After making and exhibiting my artwork for many years, I wanted to expand my art practice and share my experience with others outside the studio and in addition to the art world. I sought expertise and training in the therapeutic value of art making so that I could work clinically with people in need. I went to New York University and completed a MA in art therapy which allowed me to combine my focus on art with psychology. Twenty years later, art therapy and psychotherapy have enriched my life experience by giving me the opportunity to work with children, adolescents, and adults in hospitals, schools, and in the community. I had an MFA in painting but added to that and am a Registered Art Therapist-Board Certified (ATR-BC) Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT) psychotherapist trained in child and adolescent therapy and have a PhDin Expressive Therapies.
When 9/11 happened in New York city, I responded immediately to volunteer having just completed the art therapy training specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. I was hired by FEMA through a hospital in lower Manhattan and worked with staff, inpatients, refugees and mentally challenged outpatients, as well as in their school-based clinic and in community centers in the area. When the grants ended, I was hired by the Red Cross to work as an art therapist in a public school near Ground Zero in the last funded project. Upon completion of that special project, I immediately began a PHD program in expressive therapies at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. As I felt compelled to add to trauma research because of the experience I had had. In my dissertation, “Art as a Catalyst for Resilience: Women Artists with Life-Threatening Illness”, I did in-depth interviews with 12 professional women artists to explore the possible relationship between their creative practice and resilience during, after, or with continued illness. The focus on creative women, from fifty and to eighty years old, addressed a gap in creativity research and medical studies, which has not historically included older women. I currently have a private psychotherapy practice and studio practice in New York city.
Presently, during another traumatic experience world-wide the Covid-19 pandemic, I am focusing on my own artwork as we are all encouraged to stay inside. I am motivated to make artwork as a means of staying grounded and because it is my form and language of dealing with the unknown.
Susan Paul Firestone 2020