Boundaries & Belonging: An Arts-Based Approach

Emery Mikel Interview: Try it out and Be yourself

March 05, 2024 Season 1 Episode 7
Emery Mikel Interview: Try it out and Be yourself
Boundaries & Belonging: An Arts-Based Approach
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Boundaries & Belonging: An Arts-Based Approach
Emery Mikel Interview: Try it out and Be yourself
Mar 05, 2024 Season 1 Episode 7

Emery Hurst Mikel, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT, LPAT is the founder and director of Water & Stone, a Creative Arts Therapy PLLC and Firefly & Phoenix LLC, a company for professionals interested in entrepreneurial coaching.

Water & Stone is currently comprised of an extraordinary group of women who offer creative arts therapy and wellness coaching to individual clients and groups. In her therapy work, Emery focuses on women’s issues, grief and loss, end of life, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as caregiver burnout. W&S grew out of Emery’s experiences living and working in Colorado, Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Long Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. To help other therapists interested in similar work she authored The Art of Business: A Guide for Creative Arts Therapists… (JKP, 2013) which focuses on contracting and business basics.

Firefly & Phoenix has programs and 1:1 mentoring for those embarking on or journeying through the adventure that is self-employment/private practice. This grew out of the ever-evolving world Emery has created to help professionals in the healing and wellness industries create the work they dream of and along those lines she is currently working on her second book focused more specifically on private practice and starting a company.

Along with these pursuits she mentors other therapists, offers continuing education workshops, supervises interns, guest lectures at George Washington University and is adjunct faculty at Nazareth University. She received her MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology: Art Therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, CO.

Show Notes Transcript

Emery Hurst Mikel, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT, LPAT is the founder and director of Water & Stone, a Creative Arts Therapy PLLC and Firefly & Phoenix LLC, a company for professionals interested in entrepreneurial coaching.

Water & Stone is currently comprised of an extraordinary group of women who offer creative arts therapy and wellness coaching to individual clients and groups. In her therapy work, Emery focuses on women’s issues, grief and loss, end of life, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as caregiver burnout. W&S grew out of Emery’s experiences living and working in Colorado, Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Long Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. To help other therapists interested in similar work she authored The Art of Business: A Guide for Creative Arts Therapists… (JKP, 2013) which focuses on contracting and business basics.

Firefly & Phoenix has programs and 1:1 mentoring for those embarking on or journeying through the adventure that is self-employment/private practice. This grew out of the ever-evolving world Emery has created to help professionals in the healing and wellness industries create the work they dream of and along those lines she is currently working on her second book focused more specifically on private practice and starting a company.

Along with these pursuits she mentors other therapists, offers continuing education workshops, supervises interns, guest lectures at George Washington University and is adjunct faculty at Nazareth University. She received her MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology: Art Therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, CO.

MVK (00:01.662)
Well, I am so excited to welcome Emery Michael to the Boundaries and Belonging podcast today. Emry is a board certified art therapist located in New York City and is adjunct faculty at Nazareth University and does some guest lecturing at George Washington University. Welcome. Thank you for being here.

Emery Mikel (00:25.413)
Thank you so much. I'm excited. It's wonderful you're doing this and I can't wait to dive in.

MVK (00:30.382)
Yeah, me too. Me too. I'd love to start with hearing your perspective on how boundaries and belonging shows up in your work as an educator. What are... what does that look like? What does it feel like? What's important to you around it?

Emery Mikel (00:47.541)
I think it's really interesting because I've now been teaching for well over 10 years, I think, at this point. And to me, in order to make sure that the environment I'm creating as an educator, especially for my students, but even for colleagues and everyone else, making sure it actually includes that sense and possibility for belonging means setting some really clear boundaries, at least to start off and to really make sure that

people who are coming into that space, be it the classroom or anywhere else, understand both the openness side of having boundaries and also where some of the limits are that then we can talk about if we come up close to them or they need to be discussed. And I find that setting those boundaries and making boundaries sort of the way to contain the safe space is such a wonderful way to start off and allows people to both understand me if they've never met me before, understand the expectations, and to become more comfortable more quickly

MVK (01:31.883)

Emery Mikel (01:42.757)
so that sense of belonging or the ability to feel like they belong is much more prevalent and available.

MVK (01:50.454)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, I appreciate that. So just using, it sounds like, explicit boundaries and norms in the space to help facilitate belonging is part of your agenda as an educator. Yeah.

Emery Mikel (02:03.525)
Definitely, and I think that the more implicit boundaries become easier to deal with and sort of talk about, create between us, if there are those explicit boundaries initially, so that people can have an understanding. That guidance helps at the start.

MVK (02:16.982)

MVK (02:21.931)
I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what some of the explicit boundaries are that you name in the beginning and maybe also some of the implicit boundaries that show up in that group community space.

