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Art therapist retires after 47 years of guiding healing

Thursday, March 28, 2024

​Ask Jerilyn Klingenberg about her day, her work, her life and it will not take long for the conversation to center on one of the people she's helped over the past 47 years as an art therapist. Each reply leads to a story of someone's journey of self-discovery and healing.

As she plans to retire on March 29, she's leaving filled with hope for the future of her patients, including one she's worked with over the years.

“They've created these art books of interventions – guidebooks – about emotional regulation with these positive affirmations of words and pictures. It's all about their recovery," Jerilyn said. “I know they're going to move forward and life is going to be good for them. There's a lot of great facilitators here that helped make that happen. For me, it shows how art therapy works."

For her, it's the perfect retirement gift. It is what she and every member of a patient's treatment team come to work every day to support – patients achieving their goals and preparing them to return to the community. 

At OSH, Jerilyn is one of seven licensed, board-certified art therapists who use creative expression and psychotherapy to guide others through self-exploration, emotional healing and personal growth.

“Art therapy is like coming in through the back door and you get people who sometimes cannot talk about what they're thinking and feeling because it's so deep," she said. “It comes through the creative, emotive part of the brain. Once they do the art, it's so much easier for them to share what comes through them. It's magical. Just magical."

Throughout her career she's worked in schools, correctional centers and other hospital settings. She joined OSH in October 2014 and was hired to launch the art therapy program on the Junction City campus which opened its doors March 2015.

Her expertise also helped shape legislation as part of a statewide task force to require anyone practicing art therapy in the state to have a clinical license in art therapy. 

“It was important that we do that to protect the public and ensure art therapy is recognized as a viable profession in Oregon," Jerilyn said.

Jerilyn's contributions over the past nine years are felt throughout OSH and her advocacy has helped impact behavioral health standards for the state, said Tom Anhalt, Junction City's administrator.

“Her contributions will have a lasting impact on our patients, our staff and art therapists across Oregon," he said. “Her passion for the work and patients is obvious to anyone she encounters. When I think of the OSH value of humanity, Jerilyn comes to mind immediately."

There are so many stories of hope to share in 47 years of helping others heal that Jerilyn admitted the decision to retire and say good-bye to her work at OSH was a difficult one.

“They're the most phenomenal people I've worked with in my whole life," she said of her patients. “They never stop ceasing to amaze me. They just blow me away with their resilience. They have filled my cup so it runs over all the time. I'm never half full. I never feel like I can give them back what they've given me. It's a continuous life cycle of growth and healing and recovery – and I've even seen it in myself, too."

As she plans to move back to Arizona to be closer to her family, she said she will likely find a place to share her gifts as a volunteer in her new community.

“I feel there's a real need for connectedness and creativity in people's lives and seeing things in a different light," she said. “I think I'll always be connected to this work somehow or some way."




OSH art therapist Jerilyn Klingenberg

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