Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR is a licensed, trauma-informed, feminist, holistic psychotherapist, marriage and family therapist, registered art therapist, certified somatic therapist, and the owner of Create Your Life Studio in Santa Barbara. Her motto is "Know your worth. Know your value. Create your life." Christine helps women and girls discover their real worth and value through psychotherapy, creative expression, and the healing power of art.
Why did you decide to pursue a career as an art therapist? Was it something that always interested you?
I started out as a child protective services worker on priority one cases — the most severe cases of child abuse. This position often meant that I would have to go pick up an abused child and remove them from an unsafe situation and take them to a safe place. I noticed anecdotally that the abused children who played with art supplies seemed to be able to self-soothe and self-regulate in ways that the children who played with dolls or computer games were not. I remember thinking that the creative expression appeared to be regulating for the children.
I did not think much more about it until later, when I was teaching art to kids in an after-school program. I realized I cared more about what the children were trying to convey emotionally — what they were trying to express — than I did about line quality or perspective on the color wheel. Someone said to me, "You are more like an art therapist than an art teacher!" I laughed. I liked the sound of an "art therapist," but I did not realize it was an actual profession for a little while longer.
When I was diagnosed with melanoma and had to have treatment and surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Hospital, an art therapist came to the hospital and offered a discount to cancer patients at the CG Jung Institute — a workshop for cancer patients about fairy tales and dreams. I took that workshop and got hooked on the process! I saved up to study at Loyola Marymount University in their art therapy master's program. I moved to California from Texas to go to grad school. I'm so grateful that I did!
What steps did you take to become an art therapist?
I got bachelor's degrees in both psychology and communications, with minors in women's studies and art. I took graduate school entrance exams. I applied to, got into, and went to graduate school, and then I graduated with top honors — summa cum laude.
I had two practicum experiences. The first was in a homeless shelter for six months, and the second was at a child abuse agency for one year. I got 3000-plus hours of clinical face-to-face hours and had to take and pass two board exams. I worked at the child abuse agency for almost 12 years; I got a real job there once my year-long practicum had finished. Eventually, I opened up my private practice, Create Your Life Studio.
What degrees and certifications did you need to earn for your current position?
I needed a bachelor's degree in psychology, a master's degree in marriage and family therapy and in clinical art therapy, and a registration in art therapy. [Then I had to] pass my board exams, get registered as an art therapist, and, finally, get a license in marriage and family therapy in the State of California. I also went on to study and become certified in somatic therapy, post-graduate school.
In what ways did your undergraduate studies differ from your graduate studies?
Undergraduate degree assignments were all reading textbooks, taking tests, and writing papers. Graduate school was reading all kinds of books and journals, no tests, writing huge papers, writing a master's thesis, and actually doing practicum therapy work with clients, face-to-face!
What advice would you give to students considering pursuing a degree and career in art therapy?
Have your own daily creative practice. See a therapist yourself. Keep an art journal through your schooling and practicum experiences. Process your cases and countertransference with your supervisor. Utilize supervision well; it is for your benefit. Read voraciously!
What was the most impactful aspect of your education?
I really enjoyed the experiential learning. It was impactful to learn how to use art directives with clients by doing them ourselves. I loved graduate school so much.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
It is when I see the client go from shame and self-blame to self-compassion and self-love.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?
Hearing stories of profound cruelty is cumulative. Self-care is required. Also, on the business end: People not paying me. I'm still learning how to navigate the business end. Like most artists, I often feel uncomfortable collecting the money I am owed, but I am working on it!
What are some of the necessary skills someone pursuing a career in art therapy must have?
Empathy, creativity, intuition, the ability to be non-judgmental, curiosity, kindness, flexibility, and patience. As artists and healers, we also need to practice the art of self-care and good boundaries.
Any final thoughts for us?
Take some business classes. They don't really teach you the business end in graduate school for art therapy. You'll need these [skills] if you open your private practice. Overall, it is an extremely rewarding field and profession. I have my dream job, I feel fortunate to be a healer and psychotherapist. Good luck!