Sam Commarato has been busy since she graduated from the MPS Art Therapy program in 2005. She completed a one-year program for introductory studies in Modern Psychoanalysis at the Academy of Clinical and Applied Psychoanalysis and works as program coordinator at St. Mary’s Hospital. She also maintains a private art therapy practice, conducts groups for the Art Therapy Outreach Center, and supervises MPS Art Therapy Interns at her site. We are pleased Sam joins us this semester to teach Art Therapy in Disabilities, a class in the department’s Challenged Populations track. MPS Art Therapy chats with Sam Commarato, below.
MPS AT: We are excited to have an alumnus joining our program faculty. Can you tell us how your work with various populations will inform your teaching of Art Therapy in Disabilities?
SC: In my experience as an Art Therapist and clinician, I have been taught many important lessons by my clients. First, I have learned that a diagnosis is just a starting point upon which I may begin to understand the more complete experience of the individual. Second, I have learned that a diagnosis or disability is not something that necessarily needs to be overcome so much as it needs to be understood and accepted by the individual in order to have a fulfilling life experience. Finally, I have learned that the presence of a diagnosis or disability does not indicate the absence of health or human needs and desires. I hope to impart these lessons within the course by emphasizing the need to be informed about a given population’s common needs while remaining aware of and open to the specific strengths, skills and challenges of the individual.
MPS AT: In what ways does teaching differ from and/or complement the other work you are doing?
SC: This new experience of teaching has encouraged me to consider my various roles in greater depth in order to identify how they may differ or overlap. In my roles as a Program Coordinator and internship site supervisor, I have the opportunity to do a great deal of teaching. In these roles, I am part of a team that comes together to problem solve, to explore possibilities and to develop an appropriate clinical course of action. While initially I viewed these roles to be very different from my role as a course instructor, I have come to understand that the same processes occurs in the classroom through the sharing of ideas and the exploratory process of art experientials. I have also found that, as in my other roles, the learning process continues for me as well as for my students. I feel honored to have this opportunity to teach and collaborate with MPS Art Therapy students and to learn from them as well.
MPS AT: Thank you, Sam. It’s a pleasure to work with you.