Alumni Careers

An Interview with Christie Helm, MA, LPC, LADC, CCDP

1. When did you graduate from the Art Therapy program at Naropa University?

Spring 2000

2. What sort of professional work have you been doing, in art therapy, since graduation?

Since graduation, I have been working as a counselor, primarily in the substance abuse field. I have worked in a variety of settings ranging from Detox, inpatient, outpatient and intensive outpatient. I have been able to utilize art therapy interventions with both adults and adolescents. Although I have never held the official title of “Art Therapist,” I feel that my additional expertise and training has given me an advantage over other applicants during the interviewing process. Once welcomed into an “art free” agency, I have had the pleasure of familiarizing my co-workers and clients with art therapy and how it can enhance group and individual substance abuse counseling.

3. What sort of artwork have you been doing since graduation?

Well, I have not been doing much formal artwork recently although I created a beautiful nursery for my daughter who was born last year. A few years ago I did do a series of chalk pastel drawings after being inspired by the work of artist R. John Ichter.

4. How did the art therapy program prepare you for your professional career after school?

In addition to being a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Connecticut, I hold a License as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and am a Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP). My coursework at Naropa prepared me to sit for the NBCC’s examination and to earn my LPC. Additional training I received at my internship sight put me on the path to earning the additional substance abuse credentials I hold.

On a more personal note, The Warrior Exams and frequent oral presentations were some of the most beneficial aspects of the program for me as they prepared me for interviewing for jobs as well as being more confident as group facilitator. The Art Therapy program at Naropa University often pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone which also prepared me for the real world experiences of my professional life. The mindfulness training also continues to assist me on a daily basis and allows me to work with an emotionally intense population year after year while maintaining empathy rather than becoming callous. I had started an Art Therapy program at another institute on the East Coast prior to coming to Naropa and have never regretted my decision.


An Interview with Julie Mearkle, MA, Naropa University

1. When did you graduate from the Art Therapy program at Naropa University?

I graduated in May of 2007.

2. What sort of professional work have you been doing, in art therapy, since graduation?

Since March 2008, I have been working at a day treatment school as a school-based therapist. I work with a wide range of students (mostly boys) between the ages of 6-18, who have been referred to us from their home school for behavioral issues. I meet with students individually and in group settings, utilizing art therapy interventions as time and supplies permit.

3. What sort of artwork have you been doing since graduation?

While I feel inspired to make art around my experiences at the school, I find that I also need to create space for myself in order to keep doing this intense work. My art has currently been in the service of self-care and mindfulness. Lately I enjoy sketching and experimenting with watercolors while outside, usually on a hike or camping trip. Being in nature has always been deeply revitalizing for me. My art-making helps me to further engage the beauty and serenity around me, thus renewing my own inner resources.

4. How did the art therapy program prepare you for your professional career after school?

In many ways, I feel as though I am still in school! Each day I learn so much from my students and with each answer I find more questions. The Naropa Art Therapy Program has prepared me by teaching me to be open to these questions, to be curious, and to trust the process, myself, and my training. I also find that my art therapy education gives me a wider avenue with which I can approach students and assist them in exploring, expressing, and healing themselves. My colleagues often comment on how well our students respond to the art process and interventions. Creativity, resourcefulness, is one skill that has been crucial to my work with students. Naropa has not only helped me to appreciate this skill, but to celebrate and cultivate it. I was supported throughout the art therapy program and continue to find support as my journey goes on.


An Interview with Pam Sica, MA, Naropa University

I graduated from the Art Therapy Program in May 2006. Since then I have been working with a Denver based agency on a unique School Based Therapy Team as an art therapist. I have been fortunate to work long term and in depth with many children and their families around issues including learning disabilities, abuse, trauma, domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness, foster care and custody situations.

The Art Therapy program has a strong emphasis on the therapist’s identity as an artist in combination with a meditation practice and strong clinical skill. The program encouraged me to embrace myself as an artist, to explore personally difficult emotions and to use art materials in a safe and respectful way with another human being. Art materials and images illicit various emotional responses for the client and the therapist. The Art Therapy program taught me how to evoke and contain another person’s human experience through the use of art, as well as my own.

Painting Bio

The process of painting for me is at once a refuge and a mirror. Images often arise without a plan but with intent. I paint from my body and emotions become color and shape informing me of my present moment. I get lost in the paint, the texture, the chaos, the formlessness until suddenly something resonates from beyond my consciousness. Color, shape and detail transform into story, memory, wish and wonder.

Making of a Mess
By Pam Sica

Making of a mess…
with color and the rhythms of my body, breath and emotions.
The urgency to throw paint around on canvas and paper.
A safe place,
a contained ground,
shapes, lines and
Colors blend like open wounds, dripping, and bleeding.
A catastrophe of formlessness and
Form, bounce, blend and melt into the background,
The foreground.
Ooze drip and highlight.
“This is Art!” I say.
Something,
which has never happened before, never existed in this life.
Brought to life.
Feelings become formed before my eyes.
Somewhere,
they have never been. Here on this conscious surface
in order to be seen, witnessed and
integrated into my being,
my own understanding
of Myself.
“This is healing!” I demand.
Trust the mess.

©