of us—and to learn how to support each other and refer to each other’s unique dimensions of expertise. It’s about collaboration.

Q. What is on your “wish list” either for yourself as an arts therapist or for the profession?

I think I answered this in the previous question—collaboration and appreciation for all of us using the arts in healing. My “wish list” includes increased funding for research and programs; and more jobs with titles art therapist, expressive arts therapist, etc.

Q. What professional bodies do you belong to?

American Art Therapy Association

International Association of Expressive Arts Therapies

The Focusing Institute

International Association of Focusing-Oriented Therapy (IAFOT)

California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy

Northern California Association of Art Therapy

Redwood Association of Marriage and Family Therapy

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say? 

Thank you Janet for offering this gift in the world to spread arts therapy further into the world!

Find out more about Laury and her work here: Mindfulness and the Art Therapies

Focusing and Expressive Arts Institute



 Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies: Theory and Practice

Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy: Accessing the Body’s Wisdom and Creative IntelligenceFOAT


Clearing a Space with Art:

Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy:

Audio Download of Guided FOAT®  Exercises:

Focusing for Wellbeing Guided Exercises:

DVD: Integrating FOAT® into Clinical Practice

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4 Comments on “Laury Rappaport”

  1. Art and Soul Space May 14, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Wow Laury and Wow Janet!
    Thank you Laury for sharing your journey with the powerful, beautiful modality of expressive arts therapies.
    And thank you Janet for facilitating this. I have an image of an ever-growing art therapy flower.

    • Janet May 14, 2015 at 9:49 am #

      Thank you Sally. Perhaps you would like to take part?

  2. Hannah May 14, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    Thank you Laury — I was fascinated to read of your path from the beginning in Buffalo NY to the Sutter Integrative Health Institute in Santa Rosa/Marin. In so many ways your journey mirrors that of art therapy.

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