Art Therapy in Costa Rica Program 2012

The MPS Art Therapy Department conducted its second international multicultural issues and internship program May 20-June 9 at La Victoria Elementary School in Liberia, Costa Rica.


Students arrived in Liberia on Sunday, May 20, and lived with host families within walking distance of the school for the duration of the 3-week program.

Description of Program

Using Liberia, in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica as a point of reference, the effects ethnicity and culture have on the therapeutic process were examined through immersion, internship work and supervision. This course explored the cultural determinants of issues encountered in the field of art therapy and provided a foundation of knowledge in cultural diversity theory and competency models applied to an understanding of artistic language, symbolism and meaning in artwork and art-making across culture and society. Students considered the role of the art therapist in social justice, advocacy and conflict resolution, including theories of counseling and development of competencies essential for a culturally responsive therapist with regard to age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, developmental disability, education, family values and religious and spiritual values. Issues of power and privilege, particularly the effects of being white and North American in a Central American community, were examined.



The first week of the program was devoted to preparing for the work at the school. It included program orientation and demonstration of the project to be done with the groups at the school. Spanish language and Liberian/Costa Rican cultural instruction were also included.

This year’s project was similar to last year’s Art Therapy in Costa Rica program, in that bases for the art project were constructed using recycled materials; but instead of using plastic bottles and wire mesh, Styrofoam and newspaper were the primary ingredients.


Project DEMO

1.     Small, thin pieces of Styrofoam were fashioned into a large rectangle.

2.      Strips of newspaper were glued to the Styrofoam, allowed to dry, and then the pieces were flipped and newspaper was glued on to the other side. This formed a sturdy yet flexible base or canvas.

3.     Previously, newspaper had been shredded into small pieces and added to buckets of water for pulping. This took several days to achieve the desired consistency.

4.      Pulped paper was then added to a mixture of glue and wet plaster, and placed on one side of the base.

5.      The piece was allowed to dry.


Multicultural Coursework and Supervision

Continuing with classes completed in New York prior to leaving for Liberia, students looked at the issues and concerns of this Central American community as it relates to art therapy work with populations from different cultures, through the use of articles, discussion, and interactions with the community. Preparation for work with the children, parents, and staff at the school was also a focus of this week.

Project 2012

This year we worked with a similar process, concept and use of recycled materials as last year’s program, however instead of focusing our work on the overall barrio/neighborhood, the school itself acted as the environment. The project title was ‘La Escuela de Suenos’, and we hoped that by looking at the smaller school community, some of the children’s suggestions will be able to be implemented in the school after we leave, increasing feelings of empowerment, pride, self-esteem and increasing positive identity.


Parent Meeting

On Thursday, May 24, our students met with parents of participating children at the school, who were given the opportunity to express issues and concerns. This year, we offered private consultations with parents, and encouraged them to come to the school to speak to us about their experiences and we provided feedback so that they will be able to implement and continue the work the children at home.



Week 2: Beginning the work with the children at the school.

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