October 16, 2019 | By Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC
Tell us about yourself
I am currently working in private practice in Austin, TX, primarily with children and teens overcoming depression, anxiety, and trauma. As a supervisor, I support both LMFT-Associates who are working toward licensure and art therapists working toward an ATR credential. In addition, I run adult, child, and adolescent art therapy groups in the PHP/IOP programs of Rock Springs Behavioral Health. In order to share my knowledge with others, I have also been offering workshops and trainings for therapists and blogging about art therapy and creative approaches on my website Creativity in Therapy. My previous work has included residential foster care, probation services, and a community mental health agency. I graduated with my MA from Loyola Marymount University in 2007.
I have served on the South Texas Art Therapy Association board for the past 6 years, first as Webmaster and now as Chapter Delegate.
What excites (or inspires) you most about your job right now?
I love that I have been able to craft a professional life that allows me to spend my time and energy in different roles and settings. In my clinical work, I enjoy seeing the resilience, growth, and personal expression that clients access through the art therapy process. As a supervisor and through writing/presenting, I get excited about being able to help others learn new things and grow as clinicians.
Has working with a particular client group shaped your professional focus or specialty? What have you learned from working with these clients?
Beginning my professional career working with youth in foster care and on probation really began my interest in trauma-informed work, as well as my passion to continue to serve clients that are often underserved by art therapy and mental health services in general. I accept Medicaid in my private practice so that I can continue to work with foster children and lower-income families. In working with trauma, I feel like I am constantly learning new things and finding ways to integrate new research or different approaches. However, working with my clients I am also often reminded of the importance of remaining focused on the healing power of safety, a connected relationship, and the art process.
What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy?
I would encourage them to reach out to as many art therapists as they can to connect and learn more about their work. Art therapy can look so different with the various settings where we practice and the diverse populations that we serve. It can be helpful to hear first hand what an art therapist’s work is like, as well as to start building those professional relationships. And reaching out to art therapists in the area where you want to live and practice can be a great way to learn about the state licensure laws and mental health culture.
What are your hopes for the future of the art therapy profession?
I hope that art therapy will continue to grow and develop through new research so that we can offer the best care to our clients. I also hope that art therapists will be a community of professionals that speak for inclusion and social justice.
“What I’ve Learned From Listening” by Carolyn Mehlomakulu. Altered book and re-purposed paintings with acrylic and tempera. 2018.
Artist’s statement: “This art piece was created for our 2018 STATA art show around the theme ‘A Compassionate Community.’ In the piece I was thinking about the importance of honoring the stories that have made us who we are. As a therapist, it is so important to really listen to a client’s experiences, to hear their thoughts and feelings with compassion and curiosity, to believe that they can “bloom” and thrive. I was also thinking about my own journey as a therapist, how I have grown and changed over the years, and remembering to practice self-compassion. As part of that, all of the flowers and leaves were created out of previous artworks I had done – both pieces from graduate school and pieces that I had considered unsuccessful for some reason.”