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Forging a Path Through Art Therapy

Published 07/02/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 07/01/2014 04:44 PM

By Jaki Lauper
East Haven Courier

Christina Clarino is a young woman on the path to help others through her work as an art therapist and art facilitator.

She explains her work as "the therapeutic use of art-making where individuals use the creative process to improve physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing."

Christina says, "It's about artistic self-expression and through that the journey of making art; it becomes about what emerges from the art as it awakens a person's problem-solving capabilities."

Christina says she went into this field because "I needed to get in there and help people in a therapeutic sense for my work.

"I knew this deep down, but it took me forever to pick my major as an undergrad. I was actually in [college] for five years, because I flip-flopped from being a business major with an art minor to the opposite," says Christina.

Christina received her bachelor's degree from Eastern Connecticut State University before moving on to Albertus Magnus, where she graduated in May with a master's in art therapy after a professor recommended art therapy.

"It was totally worth the extra year," because it not only changed her whole view on art, it also altered her goals in life, Christina says.

"Albert Magnus was amazing," she says. "Professors reassured me I would find a career I loved, and I did."

She adds, "Professors [in that program] help you get through your own personal issues so you can learn to help your clients, because you have to get through the mud before you get to the sunshine.

"The work is not easy, and no one wants to do that-I get it," Christina says, laughing. "I now get to help people explore themselves and find enlightenment even though most people don't understand exactly what I do."

For her last semester, Christina interned for the Vinfen Art Connection Studio and Gallery in Hartford. She's now employed at Vinfen right out of college. (The employment part made her parents very happy).

Christina says, "Vinfen is a place where adults with emotional or developmental disabilities can get help to achieve their goals and thrive in the community."

Christina says her work is ever-changing.

"Some days I'm working with professional artists that inspire those attending Vinfen, other days it might be jewelry making, knitting, clay-making, bubble art, music, or one-on-one art therapy sessions."

What makes Vinfen unique is that the artists work on a project all semester and by the end of it, sell their work at a themed show and reception.

Christina says, "Fifty percent of the profit goes to the [artist] and 50 percent goes to Vinfen for supplies."

Christina got her love of art from her parents, Thomas and Rosanne, who Christina says are both into art.

"I was always playing with clay and painting, as well as enjoying a love of dancing and animals," Christina recalls.

Christina says her parents have been very supportive, even when she chose to pursue a master's degree in such a non-traditional major.

"They were skeptical at first because they wanted me to be financially stable, and I understand that, but in the end they also want me to be happy," she says.

As someone with great compassion for animals, she would like to eventually incorporate animal therapy and art making, perhaps using her own two dogs, Reese and Bella.

Christina admits it's been a nerve-wracking process to get to this bright place, but says she feels pride in getting here. The road doesn't end here, either-there's more studying and testing to become a board-certified therapist in her future.

"I feel so good helping people," she says. "I get such satisfaction at the end of each day."

To nominate a Person of the Week, contact Jaki Lauper at j.lauper@shorepublishing.com.

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