Art Therapy Perspectives 

Interview with Amanda Zucker, MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT, Certified Yoga Instructor

Amanda Zucker graduated with a BA in Fine Arts and a minor in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in 2008. Amanda received her Masters Degree in Art Therapy from the School of Visual Arts, in New York, in 2011. While pursuing her masters, Amanda achieved her 200 hour teaching certification from Yoga to the People. Rooted in the foundations of fine arts, psychology, yoga, and education, she embraces mindfulness in her daily life, and in her work with youth and adults. She works as an artist, art therapist, teacher and yoga instructor in New York. She encourages wellness through means of expression, compassion, respect, and humor.

Amanda and I met in 2009 at the start of our School of Visual Arts’ Art Therapy master’s program. Amanda’s experience as both a Creative Arts Therapist and Certified Yoga instructor has always been inspirational to me, and seems to keep her very centered. She has worked with a wide range of populations, and has had successes with all of them. Amanda is warm, open, and has a great sense of humor, all of which I think come across in this interview.

What initially drew you to art therapy?
I was drawn to the healing aspects of art making. When I first learned about art therapy, I could feel something within me light up. It made sense, and resonated with my experience of art making.

What populations do you/have you worked with?
I have had the pleasure of working with adults in both inpatient psychiatric and outpatient day treatment settings. Within the day treatment setting, I worked with adults and their families dealing with issues surrounding drug use, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and trauma. I have also worked with youth in transitional housing. I currently work within a high school with students that are at-risk, for various reasons, and under credited to graduate.

How did you get to where you are today?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have people who support and believe in my work and who I am as a person. I have gotten to where I am today through support of loved ones, listening to my mentors, and listening to the voice inside.

How would you describe your style or approach as an art therapist?
Client-centered, playful yet structured, with a hint of humor, and pinch of awareness. As most therapists, I work with what I see from the client. I mention structure only because most of the clients I work with tend to have a great deal of chaos within their lives. Structure provides consistency and overall safety. Humor is also mentioned because it tends to lighten things up, when we smile or laugh our muscles literally loosen. I have found that making a small joke about myself is disarming. Awareness is also important and I can explain that a bit more below.

What are struggles or challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
Starting was challenging. In this economy, I have to say that finding art therapy work was particularly challenging. Not impossible, but challenging.

I also have found myself still struggling to find the words to describe art therapy. This makes it hard to really advocate for the field, and explain to the clients what they are about to engage in. I have found that it is easier just to give people a taste, either through experience or sharing an anecdote.

You are also a certified yoga instructor, do you include yoga into your art therapy practice? If so, how?
I do, yes! I sometimes will bring yoga movement into a session when I feel stagnant energy or if the clients are requesting it. Mostly, I use meditation or mindfulness practices in the art making process or to open or close a session. Because most clients find that creating art is relaxing, I want them to make the most of that feeling, by fully experiencing it. I encourage clients/students to be fully present and notice the imagery they are working with, the colors, the textures and then notice the feelings that are inside of them.

What keeps you going as an art therapist? And/or Where do you find inspiration?
I think the inspiration comes from the clients. In working with any population, one sees certain needs being expressed. I think that creatively addressing those needs is a process that keeps the work fresh. I also try to engage myself creatively outside of work by painting or seeing art shows.

Do you have any special self-care techniques?
I am not sure if I would call them techniques, but I make sure that I take moments for myself while working. Even if it is three deep breaths and noticing that my feet are actually on the ground, and not floating off with the difficult stories I just heard, or occupied by the upcoming tasks. I also try to make sure I shake off work when I leave. This can be difficult, but a nice yoga class/home practice or phone call with a friend usually helps. I also try to keep things in perspective by remembering that I am all but one piece of the client’s puzzle, and I do not have to be any more than that.

How, if at all, do you advocate for the field?
As I stated earlier, I try my best to explain what we do to people I meet and co-workers. Beyond that, I try to be a good example of a healthy, balanced and professional art therapist, that way people at least associate art therapy with something that might be positive.

Where would you like to see art therapy go in the future?
I would like to see art therapists or other creative arts therapists, a standard in every school, hospital and mental health setting.

Is there any art therapist or someone in the mental health profession alive or dead that you would like to meet, speak with, or pick their brain?
Judith Rubin has always intrigued me, and luckily she is alive and going to be in NYC for the Expressive Therapies Summit. I would also love to chat with Carl Jung.

If you could work with any population or anywhere on the planet for a week or two, what would you do?
I have always wanted to go to India. There is a program that connects teaching artists with students in Bangalore, India. I would love to travel and work with other mental health workers to exchange best practices and promote self-care through the use of artistic expression and movement.

Anything else you would like to share?
I think that about covers it, thanks for taking the time to read my responses.

If readers would like to connect with Amanda, you can do so at her Linkedin Page.

Originally posted on October 23, 2012