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.


March 10, 2022

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

The ability to assist those in need…to know that art therapy can make a difference in someone’s life…to see results…after practicing art therapy for so many years, to know that art therapy works…

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

As a teen immigrant from Argentina, I did not face diversity until arriving in the US. Race, culture, and being different have always been present in my development, personally and professionally. I quickly moved from being part of the majority (in Argentina) to being a minority in the US. Thus, my immigration experiences shaped not only who I am today, but the focus and passion of my art therapy career. I’ve provided art therapy services to immigrant families in school and clinical settings, conducted research to improve the quality of life of immigrant families, and worked to increase protective factors and decrease risk factors in children and families outside of the US affected by human-made crises in Lebanon, Peru, Swaziland, and Argentina.

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

My role as an educator has not changed during the pandemic, as I have provided instruction online for over 11 years. However, the work I do overseas as a humanitarian stopped at the start of the pandemic for safety reasons. 

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?

I graduated as an art therapist from George Washington University in 1986. Almost 36 years later, I am grateful for the colleagues and friends with whom I have walked this journey. This journey is like a gift that keeps on giving, bringing memorable experiences and opportunities to grow alongside those we hope to heal. Not surprisingly, it is a healing journey like no other, where we are constantly challenging and challenged by the human experience. What advice would I give someone interested in art therapy? Immerse yourself fully, humbly, with mercy and justice—art therapy matters.

Mercedes Ballbé ter Maat, Ph.D., LPC, ATR-BC, HLM

Dr. Mercedes Ballbé ter Maat is a professor in the Department of Counseling at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Psychology in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Before joining NSU, she was the director of the school counseling graduate program at the George Washington University, Alexandria, VA campus and an assistant professor at Virginia Tech. She has over 33 years of combined working experience as a counselor educator, mental health counselor, school counselor, and art therapist.

Dr. ter Maat participates in local, state, national, and international leadership undertakings in the fields of mental health counseling, school counseling, and art therapy, and has presented and published articles and book chapters on topics related to multicultural counseling, ethics, motivational interviewing, and the use of art in counseling and therapy. She actively participates in humanitarian work, most recently in Peru, Argentina, Swaziland, and Lebanon. Her research interests are enhancing the quality of life of immigrants, minority families, and refugees in crisis by identifying risk and promoting protective factors through school and community-based interventions.

She is a past president of the American Art Therapy Association, the European Branch of the American Counseling Association, and the Croatian Art Therapy Association. Dr. ter Maat is a licensed professional counselor and a board-certified/registered art therapist.