In Focus: Angelica Haviaras
M.A. in Creative Arts Therapy ‘16
Bay Ridge, NY
Tell us about your background and what led you to be interested in the field of Creative Arts Therapy.
I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I’ve always had an interest in pursuing a career that revolved around psychology and law. I developed a growing concern when I learned about the lack of mental health services in almost all aspects of the criminal justice field. This includes care for inmates, police officers, victims and family members who have experiences trauma, etc. Instead of focusing on diagnosing/isolating individuals within the system, I decided to pursue further an education on how the therapeutic aspects of art making can rehabilitate and restore healthy living for such individuals.
After coming across the benefits of art therapy I realized that this particular field would be the perfect career choice for me. I hope to use both my background in forensic psychology and art therapy to broaden the research on how art may balance/enhance the therapeutic process for individuals within the world of criminal justice.
What attracted you to Hofstra University’s CAT program?
Hofstra’s Creative Art Therapy program is very well known within the art therapy community. I was impressed with how the program offers guided advice, while providing the freedom to explore what populations you would like to gain fieldwork experience with. I was also drawn to the close-knit campus experience Hofstra offers after coming from a Manhattan-based school. Another opportunity that drew me even closer to choosing Hofstra was my chance to be hired for a graduate assistantship where I received tuition remission.
Tell us about your relevant experiences outside of the classroom.
As a first year graduate student at Hofstra University, I’ve had the opportunity to spend my first clinical practicum site working through the Arts Rx organization. I’ve had the pleasure of learning integrated approaches that combine hands-on creative arts experiences through the modalities of art therapy, music therapy and dance therapy with best-practice interventions to address treatment goals for children on the Autism Spectrum. A few of the goals for the children included further development in social skills, coping skills, communication, sensory integration, affect regulation, attention span, self esteem, and developmental growth.
During my second clinical practicum experience, I worked through Brightpoint Health in Jamaica, Queens. This was an outpatient day facility that used art therapy to meet the needs and goals of adult populations suffering from a combination of mental illness, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS. Goals were to maximize recovery potential while improving social and emotional functioning. I particularly focused on the anger management art therapy group where I had the opportunity to co-facilitate and create weekly directives that would cater to the process of acknowledging triggers and managing anger through art therapy.
This upcoming fall I will be spending my last year interning with Hartley House. This is one of the oldest community centers based in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. Not only will I be working with children through Hartley House’s after school program, but I will also be visiting older adults within the Hell’s Kitchen community who do not have the physical access to engage in the therapeutic benefits of art making at the center.
Describe your experience working and studying with faculty in the Department of Counseling and Mental Health Professions.
One of the many things that I love about this program is its wonderful professors. All are active contributors to the art therapy field. Our professors not only offer the education that is received from traditional textbook knowledge, but they give us their opinions and understanding of the “real world” from their own work experiences. They are very open minded to answering any questions or thoughts that students pose, which brings a comforting sense that the classroom is a safe environment to share and enhance our learning to the fullest extent.
Each one of our professors wants to see their students succeed. They guide and challenge us to enhance our inner therapeutic qualities that would reflect how we react, behave, and develop a therapeutic alliance for our clients.
What is your advice for prospective students looking for a degree in CAT?
There are a few things I would like to share with prospective students. The first is that you do not have to come from a fine arts background to become an art therapist. I remember fearing that I was not artistically competent enough for such a program because I never went to the traditional art school. However, just like the art therapy field, the program offers no judgment on your artistic journey.
Secondly, while working on my art portfolio, I decided to use this source as my opportunity to show the program director the person I am, where I come from, and the emotional/societal thoughts that have shaped me as an individual. Take this time to allow the program director to see your skill in a variety of media. Anything can be used to create an art piece. Channeling your inner creativity will only benefit you as a therapist for your client’s creative process.
Lastly, honor the ability to be open minded in working with different populations. I never thought that I would be interested in working with children, but after my first practicum experience I grew a new appreciation and gratitude for the population.
Graduate school takes a great deal of dedication and time. Utilize that time to your advantage by exploring populations that you may feel uncomfortable with. This program is shaped to allow us to challenge ourselves and develop our unique therapeutic style with the support from peers and professors.