By: Kelsey Spelich

Aleksandria Perez as she is studying for her exams.

Aleksandria Perez as she is studying for her exams.

Aleksandria Perez is a graduate student at the University of Oregon pursuing a Ph.D. in counseling. During her undergraduate year at California State University Long Beach, she was an intern at the YWCA sexual assault crisis center. As an intern, she utilized arts therapy as a means of patient recovery.

What was your role in the YWCA?

I started out as an intern [at YWCA] during my senior year … I had to do a training certification program so I could be a rape crisis counselor. My supervisor gave me the opportunity to participate in the support groups.

What kind of activities did you do with the group? Did you do hands-on work? Did you do use psychoanalysis?

We had support groups where we brought in a couple of individuals who were also in individual therapy at that time. We also had the art therapy groups, which were both in English and Spanish, and that was definitely more of a hands-on experience. You started out with a breathing exercise, a meditation/mindfulness practice, and then you would move on to the art therapy.

In your opinion, what was the benefit of using expressive therapy in these patients’ treatment?

Expressive Therapy is a very unique aspect and it’s something that we in this culture don’t respect enough: self-care. Just the fact that you would come out and spend three hours in our therapy groups… some found it easier to express in a collage or in some other [artistic] activity issues that they don’t really want to talk about. Using art as a medium, to be able to talk about some of the issues that they are not able to express with words, I think especially with our population, whom are bilingual or monolingual in Spanish…it was difficult for them to communicate, just in general, with the community that they were living in. So this was again another medium in which they could communicate without language.

Do you think that prescription drugs are the answer or do you think it’s better to use an alternative approach?

My personal opinion is that the medical model isn’t necessarily one size fits all. I do believe that we are overprescribing in terms of painkillers or whatever it is prescription drug-related, and I do believe that art therapy is something that is overlooked…I feel like there is no one right therapy so even if you were to stick with just art therapy…there is no one right answer for every client and I think that’s important to emphasize.