Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing Juliette Ozkalfayan, a Therapeutic Art Life Coach based in NYC.
Please tell us something about yourself.
I have a BA in Art Therapy from Saint Thomas College (STAC). In 2007 I returned to school at FIT to study Fabric Styling, and I started my career in digital textile printing 13 years ago. Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, I became a certified Life Coach through Transformation Academy with Joeel and Natalie Rivera. While I do not treat or diagnose mental health conditions, I am committed to the creative arts as a means for people to express thoughts and feelings safely, without judgment, and getting from point A-Z in any given life area through innate creativity. I have also been studying the Tarot for over 20 years and published my first book on Amazon: Play The Fool: Teach Yourself How to Read Tarot Cards. I am a survivor of the NYC foster care system and want to help those struggling to move beyond trauma and live a happy life. My life coaching style is a blend of Art Therapy and Mindfulness techniques.
Can you please tell us more about your journey?
I was born on May 9, 1981, in New York City to an Armenian mother from Istanbul and my paternal relatives from Brooklyn, predominantly of Sicilian ancestry. Not much is known about my early life. Until age 2.5, I was under the care of Spence Chapin, in foster care. Due to her own immigration status and health, my mother was unable to sustain life for the two of us. In 1984 my mother’s parental rights were terminated, and I was adopted by an American family. If I had to sum up my early life in one phrase, it would consist of constant reinvention. Life is a cycle of change, and I’m finally learning to just go with it.
As a preteen, all I knew about my ancestry was my birth mother’s Armenian culture. I was in the library all the time researching anything and everything I could get my hands on to learn about all things Armenian. I learned about the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and had a chance to connect with a church youth group. I am still very much inspired by Armenian culture, cuisine, folk music, and studying about Christian minority groups in the Middle East. In my efforts to learn about my own culture, I also developed an interest in other people’s cultures and awareness of social injustices everywhere. I readily identified with the sadness and betrayal of the Armenian Genocide, and this also helped to put a traumatic early childhood into some perspective.
In more recent history, I have successfully connected with both maternal and paternal biological family through research and DNA testing. The majority of my relatives are living in Istanbul, Brooklyn, and the deep south. This journey alone is an entire book! Lol! By some weird twist, my ancestors are buried in Rockland Cemetery right across the street from where I went to college! So, as an adoptee, I probably grew up surrounded by paternal relatives and did not even know it. My biological father was never told about me and my birth mother, who passed away before I had a chance to meet her. She did not leave any information behind about who my father could possibly be.
I was born with a deformed left ear, and I had some developmental delays. I was born prematurely between 30-33 weeks. I entered the world at 2.9 ounces. Doctors told my adoptive family that I would never walk or talk, and I would be a vegetable my entire life. Little did anyone know, I not only had words in me, but I also had a gift for writing and especially poetry. I was the kid in the 6th grade with a unibrow, mustache, glasses, braces, bone skinny, and short. It was not a fun time in my life, and understand the devastating aftermath of bullying.
Please tell us more about what you do.
As an extension of the Therapeutic Art Life Coaching programs I offer on my website, I have developed The Inner Compass Online Art Project hosted on Teachable.com to help people cope with Covid-19 related stress and trauma. It is a free program, and you can enroll on the homepage of my website.
I also sell supplemental digital downloads, and I offer a free 8-week coaching program to teach people how to develop their very own online business and earn a commission on paid leads. Economic empowerment is very important to me, especially in the face of Covid-19. We also need to collaborate as a society and bridge the income gap caused by the pandemic and centuries of social injustice.
What is The Inner Compass Online Art Project exactly?
This online art project is hosted for FREE on Teachable.com with a PDF, an MP3 narration, and video instruction.
Why enroll in this art project?
Enrollment in The Inner Compass Online Art Project is FREE and intended to help people suffering in silence to explore trauma through creative expression.
There are 3 reasons why it is important to complete The Inner Compass Online Art Project before booking a life coaching session:
1) I want to introduce you to Therapeutic Art Life Coaching as offered in my coaching programs. I have used my Art Therapy training to develop this project, and it is my passion in life.
My life coaching style is essentially a blend of Art Therapy and Mindfulness techniques to help you get from point A to point Z using your creativity.
