Meet the Students
¡Hola! My name is Liani M. Vazquez–Santana, and I’m a second-year student in the GW Art Therapy Graduate Program. I came to the DC area from my “Isla del Encanto” or “Island of Enchantment”—Puerto Rico—to follow a dream… The field of art therapy, new to my island home, is now growing due to the pioneering work of three visionary art therapists. My dream is to return to Puerto Rico, and join forces with these amazing ladies in sharing the healing and empowering potential that art therapy has to offer to our people.
Of the countless experiences I’ve had during my time here at GW so far, one of the most amazing was the opportunity to take part in the cultural diversity field trip to South Africa last summer. For three weeks we were all immersed in learning about this country’s history, culture, and fascinating people. Being a Latina among a group of Americans in an African country, I was personally challenged by the clash of three distinct cultures at once. Throughout the trip I had the chance to explore at a deeper level my own roots, beliefs, feelings, perceptions, and biases, something many people don’t get a chance to do, and which has helped me in my continuous development as a future art therapist.
All the faculty members of the Program have encouraged me during this on-going process of personal exploration from day one, and it is definitely one of the most important skills I have developed and incorporated into my daily life. Being aware of one’s feelings, thoughts, and processes is essential to becoming a more empathic therapist. This is a significant attribute that I perceive in every faculty member and one that is developing more and more in each of us students.
The GW Art Therapy Program’s quality curriculum, faculty, facilities, variety of internships, and access to dozens of museum and galleries in the DC area, make the it one of the most unique in our field. You can tell that I’m proud and excited to be a part of this wonderful FAMILIA. But I’m even more excited about returning home to do art therapy on the Island of Enchantment!
As a first year student in the GW Art Therapy Program, it’s hard to believe I was going through the application process for graduate art therapy programs over a year ago. The mission and goals, as well as the history of the Program, drew me to GW. Even though traveling to the various schools for interviews added stress to the application process, once I attended my interview day, I knew GW was the right fit for me. The Program’s curriculum balances art and therapy to assist in the students’ development as artists and beginning therapists. While it may seem this balance is the intention of most art therapy programs, the Program at GW reaches a level of personal and professional development I do not feel I could get anywhere else. The research component of the Program expresses the objective to inform and create students who are capable of actively contributing and furthering the field of art therapy.
In addition to the education I am receiving from the GW faculty and my colleagues, the experience from my internship site has been invaluable. While it is necessary to understand theoretical approaches to art therapy to inform one’s practice as a practitioner, the interaction with clients has truly shown me the power of art therapy in a practical, clinical setting. While I believe in the power and healing qualities of art, the clients at my internship site continue to surprise themselves and me with the connections and realizations made during the group art therapy sessions.
I am looking forward to seeing what else I have to gain from my time at GW and our nation’s capital, not to mention DC houses many wonderful museums, most of which are free! Who could ask for more?