Jenna Krauter is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts currently working as a Creative Arts Therapist in an inpatient psychiatric unit in New Jersey. Jenna has worked with a variety of populations, and recently presented at the 2012 American Art Therapy Association (AATA) conference on recycled materials in art therapy and art therapy with artists.
Jenna and I have known each other since 2009. We both attend the School of Visual Arts for our art therapy masters program, however, she specialized in the addictions track. Jenna has done a lot for the art therapy community since graduation, including giving several presentations at the 2012 American Art Therapy Association Conference in Savannah. Jenna is wise beyond her years, and is a great person to have representing art therapists. She is warm, caring, and very funny. I am so glad that she was open to sharing about her experience here in this ‘Interviews with Art Therapists’ series.
What initially drew you to art therapy?
I have always felt a connection with art in general, and I knew that, for me, it was one of the truest ways to express myself. I've also always found artmaking to be healing. When I found out that there was an entire field built around the beliefs I held, I was immediately drawn to the field.
What populations do you/have you worked with?
When I was in grad school, I interned at a high school for emotionally disturbed adolescents and an outpatient program for adults with chronic mental illness. I was also on the counseling team, where I worked individually with an undergraduate student. In addition to this, I did a few special projects where I did short term art therapy work with children at the Ronald McDonald House, cancer patients at Gilda's Club, and senior citizens in a day program. Working in inpatient psych is my first full time job, but I have worked at a few different hospitals in New Jersey in similar settings.
How did you get to where you are today?
Once I decided to pursue a career in Art Therapy, I had to backtrack a bit and take some prerequisite courses since I had never taken psychology courses while in college. I applied to a few different schools and wound up choosing School of Visual Arts (SVA). When I graduated, I worked briefly as a substitute art therapist at the school I had interned at during my first year while the staff art therapist was away. During that time I was searching for jobs. A few months later I found a part-time position at the hospital I work at now. I searched for a while for a part time position to supplement it and eventually was working part-time as an art therapist at two hospitals. When one of the therapists I was working with decided to leave her position, I was offered a full-time position.
What are struggles or challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
I think overall the biggest challenge I've faced in my career has been searching for a job. In this economy and competitive job market, it was really difficult to keep up my morale. Another challenging aspect of the field is advocating for art therapy. In New Jersey there is no license for art therapists at present. It can be frustrating to have to explain the level of education and qualification for jobs/duties that would typically go to someone else.
What keeps you going as an art therapist? And/or Where do you find inspiration?
It is always inspirational to see what other art therapists are doing. I like to go to lectures and art exhibits for encouragement. I also think that even just talking with other art therapists is really reinforcing. In a lot of places you might be the only art therapist on site, so talking to another art therapist can be really refreshing.
Do you have any special self-care techniques?
I've been trying to go to more yoga classes. It really helps to relax when working in such a high paced environment. Sometimes I find it helpful to get off site during my lunch break or even just go outside for a breath of fresh air to remove myself from an intense work environment. Having a support network is probably the most important thing to me. I have a core group of friends from grad school who are really supportive. When I need advice or encouragement, I know that I can go to them.
How, if at all, do you advocate for the field?
I try to explain art therapy to anyone who doesn't know too much about the field. The hospital I work at is a teaching hospital, so I am always sure to touch base with the medical students who work with us so that the next generation of professionals will know about the work that we do. As I said previously, there is no license for art therapists in NJ, so I try to keep updated on what progress is being made. I've written to a few people about it and signed a few different petitions to help support the efforts being made by the NJ Art Therapy Association.
Is there anything other than art therapy that you could see yourself doing, or if you were not an art therapist what would you be?
I am really interested in art history, so maybe something with that. When I was in college I majored in Spanish. So I can see myself teaching English as a second language in another country, or even pursuing a greater education in Spanish civilization and culture.
Where would you like to see art therapy go in the future?
I think art therapy is headed in a great direction and becoming so much more well known. It's great to see the field really spreading. I'd love to see it more widely accepted in a greater array of settings. I also think it's important for us, as art therapists to maybe take a more evidence-based approach to our studies. In order to appeal for the more well-established, quantitative fields we tend to work in conjunction with, the evidence piece will really help advocate for the field.
Is there any art therapist (or another mental health professional) alive or dead that you would like to meet, speak with, or pick their brain?
Without a doubt, I would have to say Freud. Daniel Siegel and Bruce Perry are also wonderful authors/clinicians whose works I find to be extremely inspirational.
If you could work with any population anywhere on earth for a week or two, who would it be?
I think it would be fascinating to work in one of the programs in the Middle East that focuses on reintegrating terrorists into society.
If readers would like to connect with you, how should they do so?
I'm on Linkedin, and I would love to connect with fellow professionals or others interested in art therapy.
Originally posted on October 12, 2012.