From Graduate School to Employment: Sharing My Profession & Advocating for the Field

Briana Colton_280x280Briana Colton graduated in October with her Master of Arts in Counseling: Art Therapy from Adler University. A Chicago resident, she is blogging for us to chronicle her experiences navigating the transition between graduate school and full-time employment—and to share her progress and insights with the Adler community including current students and fellow graduates.  Today she writes:


When I began looking for a job, one of the first pieces of advice I received from mentors in the field of art therapy focused on finding opportunities to advocate for the field.

One woman suggested, “If you have information on a particular topic that you feel is interesting, write up a description and send it along to your former faculty offering to do a guest lecture.”  Another art therapist I know and respect suggested creating workshop ideas and getting practice providing art therapy experiences to different populations.  A third suggested finding a place to volunteer, to continue building my resume and potentially educate an organization on art therapy to the point it might consider hiring an art therapist.

I’ve thought about these ideas constantly.  I have had many conversations with people in my network, brainstorming ideas for seminars or workshops and asking who might be interested in having me present.

Early on, most ideas never cemented, but I persisted in asking and looking for opportunities. In retrospect, I believe the time and the fit were not quite right.  Sometimes it’s easy to want badly for something to happen, and try forcing it to work.  However, the more fruitful and successful approach often involves being open to the right opportunity at the right time.

I shared in an earlier post that I took the National Counselor Exam (NCE) in early March.  The confidence that comes with having my license helped ease some of my fears and insecurities around job-searching.  As I began to relax and focus my efforts in a different way, opportunities began to drop into my lap.

One of the best opportunities came from a career counselor who invited me to lead a “Careers in Art Therapy” workshop at the University of Illinois at Chicago for current art and psychology undergraduate students. About 15 students attended, in addition to three other presenters: a career counselor representing Career Services, and advisors from UIC’s psychology and art departments.

The interactive workshop gave me a chance to share my story–going from nonprofit fundraising and public relations to art therapy–and give the students a hands-on art therapy/art-making experience.  As always, my heart filled with joy at how avidly the students dived into the art project.  This constantly affirms the need for my profession and its effectiveness, when I see complete strangers eagerly and willingly take advantage of an opportunity to make meaningful art and reflect on it.

We followed the art-making experience with time for questions.  The students showed thoughtfulness and insight in asking for details about the therapist’s role, the art-making part of a session, and how to handle big emotions that come up for clients when processing their artwork.

The workshop allowed me to dispel myths about art therapy and to educate both UIC students and faculty about the dual-degree nature of the art therapy master’s program, which allows us to practice as both a licensed counselor and an art therapist and expands the ability to find and create job opportunities.

Presenting gave me the chance to remember why and how I came into this field. It provided me a real opportunity to teach others about what I’ve come to know from my education, internship, and professional networking.  When I’m not “in it” every day, it can be easy to forget or feel rusty on knowledge and skills in this area.  Presenting and teaching keeps the information fresh for me, and helps me better articulate it to those hearing it for the first time.

I firmly believe I met some possible future colleagues at this presentation, and tapped into a hope and desire to continue teaching and presenting to students and professionals outside the field someday.  I cannot wait to continue sharing my passion and knowledge for my field.


For Adler alumni, Adler University’s Office of Alumni Relations provides a number of career and post-doctoral support resources, and ongoing educational, professional, service, and social programming and opportunities. Learn more and connect at

Read more from Briana in her previous posts in this series:

From Graduate School to Employment: The National Counselor Exam
From Graduate School to Employment: Considering Job Fit
From Graduate School to Employment: Interviewing Insights & Tips
From Graduate School to Employment: The Licensing Process & Power of Peer Support
From Graduate School to Employment: Networking via Professional Groups
From Graduate School to Employment: Why I Network–and How
From Graduate School to Employment: Chronicling a Career Journey