Art Therapy Summer Program for Chilean Students

For the past two weeks we have been hosting a program for visiting Chilean students. Faculty member Emery Mikel has been leading a course in art therapy methods and taking the students around the city. Below you’ll see some photos of their trip to Bellevue Hospital as well as some mandalas that they created in pairs in the studio.









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At the Life Education Center: Garland and Mandala Making

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Founded in 1991, the Life Education Center has been providing vocational training, English language classes, and therapeutic activities to young women from the villages surrounding Auroville. It offers a safe space to express themselves and a learning environment that fosters creativity and growth. It also serves as a base for researchers to develop methods and explore the impacts of building self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-confidence among young women.

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Students were instructed by LEC participants in the making of jasmine flower garlands, and then participated in an outdoor mandala-making, using beans and flowers.

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Matrimandir and Tamil Language Class

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One of the distinctive aspects of Auroville is Matrimandir (, the large, golden sphere in the center of the town. Its construction began three years after the founding of Auroville, and it took 37 years to complete it. Surrounded by well-manicured grounds, it is situated next to a banyan tree (, the only tree that existed in Auroville upon its founding in 1968. An estimated 2 million trees have been planted in the area since then.

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Students received an introductory lesson in Tamil [], the primary language of the Tamil Nadu state in India. In its spoken form, it is estimated to be over 7,000 years old, and there are 80 million people speaking Tamil worldwide today.

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Next: Life Education Center


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Art Therapy in India Program 2015: Arrival and Orientation

PHOTO_01_CIMG0020 Students and staff have arrived in Auroville, India to conduct our annual international program. Working with Auroville residents Krupa Jhaveri (MPS Class of 2008) and Iyyappan Jayamurthy, the students are becoming acclimated to the place, and getting ready to work with people from villages near and around Auroville. PHOTO_02_CIMG0018

Starting off the program was a 6AM Puja at the Sankalpa Art Center. A Puja is an ancient Hindu ceremony and served as a way of blessing the space, which is still under construction. After the Puja, students and staff planted trees around the SAC. It was an honor to be included as a part of this beautiful cultural ritual, which dates back more than 2500 years.


The next morning, Iyyappan led us on a bicycle tour of Auroville. He grew up in this area, and has given us with a great deal of important context of this strange and singular place. In the afternoon, Krupa gave a guided meditation, further helping our group to grow comfortable here and to prepare for the art therapy work we will be doing.

PHOTO_05_CIMG0034 The next day, Krupa provided an overview of the international work she has conducted in India, the genesis of her Sankalpa Art Journeys organization, and the work she has done thus far with people (mostly children, adolescents, and young women) in the villages surrounding Aurovile and at the Life Education Center PHOTO_06_CIMG0032 (1)

Next: Matirimandir and Tamil language and culture class

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Art Therapy in India

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Starting next week, the MPS Art Therapy Department will be conducting its fifth international program. This year, we will be working in Auroville, India, and collaborating with an alumna of our program, Krupa Jhaveri (Class of 2008), who has set up an art therapy organization in Auroville, Sankalpa Art Journeys.

We will be making regular posts about the program, so please check back.

Posted in Alumni, International, Professional Development, Students

The End of Carrying All


Register here.

Posted in Alumni, Conference, Faculty, Professional Development, Special Programs and Projects, Students

3 Questions with SJ Langer

One of the newest additions to our faculty, SJ Langer, has been making innovative use of the department’s two-way mirror.  He invites actors to play clients and gives students the opportunity to counsel them while the rest of the class looks on from the other side of the mirror.  I asked SJ a few questions about this training activity.

Where did this idea come from?  I am wondering if this is an idea that comes from your background in Film/Video at SVA.

Debi Farber, the department chair, came up with the idea of using the two-way mirror.  The idea for using actors came from thinking about my own experience in grad school doing mock sessions where classmates played the patient. It didn’t have much verisimilitude. You always knew it was your classmate and they weren’t very good at improv. The actors are more unpredictable to the students and thus it makes it a more realistic interview.

Where do you find the actors?

A friend of mine had done medical patient acting in the past so I asked her and she asked some friends who had similar experience. My comfort with working with actors I’m sure has come from my experience in film school directing my films.

What are some of the benefits of this two-way mirror exercise?

The two-way mirror helps the student forget the whole class is watching. It also enables me to ask questions to the class about what could be done differently or what is missing in the interview without disrupting the flow.



