June 12, 2019 | By Megan Gunkel, BA

Tell us about yourself

I currently work as the program and outreach coordinator at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Juneau, Alaska. I also serve on the Public Awareness and Training committee with the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition. I am passionate about connecting those in my community to mental health resources and supporting them on their journey to mental wellness. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in art and behavioral science in 2018, from Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. I am approaching my second year in the online Master of Arts in Art Therapy program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, based out of Terre Haute, Indiana.

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

I am excited to see how versatile the profession of art therapy can be. From working with incarcerated individuals to those staying in a hospital undergoing medical treatment to schools or workplaces — I am continually amazed by the variety of populations that can benefit from art therapy! I am also inspired by the enthusiasm my community of Juneau, Alaska has for expanding art therapy services. There is one board-certified art therapist and one individual who is currently working through the licensure process. Myself and the two art therapists have facilitated community presentations and workshops and have been met with exciting engagement from our community. The community’s enthusiasm for learning more about art therapy is inspiring and spurs me on in my journey to licensure.

What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy?

I would encourage anyone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy to learn and understand what is required of art therapists to become licensed, especially within their own state or country. The road to licensure can be winding and confusing at times, but it is necessary to be as prepared as possible to set yourself up for successful licensure. I would also encourage those interested in pursuing a career in art therapy to understand the neurology behind the process of art creation. The more you can learn about all aspects of the field, especially the science behind it, the more you can add to your own excitement and share that knowledge with others who may not know what art therapy is, or who may not understand how it works from a scientific perspective.

What are your hopes for the future of the art therapy profession?

My hopes for the future of the art therapy profession is for a continually more unified group of therapists, and for new scientific advances.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I would like to thank the art therapists who have gone before myself for blazing the trail for the field of art therapy. Thank you also to the current art therapists who are willing to share their knowledge, expertise, and time, and encourage upcoming art therapists to explore new ways art therapy can be utilized for the healing of individuals. Lastly, thank you to the community of Juneau for your encouragement and enthusiasm, you all have truly contributed to my endurance as I work toward licensure as an art therapist.

“Tension of Home” by Megan Gunkel. January 2018. Acrylic and card stock on canvas.

Artist’s statement: “As I create, I am influenced by the nature around me in Juneau as well as scenes from different places I have lived or traveled. My artwork consists of themes regarding human nature, commonalities in the human experience, and serves as a type of visual journey of my life. When I create, I desire to make pieces that will resonate with others and create connection between the viewer and the art, or spark a conversation among viewers. I believe my desire to connect with others through my work is part of what led me to the profession of art therapy, as it is a venue where art connects the client and therapist to promote healing.”