Art Expression Therapy—From Passion to Career
During her time at Endicott College, Jeana Alfano ’20 has struggled to visualize herself finding in a career related to her major, criminal justice. It wasn’t until her junior year that she discovered that her love for art and theater could be utilized in a future career.
What was a day in the life of your internship like?
I had a lot of independence at my internship. I was encouraged to complete my daily tasks and then I had time to work on whatever was beneficial to me. I made sure our art supplies were always organized so that therapists were able to gather materials for their sessions with ease. I created monthly activities for the children's waiting rooms, which was super fun for me and the kids. I conducted interviews with many therapists on staff in order to learn as much as possible. I would also run errands for my supervisors to get art supplies and make copies. When I ran out of things to do, I would write posts for the weekly blog and create original content for social media, as one of the goals was to increase brand awareness.
What was the most significant project you have worked on?
The artistic nature of my internship site meant that I completed a lot of projects big and small that contributed to the success of the center. My favorite project was working on the waiting room activities. For my first month, I cut out a bunch of apples and encouraged the kids to 'pick' their favorite thing about themselves and write it on the apple. For November, I had the children assemble turkeys and encouraged them to write things they were thankful for on each of the feathers. For December, I created a '5 Senses of Winter' sensory area where I put out winter items for each of the senses for children to explore. For example, I made cinnamon dough for them to smell and made an 'I Spy' snow globe for sight. Finally, to bring in the New Year, I had them put their wish for 2020 on a little heart. I loved this project because it allowed me to be creative, while keeping the kids in mind and considering what they would enjoy.
Does your internship relate to your major and desired future career (what is that)? Do you think it got you a step closer to that end goal?
My internship did not directly relate to my major, and I wouldn't have it any other way. During the course of my time at Endicott and through the experience I gained in my past internships, I determined that I was not going to find a career that made me happy in criminal justice. For a while, I tried to find a middle ground between my major and my passion for the arts, but that wasn’t working for me. I have always been heavily involved in theater and music, but when I chose my major I didn't think it would be a practical career. Junior year I discovered expressive arts therapy, which is a field that uses various art modalities to help people express and visualize their emotions. For me, this was the first step to realizing that utilizing the arts in my career is what makes me feel fulfilled. This internship experience has put me on the right track in terms of unlocking what truly makes me happy.
Do you feel that you were prepared going into the internship? How did you gain confidence during the process?
Since this was a new field for me I was really nervous to start, but by the end of the semester, my supervisors and co-workers enjoyed working with me so much that they created a position for me and hired me part-time for the spring semester. This filled me with a new kind of confidence that I hadn't experienced before. This work environment built me up and did not make me feel insignificant, which is how I felt at criminal justice agencies. This internship helped me realize that it is possible to work in a field that ignites my passion and makes me feel proud of the work I'm doing.
What did the experience teach you about yourself, the job, and your future career?
While at my internship I had time to work on my thesis, which is related to the topic of art therapy. My thesis is all about using theater and music as a rehabilitative strategy for incarcerated individuals. This internship showed me that the arts can have a strong impact and they can be used to address serious social issues like mass incarceration. I am hoping to pursue theater after I graduate and I would especially like to work with incarcerated individuals so that I can share some of the hope the arts have given me, with them.
What is your best tip for networking with site supervisors and internship colleagues?
My best tip is to be honest and to always take the role of the student. There is so much to learn, especially when you're in a new field. I shared my journey with so many people at my site and they were so incredible about giving me advice and keeping me updated on possible opportunities.