Emery Mikel (02:33.829)
Definitely. I think that some of the, I mean, I tell basically in every class I teach, I tell my students that one, I assume they're all passing it with flying colors, this is going to be a great class, things are going to go well, and I'm super excited to hear not only how they are learning the information and understanding it, but also where it's challenging them or where they don't agree with things. So setting up that sort of that boundary of I'm here to support you. And my goal is that you will succeed

totally in this moment throughout, however many weeks were together, but that I also want you to be able to bring things to me and I'm open to that, sort of that understanding to me is very important in that then the students feel like they can start challenging things or they can start bringing things up. And it always starts very subtly where one student, usually the more outspoken one of the group, will start by saying, well, I don't agree with this. And you'll sort of see everyone wait.

MVK (03:05.364)

Emery Mikel (03:28.361)
and pause and they're waiting to see if I will hold the space that I said I would. If I will respect the boundary I set saying please challenge it. We can have discussions around this. This is a space you can bring these things into. And I always try to and make it very open. And then also, as that continues to set the boundary of we've talked about this, if something continues on for a while, we've talked about this for the last 15 minutes. I'm so glad you brought this up. And it sounds like there's more to talk about.

We need to keep going with some of the topics and things we're covering today. But I would like to talk to you about this after class so that I make sure you feel heard and that you feel like you've had a chance to voice more since it feels like there's more to voice. So also holding that boundary of this might not be the space where we can go as deep as you want to. Or we can't necessarily go on for the entire class time about this one challenge or question because we have other things we need to do.

MVK (04:06.163)

Emery Mikel (04:22.233)
But for me, I'm going to be the one to set that boundary. You don't have to hold back because you aren't sure if this is the space. I will be the one setting it. So that kind of constant conversation and setting of boundaries so they understand where they are in a way that isn't you went too far. It's I hear that you have more, I want to hear more, and here's how we're going to navigate this boundary together. And then sort of going from there. Those are sort of the more explicit conversations I tend to have towards the beginning of

MVK (04:29.879)

Emery Mikel (04:52.077)
semesters and classes with students, especially those who are feeling, especially the first year students when they're first starting grad school and feeling overwhelmed about different things, they'll start to voice a lot more. And I love those conversations. So setting those, not only the boundaries of here's the limit, but the boundary of I want this to be a space you can share a lot. And so I want you to know that boundary is really wide and vast and big, and you are welcome to challenge where the edges are

MVK (05:18.549)

Emery Mikel (05:21.397)
and then we'll talk about how we navigate it. And then I think from that, the more sort of implicit boundaries or the more sort of assumed things that come up tend to be students finding their voice and me wanting to hold that there isn't necessarily a boundary on that, but there might be some limits that we have to set just because we are in a certain setting. So I'll help them navigate that too of how to

MVK (05:24.27)

Emery Mikel (05:48.633)
use their voice, how to feel like they have the space to use it, but also an understanding of when do I, as the professor, as the teacher, need to maybe pause things or stop things in a way that hopefully is still supportive of them, but might not always feel quite wonderful in that moment.

MVK (05:58.422)

MVK (06:05.534)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, so what I'm hearing you say is that part of your role is to facilitate the movement around conversation. I hear that it's really important to have the flexibility of this container where the conversation can pause and make space for individual needs and challenges. And that challenge is important.

And yet there's also a flow to the course or the specific class that is also important to manage.

Emery Mikel (06:41.385)
Definitely. And I find that when I'm teaching, the other sort of explicit boundaries that come up might be around when we're making art. Is this a time to chat or is this a time not to? And how do we navigate that? Because sometimes it might be something they're working on together and of course conversations, invited and please make art while you're figuring this out and talking to each other. And other times it might be, you know, we're going to focus in and how do we stop the chatter so that we can really focus and center and

MVK (06:51.523)

Emery Mikel (07:09.989)
find that sort of more flow state hopefully of really being in this and letting it just be where we are now and that being okay. And that I think is very foreign more now than it was even in the past couple years to a lot of students just over the past year or two. It's much harder for them to enter that state. So having the, we're not going to talk for the next 30 minutes while we do this is really an important thing in a way that boundaries support them in helping find their own rhythm and flow.

MVK (07:18.261)

MVK (07:40.462)
Totally. So I'm hearing you making the connection between silence and like going inside and then experiencing the flow state and perhaps manifesting the third, right, coming through the art process. I'm wondering if you could talk more about that, about the flow state and the third that emerges and what that looks like in class and how...

Yeah, how it happens.

Emery Mikel (08:12.673)
Yeah, I think it's really amazing with, and this is with social media technology, all the different ways we can access so much. I feel like a lot of students come into programs and classes having not really experienced a flow state throughout most of their lives, because as soon as it starts to happen, they get either distracted or like, oh, I should focus on something else. So to give this. So in my classes, what I try to do is really create

more time for that to happen than I think I used to even five years ago, where it's now going instead of let's just do 10 minutes of art here, we're going to talk about it and move to this, it's okay, here's the setup for today and here's what we just learned about and here's how we're now going to try to experience it. You're going to take a half an hour and hear the steps I'd like you to go through and really structuring it in a way that sort of helps them enter that deeper state of focus and understanding,

so that the chance of them hitting sort of that flow state where they're like, I'm just in it, I'm here, this is working, or I'm understanding something more implicitly, or it's sort of, I'm now doing it instead of just understanding this concept and idea that we just learned about, it's much more likely that happens. And I find that it usually takes a couple classes of having moments like that be possible for people to start really hitting it. And what I usually see is by the

MVK (09:36.223)

Emery Mikel (09:40.081)
third or fourth time that we have some sort of project or thing we're working on some intervention they're doing, they all end up getting quieter a lot faster. And then they all sort of focus in and they're not looking around as much. And then you see them all just sort of really going into it and they don't finish early. And I think that's usually one of the first signs for me is when they don't suddenly finish and they're like, well, now what do I do? I have 10 minutes left. Instead they're just there.

