KOKOMO, Ind. – What do drawing, dancing, reading, playing games, and drama have to do with psychology?
All are part of potential future careers as creative art therapists.
About 20 Indiana University Kokomo students experienced the field of creative art therapy this semester, as part of a class taught by Brooke Komar, visiting lecturer of psychology.
“Theories sometimes fall flat on paper when we’re reading about it, but when you get to experience it and see it in practice, it comes alive for the students,” she said. “The students are doing these things in a safe environment, and learning what it’s like to be a therapist providing treatment, and what it’s like to be the person receiving that treatment.”
The class included studies of art, play, music, poetry, dance and drama, and equine Egala therapies — not only learning the history and theory, but seeing it put into action, through field trips and guest speakers.
The class spent a session in the office of a registered play therapist, participating in practice sessions to see how she uses games like Uno to talk about feelings, for example. A board-certified music therapist showed how she uses musical instruments and movement as treatment. Komar, who is a registered art therapist, led them through the kinds of exercises she might use, such as scribble drawings or creating a personal shield to represent themselves. Before the semester ends, they will visit the Narrow Gate Ranch, to witness equine therapy in action.
“It’s an opportunity to give students a taste of what they might do in these careers,” she said. “I want them to realize it’s rooted in psychological theory. It helps them see that what they are learning in their textbooks has applications, and brings it to life for them in an experiential way.”
The students included not only psychology majors, but those in education, performing arts, new media art technology, and others interested in applying their skills in this way.
Spencer Arnett, Kokomo, said the class showed her how she can combine her psychology major and her music minor into a career.
For Kelsey Morgan, the class literally changed her life.
“I was really surprised by the impact it made on me,” she said. “I changed my whole major, and added a minor in psychology. It made me look at my whole life and goals differently.”
Ashley Bowman, who is studying diagnostic imaging, said the most valuable part of the class was the hands-on participation in the therapeutic activities.
“It gave me a deeper sense of understanding for how the psychological theories are applied, and what populations might benefit from them,” she said.
Bailey DeLong, who is a psychology major with a music minor, was considering careers in music therapy or Applied Behavioral Analysis (A.B.A.).
“This class helped me figure out I could factor principles from art therapy into my A.B.A. therapy,” she said.
Komar said the students also made valuable connections with people working in art therapy fields, noting that those people can be difficult to find.
“Students may have a vague idea that they might want to be a creative art therapist, but they haven’t seen what that entails, because the people with those credentials are few and far between,” she said. “It’s a chance to meet these people, and see the work in action.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.