The American Art Therapy Association represents a diversity of professionals, students, and organizations across the nation. We recognize and celebrate the work of our members at all levels through our Featured Member series.

May 19, 2022

What excites (or inspires) you most about your job right now?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, social justice issues have been on my mind with the rise in violence against Asians. Though chaotic, sometimes you can find blessings amid the chaos! As a Tokyo-born art therapist, I am inspired and motivated by the hate to offer lectures and educate the art therapy community on what we can do about it.

Has working with a particular client group shaped your professional focus or specialty? What have you learned from working with these clients?

I have worked with people with all different kinds of backgrounds. I have learned from them that the most important thing to have is empathy, not sympathy.

How has your role changed as an art therapist (or remained the same) during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic gave me an opportunity to respect and love my Japanese and Asian cultures even more. Thus, I have become even more aware of the importance of incorporating some aspects of “cultures” in the world of art therapy.

As an AAPI artist and art therapist, how have you used art to honor your culture or heritage?

Unexpectedly and with many blessings, I have been given numerous opportunities to share how my Japanese culture has coped with pandemics and plagues for the past 400 years. In some ways, this is my way of sharing how amazing my culture is with AATA community and beyond.

“Untitled.” Photography. This is a shot of my hand. For me, salt is edible art. I cherish and am blessed by its beauty.

During the pandemic, I also realized that while it is important to share the uniqueness and differences of different cultures, it is also essential to empathize that all human beings have some things in common- a culture of care and empathy. We must continue to remember this universal truth to make an effort to mitigate situations coming from the culture of hate. 

How have race, diversity, and/or social justice impacted your work as an art therapist (or art therapy student)?

I now understand that to mitigate racial injustice there needs to be a “dialogue” and not a  “monologue.” A dialogue means that all of us have an equal chance to share feelings instead of just one side. 

What advice  would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy? Or, is there something you would like to share about your journey thus far as an art therapist?

Whether art therapy or not, in life, you create your own unique paths. Just because other people are discouraging your ideas, do not always give up. If your idea speaks to you and is important to you, you should go ahead and try it!

Makiko Harada (Young), MA., MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT

Makiko Harada (Young) is a Board certified and NY state licensed art therapist. She earned her MA in health education from Columbia University and her MPS in art therapy from Pratt. Formerly a director of creative arts therapies at Housing Works in NYC and a faculty member at the New School University in NYC, she now runs her own business giving lectures on social justice issues. In addition, Makiko owns a couture salt business called Glamsalt.