Healing through art

Presentation at Lander College in Flatbush focuses on art therapy as a profession

November 21, 2013

Senior Aliza Shapiro, a psychology major, found the program fascinating. People misunderstand art therapy and its uses, she said, and Elkis-Abuhoff was able to shed light on its validity and how it helps people.

“She made the concept of art therapy very real and it was understandable in a concrete way,” said Shapiro. “It was fascinating to me to see ways of making the unconscious more conscious through a variety of media. “

Elkis-Abuhoff spoke about how art therapy uses the creative process to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals. Elkis-Abuhoff, an associate professor in Hofstra University’s Department of Counseling, Research, Special Education and Rehabilitation, emphasized how various art modalities, such as drawing, painting, sculpture and other media can assist people. The profession has grown and art therapists can be found in hospitals, rehabilitation, medical, psychiatric, educational, assisted living facilities as well as private practice, she said.

About a dozen students from LAS and Touro’s School for Lifelong Education attended the program. LAS offers art therapy as an 18-credit minor through the Department of Psychology, according to Atara Grenadir, chair of the art department and an assistant professor there. Once a semester she brings a practitioner to LAS to speak about the field and how it can aid people who are suffering from acute mental disabilities, such as schizophrenia, to more common diagnoses, such as anxiety and depression. Elkis-Abuhoff even discussed how they use iPads with cancer patients for instruction, because patients in chemotherapy can’t always use traditional art supplies because of sanitation issues, Grenadir said.

“She really gave a very comprehensive presentation about the goals and benefits of art therapy and the role of the art therapist,” said Grenadir. “I want our students to get a sense that this is a professional career and benefit from the experience of someone who has been in it for many years.”

But students did not just hear about the field. They also participated in a hands-on project of the sort they would be coordinating if they were working in the field.

Peri Morgulis, a graduate of LAS, received her Master's in Speech Language Pathology from Touro’s School of Health Sciences in June. She is now working as a teacher at W.A. Cunningham, a middle school in Brooklyn, but she wanted to further her education in an area that has always interested her, and decided to continue in Touro’s art therapy program.

The program and speaker held everyone’s attention, reinforcing what the students were getting in class, she said.

“I’ve always been very artsy, I draw all the time, but I thought speech therapy would lead to a more stable career,” said Morgulis, who wants to work in art therapy. “But it’s nice to hear people are really getting jobs. With art therapy, you can cater to each person; you can use so many different media and do so much with any age group.”  

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