May 8, 2015

Lecture Review: Art Therapy Alumna ELAINE OSWALD

cropped hike photo.jpegI had the opportunity to attend a lecture held by the Creative Arts Therapy Department at Pratt. This particular program offers a Master’s degree in Art Therapy and Creativity Development that educates art and dance therapy students to become clinicians and help individuals with mental health issues. The program is based on experiential learning and facilitates creative critical thinking to help students adopt solutions for clinical issues.

Elaine Oswald is a Pratt alumna with a MA in Art Therapy & Creative Development who graduated with the Class of 2000. She worked at HeartShare Human Services of New York for ten years as an Art Therapist where she provided case planning services to families in the child welfare system. Now, she runs art therapy groups to autistic children at the HeartShare School in Bensonhurt, Brooklyn and runs her own private practice.

During her time in the Art Therapy program, her first internship was with a New York Foundling hospital. This influenced her interest in working with families. For her second-year internship she worked at a substance abuse inpatient unit.

Someone asked how she got her current job in the Q & A session and she replied that she heard about it through a friend of a friend, highlighting the importance of networking. She also spoke about learning how to build connections and made the point that your connections can change when you move and they are no longer available to you in the same capacity. Elaine discussed her peer supervision group of four other art therapists who are also Pratt alumni. The purpose of this group is to discuss cases with other art therapists. She noted how “it is important to have the support of other friends in the field”.

Elaine provided advice about starting a private practice based on her struggles. She started with an office space and clients, and said that when marketing your private practice you must spread the word through colleagues. In the very beginning, she had payed 3 months of rent for the space without having clients. She advised the importance of being prepared and having money invested aside when starting a business.

An audience member asked how Pratt helped her prepare for “the world out there”. She said that being thrown into an internship right away gave her the ability to get into her practice immediately and gain learning experience. Elaine appreciated that Pratt focused on teaching the use of countertransference as a core tool of art therapy by encouraging deep exploration of one’s personal process as a therapist. Countertransference refers to the emotional response of the psychotherapist to the client’s contribution during a session.

Elaine is currently working on creating a website that will showcase her business and professional pursuits. It is still in process, but you can sign up for updates here.  For more information about her practice as an art therapist, you can view her professional profile on

Be sure to follow Pratt Success on Facebook for information on different opportunities to hear from creative professionals and participate in other awesome events!

Written by: Jazz Seijii Hernandez
Image provided by Elaine Oswald


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