Art Therapy and Occupational Therapy: Cotreating in Cases of Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury can result in many challenges: physical, cognitive, psychological, behavioral, and communicative. In order to look at how that can manifest, MPS Art Therapy students in the Clinical Topics in Trauma class were asked to draw a clock face showing the time 8:20. Drawing a clock face is used to assess someone’s cognition because there are quite a few aspects that go into the formation of a clock face. For example, spatial awareness, motor skills, and attention. A clock face drawn by a person with a traumatic brain injury might have the numbers clustered together, the hands showing a different time, the order of the numbers inaccurate, etc.

An occupational therapist came into the class to discuss cotreating with art therapy and using prosthetic adaptations. Occupational therapy aims to help people rehabilitate their injuries as close to their previous abilities as possible. Cotreating with art therapy tends to help patients improve quicker, rather than two therapies not working together.

Later, students were shown a variety of prosthetics, which they were able to examine and try on. They were encouraged to wear them and draw with them on to get an idea for what it might be like to have to wear a brace in order for one’s hand to function as it did before injury.

Posted in 2019, In Class, Students

In-Class Experiential: Medical Isolation

When working in an inpatient hospital setting, it is very likely that an Art Therapist will encounter a patient who is in isolation. When a patient is in isolation, all those entering their room must wear protective clothing. Medical isolation can exist for many reasons, though in the second-year Clinical Topics in Trauma class, MPS Art Therapy students specifically discussed patients who have tuberculosis. In this case, the protective gear required is a face mask, preventing them from breathing in any airborne germs.

Instructor Irene Rosner David, ATR-BC, LCAT, PhD, brought in face masks that are used in hospitals so that the students could get an idea for what it could be like to conduct an art therapy session while wearing a mask. The students paired up and role-played an art therapy session with the “art therapist” wearing the mask and the “patient” making art as if they were in the hospital. The pairs then switched roles so that all the students could experience the mask.

This experiential enabled students to get a sense of what it is like to work with a patient and needing to wear the mask, as well as what it might be like for a patient to be working with an art therapist who has to wear a mask. The mask acts as a barrier between the patient and art therapist and creates feelings of unequal power dynamics, (un)safety, and inability to mirror and fully see one’s face. This is something many art therapists and patients in hospitals have to navigate, and this in-class experiential helps prepare future art therapists for those situations.

Posted in 2019, Art, In Class, Students

Clinical Topics in Trauma: Working with Older Adults

Recently, second year MPS Art Therapy students enrolled in the “Clinical Topics in Trauma” course discussed working with older adults in a medical setting. As people age, many things change physically and mentally. Loss can become a presence in a person’s life. In this class, the group focused on cognitive, visual, and hearing loss.

As an in-class experiential, instructor Irene Rosner David, ATR-BC, LCAT, PhD, provided students with earplugs and glasses with varying types of tape covering the lenses. She then asked the students to use these items while role-playing an art therapy session. This allowed students to develop empathy and a better understanding of what clients may be going through.

Following the roleplaying exercise, students reflected on what it was like to manage the impairments that were simulated. This experiential resulted in new perspectives, allowing these future art therapists to understand how they could better support a client with such impairments.

Posted in 2019, Art, In Class, Students

Q&A: Jennifer Byxbee, ATR-BC, LCAT

MPS Art Therapy is excited to welcome Jennifer Byxbee, ATR-BC, LCAT, MPS, for our next community lecture on Friday, November 22nd! Jennifer will be speaking about Digital Media Ethical Use and Considerations for Therapists. In this era of social media, our networks are much larger, we have more access to people and communication can be both immediate and permanent. This presents challenges and benefits in our work as therapists. In the lecture, she will discuss the relevant ethical issues as they pertain to therapists’ use of digital and social media in their personal and professional lives.

In anticipation of Friday’s lecture, we chatted with Jennifer to get a sneak peek!

MPS AT: Tell us about your background. 

Jennifer: I graduated from SVA in 2007 and I have been working in a variety of settings as an art therapist since then including hospitals, shelters, community-based programs, and schools. In 2012 I went back for institute training at Gestalt Associates for Psychotherapy to complete a clinical fellowship program and I currently work in private practice as an Art and Gestalt therapist here in the city.

MPS AT: What about digital media ethics interests you?

Jennifer: In 2014, another SVA alum, Amanda Zucker and I started a blogging project with middle and high school students in partnership with Counseling in Schools and SVA to help teach them some basic coding and web design as a part of an Art Therapy group. Throughout the two years that Status Update ran many questions came up about using digital media with clients as well as the participants (ours and the students) own personal use of social media sites. Amanda and I co-authored a paper about our project that was published in a book, Combining the Creative Art Therapies with Technology in 2017. The experience of working with students using social media made me consider the ethical implications of treating clients using technology. In starting a private practice, however, I was faced with far more personal ethical questions as I was then considering my own use of digital technology and social media both as a professional and as a human living in the 21st Century. In this landscape that is constantly changing, I think it’s important to continue to reevaluate our ethical standards and how we negotiate being a therapist with being a person. 