MVK (09:51.191)

MVK (10:08.195)
my phone.

Emery Mikel (10:08.341)
Yeah. And they're actually continuing to work. And I have to go, okay, we're going to stop in about two minutes. And you see them all go, what? And you see that sort of startle where they're like, oh, I'm so in this. I'm actually, I'm able to be there. And I feel like that's when I start to go, oh, good, we've hit this other level where now things can, they can just be in a different space. They can find the flow. We can hit that point where things start to

it's like their brain engages in a different way. And even afterwards with any processing or what we talk about, it's more insightful and more is coming in and they're able to really share that in a different way. So it's really neat to see, but I feel like it really now takes them having to trust that space I'm setting up a few times, and then they start to let themselves go and then they're just there, they're there finally. So it is definitely a process. And I think setting the boundaries of that,

MVK (10:50.47)

Emery Mikel (11:07.281)
30 minutes where we're going to do this, and this. Doing that consistently allows them to trust sooner and allows them to find that state and then start to shift in a very big different way.

MVK (11:21.362)
I hear you saying that both time, like time boundaries and repetition, you're using those two boundaries to help your students experience presence and the flow. Yeah.

Emery Mikel (11:31.895)

Emery Mikel (11:44.881)
Yeah, and I think it takes both because that trust and focus, it takes time, especially, like I feel like, I mean, I'm in my mid-40s. I feel like I grew up in a time where it was much more likely a part of life, at least on and off, that you could experience presence and existing and just being there. And I feel like now a lot of people don't. So that consistency

It's like it's exercising a new muscle for them. And they finally start to go, oh, this is how this works by time three or four. They're like, I get this, I can go there. She's asking the same thing. It's not brand new, I trust it. And yeah, it really opens something.

MVK (12:21.52)

MVK (12:27.598)
Hmm, I love hearing that. I think that ritual of creating art in a group space can help develop internal and external trust and facilitate the experience of presence, embodied presence is just, at what a gift in our arts-based education.

Emery Mikel (12:53.477)
Definitely. And I think it's just one of those amazing things that sets art therapists or any creative therapists apart, is we know how to access that in a very different way. And it's just so magically wonderful when we actually get that, that to then share that with others is incredible.

MVK (13:11.606)
Really? Yeah. As you're talking about, I can just feel it and just feel the gratitude for that skill because it is it requires I mean I think that we probably come into the world with it and then there's all of these trainings and distractions and to come home really to come home to presence and to come home to creativity is something that I'm really grateful for you know yeah I I'm curious about

Emery Mikel (13:35.875)
Oh, definitely. Totally agree.

MVK (13:42.086)
your love for art supplies. I'm curious about, you know, what art supplies you enjoy using in educational groups. What are some of the directives that you've used that, like, just feel so transformational and important? Yeah, I'm curious about that.

Emery Mikel (13:44.07)

Emery Mikel (14:04.801)
Yeah, I love all art supplies. I mean, don't we all, we go into an art store, we're like, yay, this is Christmas every day. I feel like, and I love in sort of, I like instilling that feeling, the, ooh, what am I gonna do? Into my students, that curiosity piece is so important. And I find it's interesting because I think I did a lot more.

MVK (14:08.778)
Yes. True.

MVK (14:21.996)

Emery Mikel (14:28.005)
differently pre-COVID than post-COVID. And it's something I'm trying to get back to because I now tend to teach more in a hybrid format. So I'm balancing how much can we do when we're in person because it's rich in a very different way, but then how can we also do this when we're online and how can we connect in a different way that way? And so with art supplies, I mean, some of my favorite art supplies are using fabrics, textiles, and something that's much more tactile.

I started a lot of my work when I was training as a therapist with people who had dementia and Alzheimer's and I found that tactile experience just, it can transport people in just such amazing ways. And I use it a lot in my grief work with clients now where we'll just sit there and sew while we talk and it is the most just calming, grounding experience ever. So I find things like that I want to use with students so that they understand

MVK (15:08.136)

Emery Mikel (15:22.989)
It's not just about drawing and what is this intervention and we could use drawing in this way for anxiety. It's more about how do you as a therapist connect with that material and then help your client connect with that material? And how can you cultivate that? And you do that by first doing it yourself. So, like, I know when I get a hold of fabric, I'm like, oh, here we go. What can we do? Some people it might be paint, some might be others. But I love the fabric. Just

process of doing a simple stitch and being able to layer things and figuring out what if I cut this piece up and put it here and it can be abstract, it can be representational. So I have on and off with classes tried to use fabric is just one way to connect in how different a material it is from some of our more used materials like drawing or painting. And then from sort of that curiosity,

