Last month, while I was visiting Los Angeles for an art therapy symposium at my alma mater, I also attended a 10-year master’s reunion. Much to my surprise, it’s been that long since my fellow students and I graduated and officially became art therapists. These talented women have been my colleagues, mentors, consultants, and friends for over a decade.
We were a unique and enterprising class indeed — going above and beyond in every way possible. While other students were eating, relaxing, or even napping mid-day, we instituted “lunchtime learning” and took turns teaching each other art techniques to further expand our therapeutic toolboxes. We were the first to participate in a study abroad program in Mexico which still trains art therapists in multicultural theory and practice. And, like the big bunch of nerds we were, we even held our own fundraiser for ourselves, earning enough money to pay for our school books and supplies.
One of my favorite extra-mile projects was called “collaborative art journal” — a modified round-robin where we shared our hopes, fears, triumphs, frustrations, and the rocky road to becoming therapists. I proposed the project, in the spirit of Post Secret, 1000 Journals, and other collaborative art projects. To my surprise, nearly every member of our class agreed to participate, even though it meant adding additional work to their overflowing plates. The collaborative journal provided the basis for my first presentation at the national art therapy conference in 2005.
I was so moved that several of my friends brought their project journals with them to the reunion. It was their way of tapping back into those memories, thoughts, and feelings. The journals are now a tangible reminder of the journey we had. We hold them as precious treasures.
Here’s an entry I found that night.
Back then, ordering my first business cards, which listed me as a real-life, big-time therapist, was surreal. A decade later, what’s surreal now is just how many opportunities, jobs, clients, and business cards have since passed. In those 10 years, I have:
- Worked as an outpatient therapist in a community mental health clinic.
- Worked as a school-based therapist in elementary and high school.
- Directed an expressive therapies program in a pediatric hospital.
- Directed an expressive therapies program in a residential treatment center.
- Presented at the national AATA conference half a dozen times.
- Published half a dozen peer-reviewed articles.
- Owned a private practice for half a dozen years.
I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years hold for me and for the field of art therapy!