Hiltunen, who is a native of Finland, is the executive vice president of the Art and Drama Therapy Institute in Washington. The institute is a therapeutic day treatment center for adults with disabilities. October is Disabilities Awareness Month.

How does art and drama therapy work?

In general, when you express yourself in the arts you are connected to your unconscious. There are no cerebral safeguards preventing expression in the arts. For example, in a drawing, one directly expresses about their inner life, and you can tell so much from this. We have a lot of safeguards and defenses we don't want to show people. We only show what we want people to see, and through the arts the real person comes out.

What programs are available?

In the day treatment program, we offer many services including art therapy, music therapy, nutrition counseling and supportive employment.

How do the arts serve as an outlet for those seeking treatment?

It lets the participants indirectly express what they are feeling. They can express something very deep about themselves through picking a mask or acting a part. It's very interesting how you can project yourself through art. I think creativity and art are an incredibly powerful mode of treatment. The creative process is healing because it's very satisfying and gives people a natural high. I also believe in the therapeutic impacts of beauty. Beauty is very harmonizing and makes people feel calmer and centered.

What can be determined from art therapy?

We conduct evaluations before we start the therapy process to see what issues they have. Once the therapy starts, we look at common themes in their art and drama. Art therapy is indirect and it is a projection of what's going on within a person. We try to bring their unconscious to a conscious level through art, so they may begin to heal. – Kristen Byrne