Caldwell, N.J. Oct. 24, 2017 – Caldwell graduate and undergraduate students studying art therapy volunteered at the Essex County Hospital Center, the receiving hospital for all short-term psychiatric facilities in the county.
Annette Vaccaro, assistant professor and clinical coordinator at Caldwell, said it was a unique opportunity for the students, since due to confidentiality issues, it is not the norm for the work to be observed by others. “Community-based interventions allow even undergraduates to observe and become immersed in the counseling art therapy process as a facilitator.”
Graduate students Kaila Hawriluk and Andrea Morte are doing internships at the hospital for their studies in the mental health counseling with art therapy master’s degree program. They came up with the idea to have the students help patients plan for the hospital’s Halloween party by creating costumes around a theme of superheroes and villains.
They managed the entire project, which included assigning roles, gathering supplies, deciding on materials and publicizing the event to solicit graduate and undergraduate art therapy students and rehab therapy team staff at the hospital. They were guided by their internship supervisors, Caldwell alumna Ashley Gerolstein and art therapist Lisa Thomas, employees at the hospital.
Hawriluk found it rewarding to see the patients having fun while creating their superheroes. The patients’ choices helped the team learn a little more about their personalities and the characteristics of the superhero personalities they take pride in, said Hawriluk.
Morte liked seeing the patients, staff and students interact, and she was pleased that a number of patients engaged in the project. “We did not know which patients would come down, and it was surprising for me to see patients who I haven’t had in art groups come and create.”
Members of the Caldwell art therapy faculty are grateful to the Essex County Hospital patients and staff for collaborating with them on the project, said Vaccaro. The project, she said, also provided a networking opportunity “where more senior clinicians become mentors to those with less experience,” an arrangement that can continue throughout their careers.