Toni Eisman is a student in Drexel's Creative Arts Therapies program. I asked her to write about being a practicing artist in the traditionally non-artistic health field.
Her Masters thesis is on promoting workplace self-care by combining mindfulness and art therapy based practices for oncology nurses.
I’ve always had an interest in the arts- my mom is a creator, her mother was, my paternal grandfather was. When I was younger and fearful of my own perception of my artistic abilities in the long run, a peer of mine introduced me to the idea of art therapy. Just by title alone, it seemed like a blend of things I was interested in- art and the helping professions. I chose my undergraduate alma mater based on the ability to combine these realms of interest into one course of study. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Mason Gross School of the Arts as a painting major, and was able to develop my craft through my four years there. I double majored in psychology to prepare myself for graduate school, but knew that textbook learning would barely graze the knowledge I would gain in the field someday.
Getting into Drexel’s Creative Arts Therapy program felt like a dream. It has allowed me to develop my clinical and interpersonal skills while still allowing me to maintain my own artistic practice. I currently am completing my clinical internship at a cancer center, where I work with patients, families, and hospital staff involved in the medical treatment. I have previously gained experience working in a community mental health-based practice, an intensive outpatient program for clients with dual diagnoses (substance use, intellectual disabilities, psychosis, etc.), and a developmental disabilities center for individuals with moderate to severe Autism Spectrum Disorder. While we are often required to respond artistically to our clinical experiences and cases, I try to keep my own artistic processes up to date. Lately I have been working more on drawings and smaller scale paintings, but that seems to be reflective of the time I can allot to outside factors that aren’t related to my thesis (which I will have done hopefully by the end of May!). Hopefully I will be able to continue my arts practices more fluently and frequently once I graduate and find a steady position in the art therapy field. I certainly miss exhibiting work with more frequency! With all of this beings said, I don’t think I would trade the experiences I’ve gotten here as an art therapy student for anything.