Art Therapy Perspectives 

Interview with Elizabeth Cruz, MPS, ATR-BC, Art Therapist

Liz is a graduate from the Art Therapy Masters program at the School of Visual Arts, class of 2011. She is currently working with adolescents as an art therapist and senior case manager at a partial care program. She is working towards receiving her ATR-BC.

I first met Elizabeth (Liz) Cruz in 2009. We both attend the School of Visual Arts for our art therapy masters program. We both share a passion for art therapy, as well as an affinity for food. I chose Liz as an interview subject as I knew her insights would be helpful to new graduates and those interested in learning more about art therapy in general. She has been a great support to me throughout our art therapy journeys, and I look forward to seeing more from her as her career propels itself forward. Thank you Liz for your strength and abilities. You always know how to make us laugh and bake us treats.

What initially drew you to art therapy?
The aspect of being able to help people therapeutically while also using art really excited me. To me, making art always had a therapeutic quality, as it soothed and helped with being able to gain cathartic relief from stressors happening throughout my life. So when I learned about art therapy, the concept made perfect sense. I was interested in learning the theories and concepts behind the therapeutic nature of creating art, and was drawn to be able to help others discover this as well.

What populations do you/have you worked with?
I have worked with adults living with HIV and AIDS at an inpatient facility, and I have also worked with adolescents (11-17 years-old) in a partial hospitalization program.

What are struggles or challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
The challenge of not only being an art therapist but also working as a case manager and having a caseload has been the most challenging thing to balance in my career. Learning to be a case manager has been a whole new challenge that I was quite unfamiliar with, as it requires daily tasks that are not directly related to the therapeutic process.

What keeps you going as an art therapist?
The clients and their artwork constantly surprise me and inspire me. When clients are either aware of what they are creating, or unaware of what they are communicating through their work, the sessions we have together are constantly reaffirming my belief that art therapy has a purpose and is helping the clients.

Do you have any special self-care techniques?
I like to go with my instincts when it comes to self-care, and going with my immediate desires or cravings! If I come home from work and just want to nap, then I nap. If I am home and want to eat something sweet, I try not to ignore any cravings. I like to go with the idea that whatever my instinct is when it comes to my needs and wants, it is probably best to go with it, rather than to fight it. It is all about balance and moderation though.

How, if at all, do you advocate for the field?
I try to educate interested parties as much as possible. Usually when I meet someone new or friends and family have questions, I try to spend the time to be open about art therapy and explain it as much as possible with those who express an interest in it. I feel that it is important to challenge any misconceptions about art therapy and educate others with correct information so that they can also help others who may know less about it. I hope that the more I talk about it with people who are willing to listen that it will help spread the word and reduce any stigmas attached to therapy.

How have you noticed changes in the art therapy marketplace over recent years, or if new to art therapy, have you found finding work to be difficult?
Finding a job was difficult after graduation (2011) because I felt I had to "read between the lines" with many job descriptions, or try to figure out ways to turn a job into a position that could be carried out as an art therapist position. It took practice figuring out effective ways to show that an art therapy masters was enough training to carry out different types of positions.

Is there anything you know now that you wished you had known sooner in regards to art therapy?
I guess I would have liked to know more about other roles many art therapists have to take on within their jobs because for most art therapists I know, they aren't just doing art therapy. They are also doing other things like case managing or acting as program coordinators on top of doing art therapy. I think it would have been interesting to learn more about the other responsibilities that can come with art therapist positions.

Where would you like to see art therapy go in the future?
I would like art therapy to be established in more places like public schools, and for more art therapy to be implemented in hospital programs or mental health programs/facilities. Now it is either unknown or seen as a luxury, but I would like it to become a regular aspect of mental health everywhere.

If you have any questions or would like to be connected to Liz, please leave them in the comments section, and I will be sure that she receives them. Originally posted on October 2, 2012. Since that time Liz has completed her board certification (ATR-BC).