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.
August 11, 2022
What excites (or inspires) you most about your job right now?
What excites me about the art therapy profession is observing the client’s engagements between themselves, the art-making process, and their discovery of its therapeutic benefits. Especially among my children and teen clients, I am always inspired by their willingness to use art materials to discover novel and meaningful ways to create their own emotional language. This includes experimenting with mediums that help them resonate with their feelings more clearly, and be able to connect verbal and non-verbal language together.
As a result, this allows my clients to validate themselves and be able to feel more like an art space without the stigma attached to the preconceived idea of a therapy space. As an artist, this inspired me to structure and develop my art therapy office into an open studio-inspired approach to the therapeutic environment, where this is encouraged more supportively.
Has working with a particular client group shaped your professional focus or specialty? What have you learned from working with these clients?
The experience of working with children and their families, both in outpatient and in-home services, has encouraged me to incorporate collaborative art making such as collage, joint drawing/painting, found objects, and art games into each session. This allows me to integrate a family systemic therapy approach into the art therapy directives, where I am fully utilizing my artistic knowledge of each art material, and its therapeutic value towards cohesion in the family.
Overall, when families engage in art-making sessions, it shapes my fascination towards understanding how powerful the use of art materials is in translating the non-verbal language into a visual representation of how the family perceives themselves as a system. It has helped me realize the importance of the therapeutic environment in relation to validating the family’s own internal mechanisms that encourage emotional healing and homeostasis amongst each family member.
How have race, diversity, and/or social justice impacted your work as an art therapist (or art therapy student)?
Social justice issues such as equality for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA individuals have impacted my work as a cis-male art therapist. Creating a non-judgmental and safe art therapy space for my clients, educating myself on my client’s cultural identity, and taking on a nuanced view of political and social concerns strengthen my ability to advocate for them. This includes challenging and addressing my own biases through art-making and keeping up with the literature on my clients’ cultural group.
Matthew Chernaskey, MA, ATR
I have been practicing as an art therapist for 6 years. I graduated from Kutztown University in Fine Arts with a concentration in sculpture in 2012. Prior to graduate school, I volunteered with the student-run art gallery and helped run a summer art camp for kids ages 5-12 years old within the Kutztown area. I graduated from Marywood University with a MA in Art Therapy in 2016.
After graduate school, I volunteered at Camp Smile through the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of Lehigh Valley for 3 years creating art with children, who survived cancer, and their siblings who have/lost a sibling to cancer. During that time, I worked for Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 in their behavioral health program, utilizing family art therapy in a home-based and school setting, for children with developmental disabilities in the Northampton County area. I also worked within their school-based outpatient program, using CBT-based art therapy for grades K-12 in the Bethlehem Area School District. While working in the Colonial Intermediate Unit 20, I was trained in the Ecosystemic Structural Family Therapy Model through Philadelphia Child and Family Therapy Training Center.
I am currently a credentialed professional member of both AATA and PAATA. I currently work full-time at Ethos Clinic, an outpatient program, as an art therapist for their Lehighton Campus. I provide art therapy for primarily children, teens, and families within Carbon County and surrounding areas. This includes individuals with developmental disabilities as part of my specialization.