"Five Questions" is a Q&A series where we ask various Herron faculty members for sage advice and insights about their chosen creative disciplines. As the 2018–19 academic year approaches, we kick off the series in conversation with Eileen Misluk, director of Herron's art therapy program. Read about her approaches to therapeutic art-making and teaching students to thrive in a growing field.
HERRON: In a nutshell, what is your philosophy on art therapy and how does it influence or guide your daily work?
EILEEN MISLUK: I believe in the power of creating space for others and the healing power of allowing them to be heard. At the foundation, that is how I approach my students and my clients.
Art therapy allows me to introduce another layer of relationship building and art can become a way for others to relate to themselves and those around them. Art then becomes a way of knowing about the self, which is often beyond words and a linear process.
In my roles as a teacher and art therapist, my goal is for those I am working with to feel safe enough to explore, be uncertain, tempt failure, and find answers for themselves. The art-making helps hold this process. On a daily basis, this translates into being present when I'm with my students and clients and guiding them through questions not answers.
HERRON: How do you envision the field changing in the next five years?
MISLUK: I think that in five years the field of art therapy will grow in notoriety with national program accreditation. I believe that this will lead to an increase in state licensure for art therapists and will begin to create more art therapy jobs within mental health agencies. This growth will be impactful for all. It means that those individuals who may not have been able to receive art therapy services because of barriers will have an opportunity for healing.
As the profession grows, students will have greater opportunities for internship and post-graduate work experience with a wide range of populations. As art therapists become more mainstream in mental health settings, the ability for more evidence-based research studies will increase, furthering the efficacy of the profession and the healing power of the creative process and art-making.
HERRON: What is most rewarding about teaching future art therapists?
MISLUK: I love to teach! It is so exciting to see how others take knowledge, synthesize, and use it in practice. It also requires me to stay diversified, so I learn from students and grow in my own clinical work. It is amazing to watch students grow both professionally and personally over a two-year period and to be an integral part of their lives for that short time.
As graduate students continue to pursue a graduate degree in Herron's art therapy program directly after their undergraduate studies, a challenge that we face as educators is how beneficial life experience is as an art therapist. We encourage our students to seek out as many opportunities to learn about and experience diversity of individuals and cultures as way to begin to conceptualize the life experiences of another person.
Diversity in our graduate cohorts allows our students to gain a wider perspective of clinical concerns and cultural perspectives on mental health. Diversity in the classroom creates a richer discussion and challenges the students to explore their own culturally held beliefs and how those beliefs influence their identity as a therapist. Additionally, it allows students to build cultural awareness, which will benefit their clients.