Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor to be invited back for another Career Day for middle and high school students about the profession of Art Therapy and my work as an Art Therapist. Last spring, I spoke to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at Mayfield Middle School and this year I spent the day with 8th-12th graders at Richmond Heights High School. It’s great to have Art Therapy included in this day of sharing and learning about career possibilities.
Inspired by this event, I thought it would be nice to share some of the information I shared with this student audience about Art Therapy as a career, in hopes that it might be helpful to others interested in learning more, and as a reference for student requests at the college level I often receive for more information about the work I do.
Below is the basic presentation I shared with general information about what art therapy is, who art therapists are, where art therapists work, education, as well as important personal qualities associated with the career, and examples of job responsibilities:
I also shared some answers to common questions I get via e-mail or in conversation about art therapy and my work:
- My motivation to become an art therapist developed from these three areas: My activity in and enjoyment with the arts since a child, my interest and curiosity in psychology that started to grow when I was high school, and a desire to help and work with others who were in need. Art therapy combined these motivations together and created a purpose for my life’s work. I was fortunate to attend college at a school (Bowling Green State University) that at the time, had a strong undergraduate art therapy program where I was able to learn so much about art therapy through classroom teachings, assigned readings, practicums, community service, leadership experiences, & more. Obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Art Therapy prepared me very well to enter graduate school at Ursuline College and their Master of Arts in Art Therapy Program, knowing that this was a career I wanted to wholeheartedly serve.
- In the 15 years I have been practicing as an Art Therapist, I’ve worked mostly with children and adolescents, which includes the first part of my career dedicated to developing, as well as implementing art therapy programming and services for youth in a residential treatment setting & partial hospitalization programs. My work in residential treatment with youth who had experienced pervasive early childhood neglect, abuse, and abandonment motivated me to learn more about trauma and loss. With this experience and the mentoring of supervisors at work, inspired me to obtain trauma certification through The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC). My art therapy work over the last decade has included providing art therapy to survivors of domestic violence, grieving children and adolescents who have experienced a death of a loved one, and families living with or transitioning out of homelessness.
- Most of the art therapy services I provide are group orientated and theme based around a trauma-informed topics connected to the population and setting I am working in. Group work can be a beneficial approach with trauma survivors as a form of support, belonging, validation, and normalizing of ones experience. Art expression provides a visual voice for unspeakable memories and experiences, as well as helps re-establish safety and well-being. You can learn more about my art therapy group work with trauma and loss in some of these presentations or from this past post. One of the examples I like to share at Career Day is this video from a Peacemakers Art Therapy group I facilitated with youth ages 6-12 who engaged in papermaking to transform hurtful feelings and experiences about bullying into positive, kind messages about how to be a caring, peaceful person:
- Rewards & Challenges: Being able to help people feel better, make meaning, and discover themselves through art-making and the creative process is very rewarding and one of the reasons I enjoy and am honored to the work I do as an Art Therapist. What I find most powerful about art therapy is its ability and permission to give individual’s a voice to express, reflect on, and honor ones feelings, thoughts, memories, and experiences in a safe and creative environment. I also believe art-making is a life affirming act of hope and strength to help manage and cope with the challenges or struggles we face. An important consideration to remember about this work however, is to take time for your own self-care, decompressing, and balancing the emotional demands of hearing, as well as seeing through image making, the intensity and rawness unearthed from deep within.
- Giving Back: My love for this work motivates me to keep sharing, promoting, and nurturing efforts, learning, and energy in support of the higher good of the art therapy community and the amazing work art therapists do everyday. Contributing to this through community organizing, leadership, teaching, supervision, and outreach helps our efforts and positive energy grow… and to inspire new possibilities for our field and the future of art therapy.
Many thanks to Richmond Heights High School for the opportunity to introduce and share Art Therapy during their Career Day!
Additional Resources to learn more about art therapy:
- Art Therapy on Pinterest: A collection of news, resources, and inspiration
- About Art Therapy: Includes art therapist blogs, websites, and sites about art therapy organizations around the world.