I try to bring back the drawing and painting or other things and say, now how can we create that same feeling, that same sense? So one of my favorite things that I've used with students as well as clients in groups especially is called the Mandala Hug. And it is like, I learned this from one of my favorite professors at Naropa, Sue Wallingford. She passed away a few years ago. And she just had this amazing thing where after a year of being supervised by her, our little class of, I think there were

six of us in class, might have only been five. Basically we'd made mandalas all year. We'd had circles on paper that we did at the beginning of every single meeting for an entire year. Weekly it was incredible. And at the end of that, she said, "'Okay, our last class, here's what we're doing.'" And we basically put a little symbol of ourselves in the middle of a much bigger circle than usual. And then we passed it around and each person would then do a ring around that circle, symbolizing

MVK (16:57.536)

Emery Mikel (17:15.481)
whatever their connection was to that person or what they felt could be added in some way. And she also added writing just a line underneath with a few words about that person. And it was just one of those most amazing magical things where by the time you got it back, everything was filled with all these colors and images and just the different ways people connected with you. So I've done that with multiple classes of students and then also with groups of clients where at the end of whatever it is,

to do that where they get to create their symbol and have each of their peers create something around it that really holds them in some ways. Just, yeah, brings that magic and that possibility and also that flow state of we spend a few minutes making art, we pass it to our left. We get the next one and we focus on this new person's art and we spend a few minutes and it just creates this rhythm that really invites that flow state in.

MVK (18:09.878)
Yes, and also I imagine when the final piece comes back to the original, you know, creator, that there is a reminder that they belong in this group, you know, that, oh, I'm seen by all of these people in these ways, and maybe there's some surprise in it, maybe there's like some deep touching space, you know, it's touching deep spaces, right? Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Emery Mikel (18:16.837)

Emery Mikel (18:24.045)
Mm-hmm. Yes.

Emery Mikel (18:36.057)
Definitely. Yeah, it's amazing to get it back and I did it with a thesis class I taught long ago at School of Visual Arts. I did it and there were, I think, 16 people in my class. So we took a good amount of time to just go around. And by the time you got it back, you had this amazing collection of phrases that was basically poetry underneath this amazing image that had you in the middle with all your classmates around.

MVK (19:00.34)

Emery Mikel (19:04.333)
And you just knew after a year of working on this chaotic, crazy thesis thing you had created, that it was a group that you belonged to in a way that felt really good and supportive.

MVK (19:13.194)
Yeah. And just the healing in that process is so deep. You know, I, it's amazing the, really the opportunity for healing in these educational spaces that focus on creating by oneself together, being witnessed in creating and also working towards, of course,

Emery Mikel (19:21.789)

MVK (19:41.41)
you know, offering therapeutic services, but the transformation and the healing that can happen in these spaces is pretty phenomenal.

Emery Mikel (19:49.261)
Yeah, I think the chance to be seen for something that you, in a very vulnerable state, I mean, you're in the midst of class trying to learn how to be a therapist and we're asking you to reveal pieces of yourself at various points, it can be really challenging, but to be able to do that in a space with a group of people and a professor who's supportive can be just so healing and sort of altering in ways that let people grow

into that therapist that we as educators hope they become or can support them to be.

MVK (20:20.85)
Yeah. I would love to hear the classes that you teach and what you have taught, and, you know, what I guess what you love about the courses that you're facilitating.

Emery Mikel (20:29.552)

Emery Mikel (20:36.993)
I feel like I've taught so many different things at this point. And I love, I mean, they're all so different. I think the most, so I've taught thesis in the past at a couple of different places. And I find that to be amazing when students toward the end of their time in school are pulling together this project. And of course, they first think way too big and think of this huge multi-year research project we could do. And then to slowly see them narrow it down to something that feels good to them or focuses in on something.

MVK (20:39.872)

Emery Mikel (21:05.505)
And many then struggle through the actual thesis writing because we're asking for that research and lit reviews and very, very cerebral things that it takes time and effort to really do well. To watch sort of that process unfold was always wonderful. I always thought that was amazing to see at the end of people's graduate school career, to see that struggle

but transformation and just the pride that they felt when they finally made it through and had something that was amazing, no matter what project was, no matter how it went to see that come to completion was always amazing. So I love that just to watch the older students in their final year really create something. I've taught, let's see, theories and approaches where it's really been about all the different

psychological theories, all the different ways from Freud and Jung, all the way to transpersonal, humanistic. And that I like because it's usually the very first year students in their first semester getting that first taste of everything. And they're like, what is this? Like, what are all these different possibilities? And where do I fit? And I feel like that's where a lot of the me opening things up to be challenged comes into play because often they don't connect with every single theory as they shouldn't. I mean, that's just that.

