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Art therapy isn't just for artists

Hofstra University's masters in creative arts therapy and counseling hosts an annual art show portraying how art therapy is used

Amanda Lastella shares what art therapy is like for children and how it can affect their development.
DaisyMae VanValkenburgh

Artists are not the only ones participating in art therapy. From young to old, anyone and everyone can do it. With just a few paint brushes, crayons or markers, this type of psychotherapy can help diagnose mental disabilities, emotional trauma and can help individuals express what words cannot.


Art therapy takes what looks like a normal drawing, sculpture or painting and psycho-analyzes it to understand what the artist is feeling or hiding. Rain usually symbolizes sadness, but flowers in one section of a picture can symbolize a grave or loss. Simple details in art tell a lot about the artist from a therapeutic stand point.


Graduate students in Creative Arts Therapy Club of Hofstra (CATCH) organized an art show of works crafted by students and faculty of the master’s in creative arts therapy counseling program in the School of Health Professions and Human Services.



“There’s no limit to what can be expressed through artwork, and art therapy strives in its ability to help a person open up to the possibilities of what they can achieve through creative expression,” said Amanda Lastella, Hofstra junior fine arts major.


Lastella was one of the few undergraduate students who had artwork presented in the show in the lobby of Hagedorn Hall.


Around 40 works were shown, and around 85 attendees came on Friday, Feb. 8. Art work donned the walls in pieces big and small, some interactive and some hanging from metal rods on display for all to see. One of the main focal points of the event was the community art project where guests were encouraged to draw, paint or color on a white cloth where their creation would be left behind for others to enjoy. 


Louis Wain was an artist that was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was illustrated through his change in artistic styling,”  Dr. Deborah Elkis-Abuhoff, the associate professor of counseling and mental health professions. “He is just one of many examples of how art therapy can help others understand what someone is going through.”


Children and adults tackle art therapy in different ways. Abuhoff focuses mainly in adult therapy, while Lastella focuses on children's therapy. Some adults give more details in their drawings while children tend to focus on specific placement of people, the sun, and what their surroundings look like.


“I use art as a therapeutic tool for myself, but I’m really excited to start learning to use it as therapy for others,” said Dana Kamienecki, a senior fine arts and psychology major. She is currently applying to graduate school for art therapy.


“We [creative arts therapy] are in the process of receiving accreditation from the Commission on Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and approval from the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) and Educational Program Approval Board (EPAB),” Abuhoff said.

Hofstra's Master of Arts in creative arts therapy counseling program is a 60-credit degree. Graduates of the program are eligible for licensure in New York state as creative arts therapists (LCAT) and for the Art Therapy Credentials Board Examination (ATCBE).