I was in a remote village in the Peruvian Andes conducting art therapy with prisoners when I realized this was the most meaningful experience of my life, and it should not be. The study and practice of psychology are the place where my humanitarian and intellectual interests align. I am applying to the clinical psychology program to fulfil the training I need to continue to make meaningful contributions to society and also contribute to the field of psychology through research. A family illness that is now happily behind me delayed me from doing so sooner.
I hold a Master’s in Clinical Art Therapy from NYU. It was through that program, which provided me with the opportunity to determine what I needed to further learn, that my intention of returning to attain a PhD in Clinical Psychology was crystallized.
As an undergraduate at Hunter College, I majored in psychology and religion, and minored in philosophy. Human psyche and behavior had always been my primary interest, and this focus quickly grew into a passion for psychology as I learned the complexities of human development in courses such as Personality Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Social Psychology. Likewise, I received a foundation for research in the courses Research Methods and Statistics, Psychological Testing, and Statistics for Psychology. Studying religion and philosophy complemented these courses with differing world-views and cultural awareness.
During this time, I worked with special-needs children through the YMCA and with children diagnosed with autism through Special Sprouts. In doing so I found that artistic expression could facilitate therapy for people who did not have the vocabulary or organization of thought to communicate their feelings, or for whom verbal expression was too traumatic. This inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in art therapy at NYU.
During my academic experience in art therapy, I felt limited by the field's tendency to rely solely on theory and case studies without availing itself for more rigorous methodology, rendering it an island of borrowing from the greater field of psychology while giving little back. I realized that being a good clinician required doing both. Yet despite the field’s limitations, the department did an excellent job of educating and challenging me with psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, and cognitive theory, as well as applied clinical practice. I took great pleasure in actively participating in discussions, and enjoyed researching and writing papers.
My greatest inspiration derived from my various field internships. Specifically, my most captivating experience involved working in La Prison Yanamilla in Ayacucho, Peru. I worked with a team of fellow art-therapy students in developing and implementing plans to provide therapeutic services to groups of 150 inmates at a time. Despite my limited Spanish, the visual modality of art therapy facilitated the prisoners’ desires to articulate their frustrations, grief, and,...