That's a lot of possibilities. And then to watch them slowly gravitate toward a couple and be like, oh, this actually feels good to me as a therapist. Like this sort of echoes the things I came into this field to be and to find a little bit more of their home and to find sort of that space, maybe where they belong even more is really neat to watch. I also teach an elective that I love and it's about art therapy with older adults.

and we go through everything. I've taught adult development in art therapy before, but this elective I think is my favorite because it's really about everything from Alzheimer's and dementia to end of life to totally independent, active adults. Like how do you deal with this wide range of people we call older adults? And it's always taught as an intensive, so it's a week long, I teach it in the winters, and it's five days in a row,

Emery Mikel (23:19.629)
and we go from like nine to four every day. And it's a very, I love doing it that way because it's immersive and the students hit all of these challenges, but they have to pull together really quickly to support each other emotionally, to support each other as they deal with these different topics, which for many are very challenging. Towards the end of that week, I have it billed from,

MVK (23:19.938)

Emery Mikel (23:44.217)
let's just talk about older adults and the different ways that they exist in the world and how can we work with them by showing respect and understanding and that they are humans who've lived a full life and that this is no matter what diagnosis they have, no matter how independent or not they are, that we can support them being who they are now. And then by the end of the week, we get to death and dying, end of life. And I have the students write their own eulogy.

MVK (23:55.939)

MVK (24:09.72)

Emery Mikel (24:14.141)
and they actually have to write. Yeah, and it's, I don't talk about it until like day three at the end of the day because they know it's coming but I want them to sort of have eased in first but by then they've been together long enough to feel a little freaked out altogether but in a good belonging way and then we talk about it and they write the most amazing things. And I say, you know, you don't have to go any deeper than you feel you can in this moment. This isn't a test of how deep and

MVK (24:15.316)

MVK (24:26.606)

Emery Mikel (24:43.525)
Sad, can you go? This is, if you were to live until 80 or 90 years old, what would you want your eulogy to say? What do you hope it says? What would you love people to remember about you? Like, what do you want that to be? This is a chance to explore that. I said, you can use humor, you can be serious, it's up to you, whatever direction you wanna go. And with that, they have to make an art piece that represents sort of that whole feeling and process. So they come into the last class and I have

classmates read each other's, so they have to sit there and listen to someone else reading their eulogy to them. And it's always such a transformative experience, and it works well because we've cultivated that sense of belonging that we're all in this together, no one else is here, this is a group you've been with, and let's see where we can go with this. And it's just so meaningful every time for each student to really explore that.

MVK (25:35.426)

MVK (25:41.046)
I bet. I mean, that sounds like an incredibly touching process. Woof. Yeah.

Emery Mikel (25:45.717)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, I love bringing that experiential piece to it where they really get to, if they want to, they get to embody what that is. And I've had one or two who've contacted, and I always say if you have questions or concerns, you know, let me know because I don't want you just feeling stuck and sort of holding whatever you're holding. And I usually have one or two say I'm really nervous about this or I've recently had a death in the family or this and we'll talk through, Okay, so what is the right balance for you?

MVK (25:54.174)

MVK (26:08.94)

Emery Mikel (26:14.977)
in this moment. And that's totally fine. Maybe this needs to be lighter in a different way. It's okay. So to also in that same moment of asking them to go somewhere a little scary and deep, saying, but where you are is okay. Who you are in this moment, what you need in this moment, is totally fine.

MVK (26:15.144)
Mm, mm.



MVK (26:33.55)
So important. I mean, again, another practice in setting boundaries, knowing oneself, making conscious choices based on the context, internal and external context. I think that that's really beautiful because it's not helping our students know that it's not a comparison contest. It's not about who can go deeper,

or who can express depth better. That's not what's important. It's really about locating oneself in the experience and being authentic, you know.

Emery Mikel (27:12.853)
Definitely. And yeah, and I also really try to sort of in that same tone get across that I'm not, I'm going to really attempt to not make any assumptions about where you're at and what you need. I'm going to trust you to be the one to tell me where you're at and what you need. And I know as a professor, sometimes I'm like, why is this person not pushing themselves further? Like, why are they stuck here? And I really sometimes have to step back and go, okay.

MVK (27:25.312)

Emery Mikel (27:38.841)
There's a reason. I might not get to know it, and that's fine. So how do I gently and supportively ask or push in some way to say, do you want to do more? I need you to do more to be successful. Can you do more? And if you can't, OK. But to also hold that I have to really trust I don't know everything going on.

MVK (27:42.849)

MVK (27:51.202)

MVK (27:58.214)

Emery Mikel (28:03.977)
I can, I definitely want to push students to really reach further than maybe they know they can, but I also want to really value their boundaries in that and say for whatever reason, whether it is life circumstances, whether it is emotionally, this is as much as you can do right now, whatever that is for them. I also want to respect their boundaries in that so they can see that I'll push, but I also understand wherever they're at.

MVK (28:29.35)
Yeah, yeah. And they're not necessarily graded on how emotional they process, how much emotions they process or how much of their background they share.

Emery Mikel (28:33.297)

Emery Mikel (28:38.69)

Emery Mikel (28:43.785)
No, and I um, So I went to Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, which is wonderful Buddhist based university. And we for our exams had warrior exams, which were the most terrifying yet amazing experiences ever, where you really sat there with a classmate in front of the rest of your class and had to answer a question at the end of the semester. And to work it out between the two of you, what like your fullest answer could be for this question.

