January 3, 2020 at 11:30am
Sophia Schwalbach '19, MBA Fast Track Candidate '20

Millikin University's Art Therapy program opens doors to teaching artistic expression

Read this story and more in the 2019-20 Winter Edition of Blue Review

For some people art is a way to de-stress after a long day, and for some, it is a way to heal during and after a traumatic experience. The Art Therapy program at Millikin University prepares its students to be able to teach all the above.

Meet Lea Cameron, a recent art therapy graduate of Millikin.

Millikin Art Therapy

"I originally came to Millikin as a studio art major, but I didn't know where I wanted to go with art at that point in time," she said. "At the end of freshman year, I discovered we had an art therapy program and was very intrigued and decided to switch my major."

Cameron added, "Growing up I struggled with my own mental health, and art was one of the only things that helped me. I believe art therapy can be one of the greatest tools in teaching mindfulness, self-regulation, independence, self-worth and creativity."

Cameron goes on to explain just how impactful art therapy can be for a multitude of people. She now works as the art director at Macon Resources Initiative (MRI) in Decatur, Ill. MRI functions as a non-profit organization that provides services to promote the growth, independence and self-worth of children and adults with disabilities. MRI hosts a multitude of programs and activities for people with one being art therapy.

Millikin Art Therapy

Walking into one of Cameron's classes you can instantly tell how important self-expression is for these people. Cameron gracefully leads them through art projects that allow them to have a creative outlet. The look on their faces when they complete their design is invaluable – you can tell how much art effects their happiness and confidence.

Cameron accredits all her knowledge and preparation for this job to the Art Therapy program at Millikin University.

Millikin Art Therapy

The Art Therapy program at Millikin University not only prepares students for a career which uses art as a form of therapy, but the program helps students land internships at locations such as Macon Resources Initiative, Decatur Correctional Facility and the Decatur Memorial Hospital Cancer Care Center. Each location is filled with people who are yearning for a creative outlook to heal their wounds, those who are interested in art and even some people who are just looking for everyday fulfillment.

"It is amazing when you see people have breakthrough moments with their art. It can be difficult to express emotions at times, and art therapy can be the perfect tool for expression," said Jonathan Haag, director of art therapy at Millikin.

Millikin Art Therapy

Haag is new to the Decatur area, but is looking forward to getting his students involved in more locations. Something he is excited for is the art therapy program partnering with the Women's Correctional Facility in Decatur. The community has seen the impact that Millikin's Shakespeare Corrected program has had on the women in the correctional facility and now Haag is looking forward to offering a different form of art therapy at the facility.

Moving forward, the Millikin Art Therapy program is excited to start new partnerships in and outside the Decatur community.