2) This art project combines colors, shapes, mandalas, and the human body. Add emotion, thought, mood, and memory, and what an awesome template to build from in your next creation!
We want that inner child to feel seen and heard, especially right now!
3) We can use the finished artwork in our first coaching session as an ice-breaker and develop custom creative projects to help you navigate through one major life area at a time.
The truth is, you already have the answers to life’s most perplexing circumstances inside yourself. It is my job to help you find them using your creativity and good old intuition.
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
Trauma is like an old friend who has been with me since the day I was born. As I was growing up, I was treated for speech and motor skills until maybe the 3rd grade, and then I was pretty much caught up with my peers. The emotional problems I had were an annoyance at times but never treated or addressed. It was impossible for me to explain panic attacks because I did not have the vocabulary as a kid.
I have been learning, through trial and error, how to navigate the world with sometimes very heavy and seemingly never-ending episodes of depression and anxiety. Getting into therapy and learning about Mindfulness meditation/practice as of 2013 has been a sanity-saver. I highly recommend Mindfulness practice to anyone who would like to have a better handle on self- defeating thoughts and behaviors and staying grounded in the present moment as much as possible. Mindfulness also helps to cultivate a “This is how it is right now, and it is temporary” mantra.
Seeking out therapy can be scary, but I recommend getting into counseling to safely unpack a traumatic and/or abusive past. When I finally had a kind, empathic 3rd party to listen to my traumatic backstory and treat depression and anxiety, I saw a major shift in my ability to handle panic attacks, depression, and anxiety. Had I not sought treatment when I did, I am not sure I would have made it back to my native NYC as an artist, writer, and now, a life coach!
When I began my Art Therapy undergraduate degree at Saint Thomas Aquinas College (STAC), I had a unique opportunity to learn how the “creative process” of artwork, writing, archetypes, and creativity has soul healing potential. I was introduced to the theory of archetypes and the creative subconscious, and I was like a little sponge.
I am most nostalgic for my days as an Art Therapy student, and I have dreams of going back to graduate school for a Master’s degree, so I can officially work with people as an Art Therapist. I was in my 2nd semester of college when the 9/11 terror attacks struck the US, and trauma vicariously became our studies’ focus.
What inspired you to become a Therapeutic Art Life Coach?
There are just not enough affordable and accessible support systems in place for people, especially in times of crisis. I am still very much inspired by my Art Therapy undergrad studies, and Life Coaching + Creativity felt like a perfect match. I can teach people how to tap into innate creativity and intuition through creativity. Life Coaching is not a substitute for traditional Mental Health Counseling, but it can be a powerful supplement. For those who really just need someone to talk to and maybe a bit scared to get into therapy, Life Coaching is exactly what it sounds like. As a Life Coach, I can help you find creative solutions to any given life situation where you would like to grow. I also want to help people feel confident in their creative abilities. There is no level of artistic expertise necessary, just an interest in exploring! I stand behind the healing power of Art! Last but not least, I am no stranger to trauma, and we need to get a handle on Covid-19 related stress constructively.
Any message for our readers?
There is life after trauma, doom, and gloom. A troubled history does not have to be a life sentence. As a toddler, it was presumed that I would always be a person with special needs, unable to live independently and thrive. Don’t let anybody tell you what you can or cannot do in life, ever. Once you can stop seeking approval and validation from outside sources, it is possible to look within to find absolutely everything you need to live a happy and fulfilling life. Retrospection and introspection are crucial to self-empowerment, and there is no shame in acknowledging outdated coping mechanisms to transmute them into your biggest strengths. Your authentic self is your truest gift to the world, and the world needs to hear your story. I believe everyone has something unique to teach the world and special talents. It is just a matter of looking inward to find them. Finally, you are not locked into any set definition of who you are, no matter what anybody tells you. Go easy on yourself when you feel like self-sabotaging and use that energy to create something constructive instead. Get used to the concept of impermanence in life. Thoughts, feelings, people, and situations are prone to change at any moment.
Fantastic! So tell us, how can people find out more about you?
If you would like to learn more about my coaching programs, please visit my website, www.iamjuliette33.com. Find me on Instagram, and be sure to check out my blog, 33° Degrees of Juliette. I am also a Contributing writer at ThriveGlobal.com.