That's a very brief summary, but it was quite an amazing experience. So a piece of that, and I do teach them about what I experienced in my school, but I don't want to appropriate what they did because they have a much bigger foundation to it. But I have taken a piece of that and basically with my students at the end of their semester, they have my version of the Warrior Exam, which is very contemplative, but it's more about having that

discussion with another classmate, knowing that you do not have to know the full answer to pass this test. What I'm asking you to do is show up as fully as you can and to acknowledge anxieties and other things coming up. And what do you need in that moment to do in order to help yourself or to ask your classmate who's right in the center of that circle there with you to help you. And that part of what you're being graded on is showing up as honestly and fully as you can, trying your hardest.

helping someone else when it's their turn to answer a question, and to just have that presence and the ability to be curious and open and also OK with what don't you know? What in this moment is just totally slipping your mind? And can you just go, yep, I have no clue what, I don't know. I don't know what this is. Can you accept the other person's help and then work with that feeling? So really trying to drive home what you were saying, which is it's not

MVK (30:28.11)

Emery Mikel (30:36.657)
I want you to be working on yourself and understanding yourself and trying, of course, but also how do you show up honestly and openly and curiously and just be there and present as much as you can in that way.

MVK (30:46.062)

MVK (30:51.666)
Mm, yes. And once again, that place of authenticity, like how important it is for each creative arts therapist, wherever we are in the umbrella, to be able to show up as themselves and bring that to the future work that they do to make room for other people to show up as themselves. Yeah, I'm curious

Emery Mikel (30:57.143)

MVK (31:18.766)
There's so many different ways to go with questions. I'm curious about, you know, how, who you are as a human, your perspective, your life experience, identities, et cetera, how that shows up in your teaching. Whether it's like the biases that you work on or the way that you frame the space, how do you show up as the authentic you?

Emery Mikel (31:48.125)
Mm-hmm. I think that's a really good question. I think that I am, I have always been, so one of the things that my parents always said was, we don't really care what you do. We'll support you no matter what that is. And super wonderful, supportive parents. But we want you to always know if you go somewhere, go somewhere interesting. We'd like to visit somewhere interesting. We'd like to be able to go see something interesting. Just do something interesting somewhere. And so it was always that really sort of, I think,

MVK (32:15.433)

Emery Mikel (32:18.493)
is how a lot of my life sort of unfolded, where when I had these opportunities to do something interesting, I'm like, well, yes, that's what, that makes sense. Let me go do that. And it helped me be very open to many different kinds of people and many different kinds of experiences. Because it was never, there was never a definition around what is interesting. It was just, does that seem interesting? Like, is that what we wanna do? And so I, throughout my life, would just sort of,

My undergraduate degree is in directing in theater, stage direction. I, when I went to college, I also then worked at a summer camp in the summers as a high flying trapeze instructor by accident at first. Um, I went to be an archery and rifle re-instructor cause I sort of knew those things and I needed a summer job and they needed an extra person and I had juggling on my resume. So they're like, do you want to learn how to do this? I said, sure. That's very interesting.

MVK (33:15.618)
So interesting.

Emery Mikel (33:15.621)
So I taught on and off for several summers high flying trapeze. And I think things like that and having these very different experiences where I could see people in many different ways. High flying trapeze, you learn quickly that no matter how confident someone is on the ground, get them 20 feet in the air and you'll find out really how confident they are and how to help them through it and how to make it still feel like a good experience. Theater directing, I mean.

MVK (33:38.274)

Emery Mikel (33:44.793)
just working with so many different kinds of actors and people and being able to play with scripts and characters and understand different qualities of the human experience and how do we convey that to an audience. I think all of these experiences really, I feel like I was already sort of there personality wise, but just kept furthering this understanding of how different everyone is and how many ways you can do something.

how all of it can be really great and quite interesting and something that speaks to others. And you just have to cultivate what is that for you? And it's okay if it's not the same for the person next to you. So how do we create that space for both to exist and to be okay? And I think a lot of that going to Naropa was really the right step for me. I...

knew nothing about Buddhism, knew very little about art therapy when I had decided to do that. And it really was that right frame of mind that helped further that piece of me, which was, yes, I very fully believe in humans having this potential and wanting to reach some point in themselves that felt like accomplishment and good and like they were benefiting both themselves and the world. I also really liked playing with silence

MVK (35:04.195)

Emery Mikel (35:07.213)
as well as speaking and that both had such an amazing space in them. And then using creativity in all these ways. So I feel like when I started teaching and I was lucky I connected with several people through both Naropa and when I moved back to Washington DC after who said, you know what, you should have interns and you should come guest lecture. And I went what? Okay so soon after grad school I

went to guest lecture at George Washington University through several wonderful connections, wonderful mentors, and I did a couple hours on transpersonal. Looking back, I had very little idea, aside from the book knowledge and my experience at Naropa of what transpersonal was, but I had enough to guest lecture on it once. And over the years, letting that develop in such an amazing way and having people support me through that development by having me back each year to guest lectures.

