In Focus: Kyla Berry
Tell us about your background and what led you to be interested in the field of Creative Arts Therapy.
Ever since I was little I have always had a passion for art. As I went through middle school and high school, that passion developed and grew to be greater because of the incredible mentors I had throughout my years before college. Those mentors were wonderful encouragement to pursue my love of art and helped me to research schools that would best suit me. My high school art teacher brought us on a field trip to National Portfolio Day at Pratt Institute during my sophomore year, and one of the schools had told me about the field of Creative Arts Therapy. That was when I decided what I wanted to go to school for. I ended up at a college, SUNY Plattsburgh, that could provide me with Fine Arts/Studio Art classes as well as an Art Therapy minor. Pursuing the minor reassured me that Art Therapy was the perfect profession for me.
What attracted you to Hofstra University’s CAT program?
When I was applying to Graduate Schools, one of the large determining factors for me was how I felt when I visited the school. When I went to the school for my initial interview, the atmosphere made me feel right at home. Margaret Carlock-Russo was able to answer every question I had with the upmost certainty, which was something I hadn’t found at the other schools. The values within the program and the classroom settings were something I felt really connected to. I believed that the hands-on approach to Creative Arts Therapy, combined with the Psychology background, made the program very appealing. There were multiple classes that were unique in their concept and fieldwork opportunities that provided experiences for people with varying interests. Hofstra University is a central location, giving me the choice to explore fieldwork options throughout Long Island and NYC.
Tell us about your relevant experiences outside of the classroom. Share information about internship/volunteer/work opportunities.
I feel very fortunate about my experiences outside of the classroom while studying at Hofstra University. All of my internship/volunteer opportunities provided me with wonderful supervisors, who I felt all educated me on so many different things. During my first semester at Hofstra University, I was able to do my Practicum at the Long Island Head Injury Association working with adults who had disabilities and severe brain injuries. It was a very eye-opening experience and taught me a lot of things about myself. The second semester I did my placement at Nassau University Medical Center on the Forensic Psychiatry unit. This turned out to be a great clinical experience. It was a population I never thought I could work with and it made me become more open-minded to the kind of work that’s available to me in this field. It gave me the best hands-on experience with people who had mental disorders. My second year at Hofstra University, I pursued a one-year internship working at a school with children who had Autism Spectrum Disorders. I really loved this internship, and it helped me realize that this was a population I would consider working with long-term. That year I was also able to volunteer a few hours a week on the Pediatric Oncology floor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. I was able to work with clinicians and Child Life Specialists here, and it was a time where I learned more about what it would be like to work in a hospital setting. All of these experiences have made me more open-minded and contributed to the Creative Arts Therapist that I have become since graduating from Hofstra University.
Describe your experience working and studying with faculty in the Department of Counseling and Mental Health Professions.
While at Hofstra, I can honestly say I have had all great experiences. I never encountered a professor or faculty member who contributed to my learning experience in a negative way. Each and every faculty member taught me something that was vital to the post-graduation job search and all of them were very knowledgeable in the field. Having professors that were approachable, inspiring, and so encouraging made such an enormous impact on my education. My career is what is today because they all added something to it that has largely benefited me.
How did your experience prepare you for your job search? Tell us about your current employment.
My experiences outside of the classroom prepared me by providing hands-on experiences and situations that I could not learn by sitting in a classroom. My in-class experiences touched on all other aspects of becoming a therapist and clinician. The assignments that were given to us as students are assignments that I have used throughout my job search. These include PowerPoint presentations and portfolios that were created in the classroom. My public speaking has improved greatly since creating and presenting different topics, as well as increasing my confidence. The portfolios that were developed are ones I have used in interviews and have made me feel infinitely more prepared.
Currently, I am a Recreation and Art Therapist at a nursing and rehab facility in Manhattan. I work with the elderly who are in long-term care, which ranges from Alzheimers/Dementia to Hospice care, and adults who are admitted for short-term rehabilitation therapy. I am able to do individual and group art therapy, and I get to work with other disciplines as well. I have collaborated with Dance and Music Therapists, other Art Therapists, Psychologists, Physical and Occupational Therapists, as well the interdisciplinary team, which includes nursing, dietary, and social work. My experiences at Hofstra have aided in my ability to find a job that not only suits me, but allows me to be confident in the work I do.
What is your advice for prospective students looking for a degree in CAT?
I would be remised if I didn’t advise prospective students who are looking for a degree in CAT to attend the schools and explore what they have to offer. A large part of my decision to attend Hofstra University was the welcoming atmosphere and the multitude of classes they offered that I feel I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. Hofstra allowed me to explore various placement settings (as many as 4 if I wanted), classes that interested me (such as a dance and movement therapy elective course and Marriage and Family Therapy), and an organization that brought together students who shared similar interests (CATCH). The program at Hofstra University challenged me in many ways, gave me friends I know I will have for a very long time, and mentors who I know I can count on – even after graduating. Prospective students should explore schools that will help them grow as a person and an art therapist, the same way I was able to.