Interview with Theresa Quinn

Over the next few months I will be interviewing Art Therapists and sharing them here with you!  This is really for the benefit of students and future students of Art Therapy.  The folks I am talking to are all in different career stages and have diverse careers.

I hope these questions and answers shed some light on questions you have, and get you even more excited about your future as an art therapist.

If you have other questions you would like me to ask as I do these interviews please email me and I’ll work ‘em in!

I also hope that some of you established Art Therapists enjoy these.  If you are interested in doing an interview contact me.


Our first interview is Theresa Quinn of Quinn Art Therapy

1. Describe yourself in 5 words.

Woman, artist, and art therapist.

2. What are you passionate about? This can be work-related, personal, whatever you would like to share.

I am passionate about promoting and practicing art therapy in the outpatient and private practice setting. It seems to me that, lately, there’s more emphasis on art therapy in hospitals, schools, and agencies, where goals include exhibiting participants’ art to satisfy grants or get funding. The art is pretty, sometimes marketed. That’s fine, and it has therapeutic value. On the other hand, this is now what the public thinks of as “art therapy.” But art therapy can offer more and deeper benefits when individuals or groups engage in making art purely for self-awareness, change, and growth. The art becomes raw, idiosyncratic and meaningful, and may not even make logical or visual sense, outside of sessions. And, why should it? This kind of art therapy is about a safe place in which to risk surfacing and depicting dark and avoided inner images toward developing helpful and heartening images, letting go of how the art “looks” along the way.

3. What stage of this career are you in?

I guess I would consider myself still in the journeywoman’s stage. I’ve been out of school since 2004, but after moving to Michigan, I lost valuable practice time in trying to find art therapist or even marriage and family therapist employment here. Four years later, I have a broad spectrum of work in several locations, and am trying to add more work that’s been offered by another!
4. What advice do you have for people who are interested in becoming art therapists?

Ask yourself this: which U.S. state will I be living in five to seven years from now? Every state is different about the practice of art therapy. Some states are not regulated and art therapists need no license at all. California requires art therapists to hold some form of mental health license – in my case, my program allowed me to become both a Registered Art Therapist and a Marriage and Family Therapist. If you plan to move someday, consider school in your future home state. Some licenses don’t travel well, or your future home state may require a license but your program didn’t make you license-eligible (and then you have to attend graduate school all over again).

5. How did you decide to become an art therapist?

I went through a personal crisis and turned to art-making after about ten years of not making any art. I went to local library to search for inspirational art books. I stumbled on Margaret Naumburg’s Art Therapy book, and immediately resonated with the term, thinking I hadn’t heard of it. That was in1997. Five years later I went for it. Here’s the kicker: I found an old sketch book from taking art classes at the College of New Rochelle in 1980-82, and on one of the pages I found scrawled, “art therapy.” I have no memory of it!

6. What is one thing you wish you knew then, that you do know now, that you could share with us as students studying art therapy?

That becoming a therapist is intensely challenging as it is rewarding. Your personal work is never over, as is not your professional learning. Be prepared to become, not only aware of your “stuff,” your issues, but dedicated to staying aware of them and – even more important – doing the personal work needed to insure that you are practicing safely with people. And be prepared to do lots and lots of clinical reading, which competes with your art-making! Finally, I wish I knew then that I could trust the art therapy process. I’ll admit, I still struggle with that trust – that’s my issue, one of them anyway – but I’ve seen art therapy do so much for people in the time I’ve practiced. Believe in yourself, believe in the process.

7. What are some other things or people that inspire/motivate you?

My partner of seventeen years and a wonderful photographer, Megan. The children and adults who have trusted me enough to work together in the therapy room.My Esalen Institute Gestalt mentor, Alan Schwarz. Helen Landgarten, who started the Clinical Art Therapy/Marriage and Family Therapy program at Loyola Marymount University. Her documented, excellent work inspires me to strive for excellence in art therapy work with families. Also, I’m inspired by artists, like Rauschenberg and Bontecou, and like my friend Linda and my sisters Jude and Cass.

8. Where on the World Wide Web can we learn more about you?

On my website! I expect to make changes to the site as I continue to work and hone my practice skills and expertise. I also have a Facebook page, Quinn Art Therapy, which I update with interesting art therapy- and art-related information and links. Hit the “Like” button and you’ll get the updates!




**Jennifer is an undergraduate student studying Studio Art, she volunteers at the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault and is planning on pursuing her Master’s Degree in Art Therapy and Counseling.  Jennifer loves to make stuff, share with others, and learn.  You can find her day to day ramblings and crafty adventures on her blog Crafty Dayeseye , and keep up with her 365 project  Art Every Day .  Jennifer lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia with her wonderful husband, an angel of a dog, and a demon doggie.**




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