MVK (35:53.911)

Emery Mikel (36:03.217)
to continue talking about it, to continue showing that to new therapists and up and coming therapists. Seeing that has really made it so when I'm teaching, when I am mentoring, when I am there with students, I want to help cultivate whatever their best version of them being a therapist is to them. I don't always know what that is, so I know that if they're saying, this isn't working for me,

I'd really like to try this with this assignment you gave us. I more often will say, okay, if you think it fits, if you feel like this is the way that works for you, I want you to go for it. Show me how, and we might talk through what that's gonna look like, but I want to help support them in being themselves in the best way they can. And I feel like that's a huge piece that has come through all of my life experiences, really knowing that it's important for us to,

MVK (36:51.155)

Emery Mikel (37:01.881)
do some gatekeeping, of course, because some people might be coming to therapy for reasons that don't quite fit, or might be trying to become a therapist before something is ready. There's like reasons why people might not be ready to jump into that. But once they are, it's also our job to help let them become their own therapist and to really have that unique sense of self.

MVK (37:26.951)
Yeah. Yeah, once again, hearing just the importance of flexibility and also the importance of humility as a facilitator. That there is, we are, as educators in these fields, we're not experts in everything. There's some things that we know a lot about, but we can't be an expert on another person's experience or needs. And

Emery Mikel (37:33.679)

MVK (37:51.23)
I think that humility piece is so important for us in these power positions and also as modeling for our students around just the importance of humility. And I'm curious, how does humility show up in your classrooms, like with your students? What does that look like? What does it sound like?

Emery Mikel (38:09.384)

Emery Mikel (38:14.381)
Yeah, I think that so I started working for myself soon after graduating and was lucky enough to have interns and I think that's where I first started going, okay, here's how I need to, I need to have some humility I need to take moments to breathe and think before I respond, because often, similar to students, there's so many questions that are coming up for them that might feel clear to me.

or might feel like, why don't you know this already? Like that kind of just immediate knee jerk reaction that isn't accurate, but is like, wait, why do we have to go there? And I think that is very important to understand that there are gonna be questions that to anyone who maybe has worked for multiple years is like, oh, this should be known. Well, no, they're in school. So this is actually where they're learning it. So instead I need to be the one to help support them in asking these questions.

MVK (38:42.414)

Emery Mikel (39:06.201)
The humility really comes in for me when someone challenges things. I have to just pause for a moment, go, right. Not necessarily challenging me. They're challenging something that they are looking at and either don't understand, don't agree with. Something is not aligning for them with this. So this is a chance to explore it. And I have to take myself out of it to a certain degree while keeping enough of myself in to say, here's my stance and here's some other thoughts on other

MVK (39:23.458)

Emery Mikel (39:35.301)
perspectives. So it's really taking that step back and that breath whenever a student challenges. And I love it when they do. I think it is such an important thing and I think that there are times where it's very hard for people, for professors to take that if it's happening often. I think it's one of the key pivotal moments where we're both modeling for them that that's okay and how to handle questions, conflict, challenge, uncertainty.

MVK (39:36.418)

MVK (39:53.746)

Emery Mikel (40:04.341)
And also when we have to be, we have to be humble in some ways. We have to understand that we aren't the experts in everything and that that's okay. And so some of that, like recently I had a student basically say, this textbook you're using for this class is horrible. And I went, hmm. I said, okay. I said, tell me more. My first thought was just read the book. More will become clear as we go through the semester. And I thought, no, no. Let's.

MVK (40:13.014)

MVK (40:25.844)

Emery Mikel (40:33.729)
let's explore this. And so I opened up the conversation and this was through email at first. And then what I did was I basically created an extra credit assignment in case others were feeling this way. And I brought it up in class as well, which I had sort of talked to her and said I would do. And I said, look, it's totally fine if you don't agree with what's being said in the book. It's also okay if you take offense to something and I would be happy to hear more about that. And what I want to do is for anyone who's feeling strongly about this,

if you are going to challenge any of this, if there's something that you have to say, please do, and if you think that it should change. I want to give you extra credit if you're willing to outline what you think should change. Did you do the research to find out who the author of the chapter you think should change was and where they're coming from, and both why might this actually fit for their time, age, etc., but why might it not fit now, and

MVK (41:23.278)

Emery Mikel (41:31.885)
what would your suggestion be for a replacement so that we still cover the topic? I said, because it's, I love having the conversation of I think this should change, but there's more to it. So I want to know if you're willing to do some of the research and understanding, I'm open to both the conversation and hearing your thoughts. So I just sort of shifted it into, we had some conversations about it, but we also, they could go further if they wanted to. And I could support them having their voice heard.

MVK (41:36.182)

MVK (41:41.347)

MVK (41:47.798)

Emery Mikel (41:58.881)
while it also wouldn't become just, I don't like it, I don't wanna read it. It was, okay, I don't like this, here are my thoughts, here's the research I've done and here's what I suggest.

MVK (42:08.946)
Yeah, that I mean that

offering really, I would imagine, decreases the power dynamic, makes the experience in the class more equitable for the students, right? The student's voice is heard and supported and potentially incorporated, which is great. It's this both-and place where

I imagine that students are given the opportunity to make a difference in a class and potentially see that they have the skills to develop curriculum and to potentially be a teacher in the future, right? So it's just all, it's really important mentorship, I think.