MPS AT: How has investigating digital media usage informed your practice as an art therapist?

Jennifer: I think I touched on this a bit in the last question but I think as a business owner, a therapist and a human I am immersed in digital media in many different ways. I think having a dialogue about this topic with other professionals as well as my clients has informed my practice immensely. It has caused me to examine myself and be accountable to my clients, and transparent with my clients in ways that I’m not sure we had to 20 years ago. 

MPS AT: What would you say is the most important thing for an art therapist to consider when using social media?

Jennifer: I think the most important thing to consider here is that if we are not honest with ourselves or in this field about the ways in which we use social media we cannot create best practices around these topics. The use of digital media is a complex topic and I hope that we can have an engaging open dialogue about it on the 22nd.

MPS AT: Thank you so much, Jennifer! We are looking forward to having you speak!

Jennifer’s lecture is FREE and open to the public. Register here:

Posted in 2019, Professional Development, Special Programs and Projects

MPS Art Therapy Faculty Highlight: Asilia Franklin-Phipps, Ph.D.

This year, MPS Art Therapy welcomed a new faculty member, Asilia Franklin-Phipps Ph.D., to co-teach the second-year course, Cultural and Social Issues. Asilia taught the course alongside Stephanie Gorski, ATR-BC, LCAT, who has been an SVA faculty member for many years. The course aims to examine the effects of culture and ethnicity in the therapeutic process. We are happy to welcome Asilia to the department! Read below to see our chat with her:

MPS Art Therapy: Tell us about your background and what brings you to SVA.

Asilia: My background is in Ethnic Studies and Education Studies but with a focus on culture. My Ph.D. is Critical Sociocultural Studies in Education. I’m really interested in education’s place in society both presently and historically. I’m interested in art, popular culture, music, and film as pedagogical, but also how those things help us understand the culture and what that culture produces. An example is that I used to teach a course called Schooling and Representation in Film at the University of Oregon. We watched films about school to talk about how dominant narratives about teachers, students, and education circulated through film. This is what I am really interested in exploring. How narratives circulate, become common sense, and are resisted. I’m also interested in how cultural concepts have effects on the social world like innocence, care, shame, humanity, teaching and learning. What do these things mean and why do they mean that instead of something else? That is what I continue to be engaged with in my work. 

MPS AT: As a non-art therapist, what has your experience been like teaching this course?

Asilia: My experience teaching this course was interesting. I was very aware of not being an art therapist so I really tried to always qualify the claims that I made. My expertise is in the social, historical, and cultural. There are many things that I do not know about art therapy, but I did have some prior familiarity as I have worked with art therapists in educational settings before. I think that familiarity helped a lot. In my own pedagogical approach I do lots of things with art in my classes and wrote a dissertation about arts practices and learning–so doing art to learn or explore a topic is something that I am very familiar with. But as a teacher I am focused on learning and knowledge, maybe the feeling of learning and knowledge, but that is a different purpose than art therapy. So while teaching the class I was very aware of the limits of my knowledge in that space. I learned a lot about processing in a group, I learned a lot more ways to do art in a classroom setting, and lots of new terms. I’m a teacher because I love learning, so in that way it was really a great experience for me. 

MPS AT: How, if at all, has this experience informed your practice as an educator?

Asilia: I think I might have already touched on this. In my field, I think that there is too much of a focus on the intellectual aspects of learning. I teach topics that are very emotional and have embodied responses, so my research is on the experience, affect, and feeling of learning difficult knowledge and then, what results from that knowledge. Teaching this course validated the work this work by reminding how important emotions are in teaching and learning. Teaching the course also gave me a lot of new ways to think about how to teach what Sara Ahmed calls “histories that hurt” in ways that account for the emotional aspects of learning about such things in a classroom context. I feel like that part is important. We might learn these things in our relationships, reading books, or talking with friends and family, but the experience of learning difficult and challenging knowledge in a space with people that you know only in a very specific way is different. I gained a  lot of insight into how important creative expression is in that classroom context. This was something that I knew, but seeing how so many students really needed to make art was an interesting experience for me. I am certain that there are many students in my other courses that need to make art but do not feel like that is welcomed in the space, so they suppress it. I think the experience really expanded how I am able to imagine what teaching and learning can look like and can become. 

MPS AT: What has been your favorite part of this class?

