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Career Profile: Art Therapist

Career Profile: Art Therapist

Megan Robb, Art Therapist, Clinical Research Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become an art therapist because of both of my interests in art and community outreach. I have always enjoyed making art, but never felt that my artistic skills were strong enough to pursue a career in graphic arts. My volunteer work helped me find a way to use art in a very positive way.

For one of my first jobs in high school, I worked with children fostering social skills such as conflict resolution, self-advocacy, and self-esteem. It was a community outreach program with the local children’s museum. We went to low-income neighborhoods and provided arts, crafts and recreational activities while teaching confliction resolution skills. We also did other fun and practical workshops such as Bike Repair. To work there, I did an orientation where they taught basic skills for the job. New employees could develop the skills further while on the job. While in college, I continued working there during summer breaks and slowly took on opportunities to manage staff and run the program.

I chose a college that had a variety of majors because I was still not sure what career path to follow after high school. Some of the majors that interested me included early childhood education, art, and psychology. Towards the end of my college education, I had finished enough courses to have a major in art and a minor in psychology.

College Education
• Bachelor of Arts, Studio Arts, Psychology minor, Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri
• Master’s Degree, Art Therapy, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday is from 8:00 am until 4:30 pm. Each day is filled with seeing patients, both in group therapy settings, and individually by the bedside. I provide therapy for patients undergoing medical and psychiatric research protocols at NIH including treatment for alcoholism, schizophrenia, mood disorders such as depression or bi-polar disorder, and medical conditions including chronic illnesses or rare diseases. Patients range from children to the elderly, and are both inpatients and outpatients.

I work with doctors, nurses, and other therapists to provide therapeutic art opportunities appropriate to each patient. Art therapy is the process, not the final product. Common practices I use include:

• Drawing or painting
• Sculpture
• Art using various materials & multiple mediums
• Sewing and working with fabric
• Making masks

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