Linda Adeniyi, Bonnie Burke and Heidi Moffatt all have graduated from Herron School of Art and Design’s Master of Arts in Art Therapy Program within the last two years.
They were employed right away, even before graduation in Burke’s case. Beyond those achievements, the three share additional characteristics. Not only are they helping people who suffer from a variety of causes, they are forging understanding among their peers in mental health throughout Indiana, many of whom have had little exposure to Art Therapy applied in a clinical setting.
They were born in different places—Adeniyi in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Burke in Baltimore and Moffatt in Indianapolis.
Adeniyi came to Herron as a seasoned counselor, with a B.A. degree in art and psychology from the University of Evansville. She found the Art Therapy program through an online search. Burke and Moffatt came as Herron fine art alumnae; they had been students during the formative years of the program, as it was being developed and before it was launched.
Burke (B.F. A. in General Fine Art ‘11) had turned to her own artwork during a rocky past. “I’ve always been an artist,” she said. “Art had helped in my private life, so I knew it can help anyone.”
Moffatt (B.F.A. in photography ‘08) said, “I was already evaluating the reasons behind the art I was creating, and beginning to realize how important it is for me to take action in order to create positive change. The blend of psychology and art in art therapy seemed as though it would be a perfect fit.”
Burke is a therapist at Sycamore Springs in Lafayette. It’s a 48-bed inpatient facility and also serves outpatients seeking mental health and addiction treatment, or geriatric services. The average in-patient stay is seven to 10 days.
She has a 10-person caseload. She also runs group therapy sessions and plans discharges.
Moffatt works for Community Health Network, providing individual, group and family therapy. Much of her work is performed in schools in Marion County.
Adeniyi is a 13-year veteran of Legacy House. The Indianapolis agency provides counseling for adult and child victims of violence. “Our services are free and voluntary,” she said. She loves witnessing her clients’ resiliency and helping them to move forward from their trauma.
Burke gives an example of using art therapy as a part of the care for a veteran in his 60s. He had a brain injury from an accident he was in after his military service. He was admitted for a psychotic episode. “Art therapy gave him a form of expression and a here and now focus,” she said. “The art kept him from suffering.”
Moffatt said being an art therapist gives her the nonverbal means to transcend barriers to service such as language, culture, communication, developmental delays and trauma.
The three art therapists all agree that although the therapeutic use of art has been a distinct practice since at least the 1940s, it is not as well known and understood in Indiana.
Moffatt said sometimes “Art therapists are mistaken for artists and craftsmen who happen to work in therapeutic settings. In fact,” she said, “art therapists are masters-level professionals trained to assist individuals of all ages. We clinically observe their creative process and assist with the careful selection of art media based on unique therapeutic needs and goals.”
Burke appreciates being a pioneer. She noted that people “don’t understand the training and the multiple therapeutic philosophies, or our deep skill set, but that’s part of our job—to educate people.”
“Whether the person is naturally creative or just stuck,” Adeniyi observed, “Art Therapy helps give them words.”
Each of these practitioners noted the advantage that Herron’s program gives students by preparing them for the dual credentials of Art Therapist Registered (ATR) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). All three are logging the post-graduation clinical hours required to obtain both.
They were pleased with the amount of studio art they had to take to complete the degree, and think that having the program situated in an art school sets it apart. Moffatt’s advice to candidates considering Herron’s graduate Art Therapy program is to begin early on the requirements—at the end of sophomore or beginning of junior undergraduate year.
“The faculty support is just amazing,” Burke said.
“Herron has made close connections with a variety of internship sites and offers graduate students within the program great experiences in getting to know different settings and populations,” added Moffatt. “I had very beneficial experiences at my internship sites. They included Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, St. Vincent Breast Center, and the Stress Center’s Therapeutic Day School and intensive outpatient programs.”
“Since I was the first art therapy intern within my program at the Stress Center,” Moffatt continued, “I was able to build an art therapy program and work alongside the designated teacher, clinician, social worker, nurse and activity therapist.”
Adeniyi noted that “the faculty continues to communicate opportunities and support” post graduation.
Burke observed that there is an entrepreneurial aspect to being an art therapist, even if a practitioner is not in private practice. “You have a great deal of autonomy,” she said. “You have to be your own boss, know what you are doing and what needs to be done.”
“Once we are registered art therapists and licensed mental health counselors, we have unlimited opportunities,” said Adeniyi, although she does not see going into business for herself. “I like having a team,” she said.
“I am very proud to have been in the first graduating class of the Herron School of Art and Design’s Art Therapy program,” Moffatt added. “We had a 100 percent employment rate within a month and a half of graduation. I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary as a therapist for Community Health Network. I feel proud to have helped carve the path for future graduate art therapy students and for the field in Indiana.”
Burke recounts her proudest clinical moment as “working with a client with Parkinson’s disease and severe speech impediment. She has a new identity as an artist. She has amassed a portfolio. It really helped her deal with her depression and Parkinson’s, with being where she was,” Burke said.
Adeniyi was deeply moved by being asked to speak at the [Indianapolis] Vet Center. “When they found out I am a veteran, they wanted me to facilitate at their staff retreat,” she said, as both a therapist and a veteran.
Burke advised students thinking of pursuing Art Therapy to “be dedicated and do all they ask of you. It is a serious program. You have no chance of having a career if you burn out.” She noted that all Art Therapy students are encouraged to get their own therapist. “Students in this program can’t be afraid to know who they are. If you don’t, you can’t help anyone,” she pointed out.
“Get involved! No matter how little time you have and how heavy the work,” is Moffatt’s advice. “Embrace the opportunities that come your way. Seek out established professionals, ask your supervisors questions, become a member of the Indiana Art Therapy Chapter and the American Art Therapy Association, attend opportunities such as the Spirit and Place Festival and Combat Paper, go to the National Art Therapy Conference if you can. Remember that time is limited and your two years as a graduate student will fly by.” She also cautioned near-graduates to begin the job search early. “I had several job interviews. The process can take awhile—two to three months—plus training, so be prepared.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Adeniyi. “Get proper rest, stay connected with your peers and manage your time wisely.”
Each of these Herron graduates imagines a future where Art Therapy continues to drive their career decisions. Adeniyi finds herself being drawn to working on sexual assault trauma with veterans, especially as women’s roles in the military are being expanded to include combat.
Burke wants to eventually be “running Art Therapy every day, transitioning away from care management.” She sees herself “continuing to provide Art Therapy wherever that may be.”
Moffatt imagines continuing “to learn and grow within the field of art therapy as I discover its many faces within different settings and populations.”
“People who graduate from this program now are the founders, continuing to educate Indiana,” said Burke. “The good thing is we are so new, facilities are grabbing us rather quickly.”