Asilia: My favorite part of the class has been watching young people develop new ways of seeing the world and doing so in ways that are noticeable and even sometimes shocking because of how quickly it happens. When people are open to new epistemological frames, they can take them on pretty quickly. More specifically, watching students apply those new frames to analyzing the world and express a curiosity and commitment to continuing to learn. I appreciated the vulnerability and the community that developed from such shared vulnerability. Relatedly,  I think also I enjoyed the ease of the class. We discussed some difficult topics and I felt that the space was very open for it. While I do not ever expect students to accept everything I say or agree with everything we read, I appreciated how open everyone was. I think that was my favorite part because that is very rare in my experience. 

MPS AT: What advice do you have for the students as the class ends and they finish their training, soon to venture out into the professional world?

Asilia: I think the advice I have for the students in the course is to keep going. When I was in my last year of graduate school writing my dissertation, I was on a panel with a senior scholar whom I admired greatly. After the panel, we were stuck in the elevator with a bunch of other people and were saying a rushed goodbye. Before she left the elevator she just said, keep going. Two years later, I remind myself to keep going. So I think that’s my main advice: keep going. Think about our work together as just a start and keep going, knowing that you will make mistakes, both big and small. Mistakes that keep you up at night and make you wonder if it’s worth it. My advice is that it is worth it to keep trying, to keep going. I think that the fear of those mistakes makes us less likely to engage in the world fully–to know different people, go new places, and become different in the world. When you keep going, keep learning, keep putting yourself in spaces that challenge your sense of yourself and others in the world, you can become more of the person that you want to be. This is also advice I give myself.

Posted in 2019, Faculty, In Class, Students

Methods & Materials: Found Object Sculpture Experiential

Recently, first-year MPS Art Therapy students in the Methods & Materials class created sculptures from discarded objects and recycled materials brought from home or found in the street. These items were repurposed into something new and unexpected, which could be symbolic of life circumstances.

Students discovered that transforming unwanted items into a unique art piece could be a metaphor for the recovery process. The sculptures mirrored parts of the self that may not be as valued but should be reflected upon and understood.

📸by Hailee Kendrick

Posted in 2019, Art, In Class, Students

Artistic Noise Mural Project: Week 2

This week, the Artistic Noise special project met at SVA, in MPS Art Therapy’s 5th-floor studio space (the soon-to-be site of the participants’ murals) for some additional brainstorming.

Victoria (SVA student) brainstormed the question “What if…?” with participants.
For inspiration, Sophia (A&E teaching artist) presented a brief history of public art.
Joe and Samantha (A&E members) brainstorming.
Arianna (A&E member) led a discussion regarding group norms that focused on mutual respect and boundaries in the studio space.

Posted in 2019, Art, Special Programs and Projects, Students, Workshops

MPS Art Therapy Special Project: Stress Relief with New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

This past Friday, Lawyers and Paralegals from the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) came to SVA for a stress relief art therapy session. NYLAG focuses on creating individual and systemic change for people and families experiencing poverty by providing free services to those in need.

MPS Art Therapy students facilitated the project along with SVA’s Special Projects Coordinator, Val Sereno. To begin, Val presented a 3-minute meditation exercise. Next, each participant was asked to choose a Ziploc bag with three paint colors in it, place it on the table in front of them, and begin pushing the paint around with their fingers. The bags provided a sensory experience for the participants that would release tension and further ground them. While moving the paint mixture around in the bags, each person created an image that visually represented their stress. Following the image-making, the participants were asked to lay a piece of acetate on top of their stress representation. They then layered on additional imagery, transforming their stress into something more manageable using oil pastels.

This process investigated stress and how to cope with it. The directive opened a path for each participant to consider what types of stress impact them and what they need in order to effectively cope with it.

Posted in 2019, Art, Special Programs and Projects, Students, Workshops

MPS Art Therapy Information Session: Watch Online!

Weren’t able to make our Fall 2019 Information Session? Check out the full session online via our YouTube and Vimeo pages. Hear from a panel of current students, alumni, and faculty and learn about one of MPS Art Therapy’s ongoing special projects!

Posted in 2019, Faculty, Special Programs and Projects, Students, Workshops

Bird’s Nest Drawing Assessment

The Bird’s Nest Drawing assessment (BND) was developed in 1996 as a way to glean information about an individual’s attachment, security, and internal representation of themself and others. This week, MPS Art Therapy students enrolled in the ‘Assessment and Diagnosis’ class drew their own birds’ nests and learned about the indicators that can be found in it.

The BND provides symbolic imagery to reveal attachment styles and family dynamics within a person. A bird’s nest can illustrate this through the content included or left out of the drawing. For example, having grounded figures (birds and/or eggs) that are spatially logical and fully formed speaks to a secure attachment. A nest without a bottom, disproportionately sized figures, or strange marks on the page could be signs of an insecure attachment.

Like all assessments, the BND is used to provide insight about what could possibly be going on, rather than diagnosing a client immediately. This assessment can certainly provide insight into the individual’s emotional state or experience but does not speak to definites.

Posted in 2019, Art, In Class, Students