SJ is a writer and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. SJ began his professional life at SVA with a BFA in filmmaking, which taught him to think differently and creatively. His clinical practice is also informed by psychodynamic, psychoanalytic theory, philosophy, neuroscience and phenomenology in order to work with a wide variety of clinical presentations. He is on the Executive Committee for ICP’s Psychotherapy Center for Gender and Sexuality. SJ writes about and presents internationally on gender theory, clinical practice with gender minorities and recovering from trauma. Most recently at the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Biennial Symposium, SVA’s Art Therapy conference: Trauma, Art and Social Constructs, PCGS’s Trans*Literate, Philadelphia Trans* Health Conference and was the White Institute’s Annual Pride Lecture, Trans* Bodies, Mirror Failures and the Tacit Knowledge of Gender. His academic articles include How Dresses Can Make You Mentally Ill: Examining Gender Identity Disorder in Children, Gender (dis)Agreement: A Dialogue on the Clinical Implications of Gendered Language and Our Body Project: From Mourning to Creating the Transgender Body.


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Status Update: Counseling in Schools

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This past March, MPS Art Therapy alumni Jennifer Byxbee, ATR-BC, LCAT (Class of 2007) and Amanda J. Zucker, ATR-BC, LCAT (Class of 2011) ran a pilot program as part of the Department’s art therapy in schools initiative. This program, Status Update, focused on blogging with an adolescent population and explored various themes: identity, bullying, community, and relationships and how these topics relate to their lives and how they play out on social media. Parts of the group have been documented and shared through a multi-user blog, you can check it out here.

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Adolescents spend an estimated 7.5 hours per day using social media, almost as long as the workday of most adults. In 2012, 95 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 used the Internet (Office of Adolescent Health 2013). The center of their social worlds has shifted from their neighborhoods, schools and group affiliations to the Internet. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become platforms for teens to express ideas; create, maintain and end relationships; and develop online identities. This shift is not only changing their maturation process but also our future. During adolescence the brain becomes wired to seek novelty (Siegel 2013). This makes teens particularly susceptible to a changing technological world. Along with novelty, teens are more likely to take risks, reacting to their world without fully taking time to understand the consequences (Siegel 2013).

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In this rapidly changing society therapy continues to follow the same old model. We have not kept up with the times. In most cases helping professionals such as teachers and therapists are ignoring the new Internet norms as opposed to educating adolescents on the threats and issues they face online. As art therapists we have the unique opportunity to utilize these tools to encourage community, connection, expression, and identity formation. We can give adolescents freedom of expression in a medium that comes naturally to them. We can collaborate with them to discuss and analyze what this expression means and how it affects their lives.


As therapists, we are responsible to meet our clients where they are and maintain their safety. We can use blogging as a therapeutic method to engage with a medium familiar to our adolescent clients, while moderating and modeling safe use. This creates a holding environment for our clients. The Internet is changing how people spend their time, socialize and develop. It is our duty to address and understand our clients’ lives as they live them, and to support them as they develop their most authentic selves.


The MPS Art Therapy Department has been providing financial and material support for alumni-run programs since 2012. To date, we have developed programs utilizing stop-motion animation and photography/tablet computer technology, and we are interested in continuing to explore art therapy applications of emerging technologies, as well as more traditional approaches to art-making.

Posted in Alumni, Exhibition, Professional Development, Special Programs and Projects

Save the Date: MPS Art Therapy Conference featuring Wangechi Mutu


Friday, September 11, 2015 at the SVA Theatre.

Registration info will be posted soon.

Images: Wangechi Mutu, The End of carrying All, film stills, 2015

Posted in Conference, Special Programs and Projects

‘Integrating Art Therapy and Yoga Therapy’ Book Launch Party: Saturday, June 20, 5-7pm


MPS Art Therapy alumna Karen Gibbons (Class of 2005) will be celebrating the publication of her new book, Integrating Art Therapy and Yoga Therapy: Yoga, Art and the Use of Intention, on Saturday, June 20, 5-7pm at the 440 Gallery at 440 6th Avenue (btw 9th and 10th Avenue), Brooklyn, NY.

Integrating Art Therapy and Yoga Therapy: Yoga, Art and the Use of Intention is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, ISBN: 978-1-84905-782-0. Please join us in congratulating Karen on this achievement!

Posted in Alumni, Exhibition, Professional Development