Kalispell art therapist, Allyson Norwood Bush, is a life-long artist who found art making especially helpful during childhood and adolescence. She attended New York University, training directly under art therapy pioneer, Edith Kramer. It was during graduate school that Allyson worked on the inpatient psychiatric unit at Woodhull Hospital in Bedford- Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and at a therapeutic high school in Brooklyn Heights. Upon graduation, she worked with autistic children for two years with the Association in Manhattan for Autistic Children.
Allyson later worked with homeless, mentally ill men and women on the Bowery. Art therapy challenged the shame and hopelessness many felt through the creative and imaginative processes. 12 Step recovery programs were also employed using art therapy techniques. Allyson advocated for increasing art therapy opportunities by speaking at various conferences presented by hospitals and homeless administrations. During this time, Allyson became a founding board member of Open Space, an “outsider artist” venue and studio space for mentally ill adults, empowering people through opportunity for recognition and financial self sufficiency.
In 1997, Allyson became a Registered Art Therapist with the American Art Therapy Association. At that time she also began supervising NYU graduate art therapy interns.
From 2001-2007, Allyson took time from art therapy and activism to rear her four children in suburban New Jersey while also using this time to create, exhibit and sell her own art work.
Since moving to Kalispell in 2007, Allyson worked for Altacare CSCT program in Evergreen as a child and family therapist for four years while also creating a private art therapy practice, Flathead Valley Art Therapy. Allyson is a provider for the Department of Child and Family Services, working with many foster children and families during the reunification process. As a licensed clinical professional counselor, Allyson has expanded her private practice to include traditional talking methods, although the creative process is always engaged. Allyson is a founding member of the Montana Art Therapy Association. Allyson teaches courses on art therapy in clinical practice, offering Continuing Education Credits for therapists in the valley. In the spring of 2011, she was a visiting professor at the University of Montana in Missoula. In summer of 2012 she expanded her private practice to full time at the Eastside Brick Building in Kalispell.
From 2014-2016 Allyson partnered with Kalispell Regional Healthcare to provide weekly art therapy groups for adults with cancer. During this time the Cancer Support Community was introduced to the local community. Art therapy was reintroduced in the fall of 2017 for children and families living with cancer.