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Selfless Art

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Bryn Mawr’s Sandy Sheller began her career in advertising design. But after she and her husband had children, she went for her master’s degree in art therapy and further study in couples and family therapy. While at Drexel University in 2004, Sheller interned at the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Family Residence in Philadelphia. She hasn’t left since, creating a position for herself as mental health specialist and supervisor.

Red Shield offers transient residents support, safety and the potential for self-sufficiency as most prepare for the move to transitional housing. Over 40 families reside there, including about 80 children.

Sheller’s approach to family therapy is systematic: The whole is only as strong as its parts—and often those parts need serious healing. “Sometimes when you’ve grown up with a lot of violence and a lot of trauma, things don’t have the same meaning to you,” says Sheller, a licensed professional counselor who donates her salary back to the Salvation Army. “Without the ability to trust, it’s really hard to navigate the world.”

Sheller uses art—everything from sand trays and murals to holiday door-decorating contests—to help facilitate communication. “Trauma is stored in images,” she says.

In October 2007, Sheller received the Salvation Army’s Others Award for her altruistic service. “There hasn’t been anybody I haven’t been able to fall in love with,” she says.

To learn more, call (215) 787-2887 or visit use.salvationarmy.org.

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