Hi, I'm Jess

I am a registered, board-certified art psychotherapist and licensed professional counselor (PC008652). I specialize in working with individuals who struggle with disordered eating and those who suffer the effects of trauma, depression and anxiety.

I received my master’s degree in art therapy from Drexel University in 2012 and have since provided services for a range of populations including geriatric, children/adolescents, refugees, immigrants and survivors of torture and trauma. I have grown my expertise in the area of eating disorders at Belmont Behavioral Hospital (inpatient and partial hospital) and Seeds of Hope (partial hospital) eating disorder programs. 

My approach combines art psychotherapy with elements of mindfulness and DBT. I also draw from additional training in attachment-based family therapy and trauma-informed practices. I endorse a holistic treatment model that honors whole-body wellness and I encourage a community-supported recovery plan.

I am able to function as a primary therapist or provide adjunct therapy services to individuals who would benefit from the addition of this unique modality. Sessions are held at Studio 34 in West Philadelphia and Still Waters Therapies in Fairmount. I do not participate in insurance panels, rates are competitive with limited sliding scale fee options. 

Jessica LaBarca's Curriculum Viate 



The importance of visual expression in psychotherapy was first established by Sigmund Freud, after finding that many of his patients' communications in psychoanalysis were descriptions of visual images (Freued & Breuer, 1893-1895). Carl Jung also emphasized imagery and symbolism as links to religion, fairy tales, mythology and alchemy. In both the personal and professional realm Jung began to rely on spontaneous imagery to illuminate the unconscious (Stein, 1998). Then in the 1930's, the Works Progress Administration employed artists in the Federal Arts Project, which allowed art educators to offer classes to psychiatric patients. However it was two women, Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer, who shaped the discipline of art therapy as we know it today.

Edith Kramer was an Austrian-born painter who followed psychoanalytic theory and applied the Freudian concept of sublimation to establish an "art as therapy" approach. Margaret Naumburg, psychologist, art teacher and director of the Walden School, believed that art was the "royal road" to unconscious symbolic content (Rubin, 1999). Naumburg (1987) recognized art therapy as a vital method for symbolic communication between therapist and patient and found that, "the techniques of art therapy are based on the knowledge that every individual, whether trained or untrained in art, has a latent capacity to project inner conflicts into visual form."

By the middle of the 20th century, many hospitals and mental health facilities began including art therapy programs after observing how this form of therapy could promote emotional, developmental, and cognitive growth in children. The discipline continued to grow from there becoming an important tool for assessment, communication, and treatment of children and adults alike. (arttherapyjournal.org)



Art therapy has the unique ability to unlock emotional expression by facilitating non-verbal communication. This is especially useful in cases where traditional psychotherapy has been ineffectual. Art and art making are inherently perceptually and sensory based and involve the brain and the body in ways that verbal language does not. Art therapy provides an alternative means of communicating for those who cannot find the words to express anxiety, pain or emotions as a result of trauma, combat, physical abuse, loss of brain function, depression, and other debilitating health conditions. (AATA, 2016)

For individuals with disordered eating, art psychotherapy has been shown to:

  • Facilitate the expression of thoughts & feelings that are too difficult to put into words
  • Serve as an outlet for working through issues related to body image
  • Help foster healthy emotional regulation
  • Strengthen self-concept and autonomy

Eating Disorders

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men will
suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life.

60% of adult women have engaged
in pathogenic weight control

40% are restrained eaters, 40% are overeaters, only 20% are instinctive eaters, 50% say their eating is devoid of pleasure and causes them to feel guilty, 90% worry about their weight.

Eating disorder prevalence 

is similar among non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians in the United States with the exception that anorexia nervosa is more common among non-Hispanic whites.

Over ½ of teen girls
and nearly 1/3 of teen boys

use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.


*All information from NEDA