We regularly spotlight our Horizon scholars because we take great pride in our students and wish to broadcast the phenomenal work they’ve done or are doing. Our spotlight now shines on Sahitha V., a current, grade 11 Horizon scholar from Arizona who in a surprising turn of events in our pursuit for an apt mentor, is now researching one-on-one with a professor who pioneered the country’s very first PhD program in Art Therapy. Sahitha matched our enthusiasm, exclaiming, “it is one of the first doctorate programs of its kind which is really exciting too so I’m really happy to have this opportunity to work with him.”
As a graduate of the Milan Art Institute and the Summer Art Intensive course at NYU coupled with her own long-standing relationship with art since childhood, Sahitha founded a non-profit in 2017 in an effort to bridge the gap between her own fondness of creative expression via art and its medical potential as a form of therapy, particularly for at-risk youth such as children in the foster care system, care facilities for kids with down syndrome, and support centers for refugees. She was already well-established, for her age, in the domain of the visual arts as it intersects with promoting mental health & treating psychological disorders and sought the Horizon Academic Research Program’s applied clinical psychology course to “dive deeper into art therapy and get in touch with the psychology side too instead of just the art side,” an interview with Sahitha illuminated. Looking to foster a more profound connection with art therapy, Sahitha disclosed, “what I’m trying to gain out of the program is to learn more about [art therapy] and understand if it is something that I want to go into as a career choice and so far, with what we’ve learned, I do think it’s going to be in the career path I go in because it honestly just keeps getting better and better and I like it more as I learn more.”
We were determined to help Sahitha harness the power of art therapy by contributing to the pre-existing, yet limited, scholarly literature with a ground-breaking, comprehensive research project under the guidance of one of the fathers of art therapy in academia: Richard Carolan. At Horizon Labs, we guarantee that our students don’t have to settle for just any mentor with vaguely aligned interests in a subject encompassing hundreds & thousands of points and sub-topic inquiries, rather we strive to match our student with a mentor spearheading a project grappling with research questions parallel to said student, regardless of how niche. Sahitha herself admits this was the deciding factor for her to apply to Horizon Academic; she elaborated, “when I was looking for research programs to pick, the reason I picked Horizon was because you provide the opportunity for any topic and you’re really flexible and good about getting a mentor who’s a good fit. When I was looking for other research programs, they just kind of said a clinical psychologist or they have specific subjects outlined and provide a mentor in that specific subject but Horizon talked about how you get a one-on-one experience with a PhD student who’s in the same realm as you so you have a mentor who’s doing the same exact thing as you, you know, so it’s direct.”
In the case of Sahitha, art therapy is still fairly under-pursued and understudied institutionally at the PhD level — meaning that the pool of potential instructors was limited. With less than a dozen PhD programs in art therapy available in the entire country, we shifted our focus and time to personally reaching out to short-listed PhD candidates and found ourselves in a series of trial-and-error correspondences in pursuit of finding the appropriate advisor.
We were in contact with several doctoral researchers in clinical psychology but we were not content until we could ensure Sahitha an instructor who wasn’t just a generalist, but an expert fit to probe the art therapy research questions & analyses she was concerned with. In retrospect, it indeed was worthwhile as the search led us to Dr. Richard Carolan — the Director of the PhD Art Therapy Program at Notre Dame de Namur University. Our efforts came to a fulfilling end hearing Sahitha’s remarks: “I do really like him as a mentor so I want to continue to learn about art therapy from him and just update him on my life & everything after the program.” When asked about the dynamic between the two, Sahitha described that, “one of [her] favorite things about Dr. Carolan is that he’s very flexible and very open to other people [...] I really like him as a mentor because his teaching style varies so he makes sure that I’m understanding what he’s doing and changes up how he teaches so that I can best grasp the material. So I do want to stay in touch with him afterwards for sure.”
We, Horizon Academic, are committed to pairing students with mentors who reflect the individuality and uniqueness of each student’s interest & goals. In her concluding comments during the interview, Sahitha returned to her goals & expectations for the program & its impact, stating, “I do want to use it for my non-profit because I think it’s important to be knowledgeable in what you’re doing and my non-profit is an arts advocacy organization so having that knowledge in psychology benefits and that knowledge in art therapy would make me more credible and help me expand that outreach […] and get rid of the stigma about arts in general in my culture and other cultures too.”