by Sienna Sullivan, AATA Intern

When a professor announced AATA’s 2022 Annual Conference, Amelie Smith, then a senior Art Major at Louisiana State University, remembers thinking, “I have to go to this conference… to be where everyone in the art therapy community is!” 

Although the annual conference is open to students, Amelie was among the few undergraduate students to attend last year’s conference in Minneapolis.

“Attending the conference helped me realize where I am best suited and empowered me to use my talents to help engage more young people, like me, who need to do [art therapy]. We need more healers in the world,” she explained.

Amelie and her art therapist instructor, AATA member Tiffanie Brumfield at 2022 Conference

New friends and connections made at 2022 AATA Conference

There are endless perks for undergrads who attend the annual conference.

“The art therapy community is small, so getting face time at conference is very important for building relationships,” Amelie suggests. “The conference also exposed me to different licensures, graduate programs and their prerequisites, and alternative next steps for undergrads, all of which I had never even considered before attending.”

One of Amelie’s most memorable experiences during the annual conference happened during her attendance at a panel discussion. “I was mindblown at the expressive therapy continuum; it was like a science that I could digest and understand easily and something I had unknowingly already dabbled in myself. After that session, I was addicted. I wanted to know what was next for this research; who was teaching this model of therapy?”

Amelie’s curiosity led her down a Google rabbit hole of research and eventually she connected with the Director and Associate Professor of Art Therapy at the Dominican University of California, Dr. Lisa Hinz. “The next day, I remember walking up to Lisa’s table in the expo hall, and it was like meeting a celebrity. I had come across her book online, and she talked about her research and her love of art therapy, and that was also where I first heard about Dominican University.”


Amelie’s next steps

Since departing from the annual conference and her conversation with Dr. Hinz, Amelie has been accepted to the Master of Arts in Art Therapy program at the Dominican University! She credits her time at the conference for this next step. “I returned from conference and immediately researched the prerequisites of all the programs I was interested in, drafted up a very long spreadsheet, and changed my class schedule to check off all the right requirements.” 

Amelie’s time at AATA’s 2022 Annual Conference informed her final months of undergrad, her next steps into graduate school, and her long-term goals as a future art therapist. “In the way, way future, I see myself having my own practice. For the majority of my early twenties, I am looking forward to doing research, harnessing the science behind how we know art therapy works and why. I am most interested in being able to understand art therapy on a neurocognitive level and making that information accessible to more people outside the profession.”

Her overall advice to students and mentors? “Encourage undergraduates! People in contact with undergraduates need to encourage them to come. Help them get to the conference. Help them get connected to people. The people I talked to and the things I learned at conference changed the trajectory of my plans going forward.”

Beginning stages of Amelie’s 42 x 48 charcoal drawing, “Of Sound Mind”, for her advanced drawing course.

Bones and All, by Amelie Smith. 2023.

Bones and All was my final project for my final art therapy course. My process involves a lot of forgiveness. In order to achieve the final product in a piece like this, I have to continuously let go of having expectations and allow the art to lead me. Overtime, I begin to create this world of symbols and storylines that I play with and explore. I listen and let them lead me while I create. I loved working on a larger scale and felt like I had so much space to sort through feelings and thoughts I was having while creating.”