Story by Rick Hiduk / Photos from IAM Center
(Originally published in the North Branch Arts Trail Magazine)
Since the early 1980s, Jack Walters and Fred Strugatz have been offering counseling services at the IAM Center for Creative Healing, just outside of New Albany in Bradford County. On 90 rural and wooded acres, individuals, couples and families have been welcomed to explore the psychological process through creative and spiritual activities.
Rev. Walters and Mr. Strugatz are pastoral counselors who previously practiced in New York City. Jack (below) found the farm in 1976, and Fred first visited in 1978. They embraced the natural beauty of the property and saw a unique opportunity. “We wanted to create a place where people could come to do expressive art therapy,” Fred recalled. “We took this rural setting and made it into a place where people could be for a period of time and do their own internal work.”
Forests that evolve with the seasons, old stone walls, flowers, and wildlife become catalysts for quiet introspection for individuals and groups up to 12 persons. At the Expressive Arts Therapy Center onsite, participants may be encouraged to express their feelings through various medium, including painting and sculpture.
“I believe that we all have our own inner symbolic creative language,” Fred (above) explained. “If people can tap into that, there is a way of creating through the arts that can help you identify and address your issues.” For example, Fred may ask a guest to draw what their anger looks like. He calls the outcomes “tangible dreams.”
“You create symbols and colors and shapes that have meaning for you,” Fred related. He is then able to analyze the artwork and see how it fits into the client’s individual therapeutic process. “At the same time,” Fred added, people have the chance to find their own sense of creativity, touching on issues from the inside, bringing them out them and putting them on paper or into a sculpture. “It’s a channel to their inner workings.”
Through this process, which is different for everyone, the visitor explores oneself and celebrates their own “I am who I am” revelation.
Fred and Jack are teachers of the methodology of treating mental distress through the “Inner Politic,” an understanding of one’s inner world made up of thoughts and feelings developed and experienced since childhood. They have been developing this theory over the years, and Jack is the author of several books on the topic. Jack is a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.
Fred brings the artistic element to the counseling center, having conducted experiential workshops since 1981. His primary mediums are stone carving, watercolor and pen and ink. He holds a master level in “Rapid Eye Technology,” an efficient manner of addressing emotional stress that can be the result of abuse, addiction, and family and relationship patterns. Fred is a member of the American Counseling Association and the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association.
The IAM Center for Creative Healing regularly conducts creative workshops and also has space available for small group celebrations. The farmhouse alone has seven bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen and dining room. The charming studio is situated in a renovated granary. The Upper House is a three-room cabin that provides additional therapy space. There are also ample outdoor areas maintained for reflective walks, plein air painting and other artistic exercises.
Some larger art-related events have been conducted on the grounds, including LGTBQ support groups, and more are likely in the future pending the ability to conduct large gatherings safely. In the meantime, interested readers can log on to www.iamcounseling.org to learn more about the facilities, available services and ongoing programs.