Emery Mikel (43:03.245)
Yeah, and the huge part is not saying, well, I'm right, you're wrong. That that makes no sense because everything is such a gray area that would never very rarely is that going to be the case. So making sure to say, okay, I'm not sure I am admitting, you know, I don't have the best answer always. And I talked to them. I said, you know, we're using this book for multiple reasons. And I sort of laid them out. I said, but I also think that yes, some of it is dated.

MVK (43:08.663)

MVK (43:22.881)

MVK (43:30.69)

Emery Mikel (43:30.937)
So I'm open to that feedback. And it actually came at a perfect time because the students in the same class from last year had talked about, they were having trouble with some of the balance of understanding every single approach to art therapy and like, how does this relate to this? And so I offered that as a group or individually, they could make a chart of all the approaches with certain information on it. And they dove into it and made such an amazing chart. It's incredible. I shared that with this year's students and said, hey, by the way,

Last year there was this conversation and I gave this extra credit project. I want to share it with you in case it helps you understand what we're talking about. So they also got to see in the moment how the classroom before them had impacted their ability to understand and learn in a really positive way. So yeah, I hope that by creating those spaces, it sort of, it makes it so they have a voice. I'm not ignoring it. I'm not saying just.

go with what I already planned. I'm like, no, right now we're doing it this way for several reasons, but I'm not against doing something different. And I'm not against hearing why you think we should or what you think we should do. And that I really, those are the conversations that I think can be very challenging, but I really love creating the space for.

MVK (44:38.222)

MVK (44:46.57)
Mm hmm. I love to hear too, just the making the lineage of mentorship and, you know, what's passed down from each class, each generation of art therapists and art therapists in training, just the impact of lineage over time and legacy and what

Being able to acknowledge it and for our students to see it and for us too, to really feel it and to be humble to it. It's just so important.

Emery Mikel (45:22.457)
Definitely. And I think this has come up a few times, especially in the approaches class, because we're talking about so many different topics from so many different stages of psychology in general throughout time. One thing that we talked about is the fact that you may not say Freud, you may not agree with concepts now where things have been disproven and things have moved on. Well, yes, of course, because time has happened and people have studied things and

We understand different things now. I said, but it's also important we understand him and where it came from because he did start something that let us be where we are now. It doesn't mean you have to agree. And that's where we also talk about bias and the fact that Western psychology was started by many white men. And that's a fact, it's what is there. And it doesn't mean that

we have to not read any of this stuff or understand them. It actually helps to understand where this came from so we can understand our own biases in how we work with people or what approaches we're drawn to or what ways of working we're not drawn to. Where are the gaps that we feel are still in existence and we want to help fill or work with? And how do we look at that and our own bias from what we have learned so that we can be aware?

MVK (46:22.207)

Emery Mikel (46:41.873)
and possibly change or elaborate on what's come before us. And having that base is what's important so we can jump off of there. Yes, there are many things that some of the first art therapists did that today were like, why did they do that? Well, it's because they were the first. They were creating an entire new frontier of here's something you can do. And they were trying to prove it to people who either were supportive or not. And it was the beginning stages.

MVK (46:51.213)

Emery Mikel (47:08.877)
And I think sort of exploring lineage through that and going, you know, you don't have to, I feel like it's very important to understand where a lot of these ideas, concepts, ways of working with people came from, so that we see how it evolved, because that really allows us to let things evolve further and also understand our own biases, beliefs, our system that we're creating as a therapist.

MVK (47:34.334)
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I love that approach, the contextual approach. And I imagine, too, that there are biases of theorists and also the people that are in our group that hit at some of our wounds when we're students. Understandably, and in those times in your classrooms

Emery Mikel (47:55.707)

MVK (48:04.566)
wounds are activated either interpersonally or because of the texts and it kind of opens this place around heartache and heartbreak. It also potentially creates interpersonal conflict or internal conflict around what's being explored. And I'm curious, what does that look like in your classrooms? When does heartache show up? When does conflict

show up and how does that get worked in your classrooms?

Emery Mikel (48:39.301)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think a huge piece of what I try to instill in students is it is totally fine to feel however you're feeling about something and also important to then not figure out why necessarily, but to go into where is this hitting me personally? Where is this hitting me just because belief wise or theory wise, it doesn't fit for me like on a professional level. This doesn't this isn't how I would work.

and to really sort out these different layers of why is this hitting me this way? And it might not mean coming to an answer. I feel like, like I love when students make really direct statements like this, not that this doesn't work, but something along how they've been affected by it, like why would anyone work with anyone this way? Or I'll never work with this population. And it makes me.

MVK (49:15.504)

Emery Mikel (49:33.681)
happy that they say it so directly because I can say, okay, you never have to. That part, totally fine. What I would invite you to do is go why? Just be curious for a moment about for you, why does this not feel like it would be a good fit? Or what about this population or this way of working? What doesn't actually click for you? Is it because of a personal experience? Which again, totally fine. Not judging that that's good or bad,

MVK (49:43.542)

MVK (49:56.066)

Emery Mikel (50:02.889)
understand where is this coming from. Let's understand more fully what are the details around this very strong feeling and declaration that this won't happen. Because it could happen at some point and even if it doesn't it's good to understand where that's coming from. So if you're in a situation where say a friend is working with that population needs some support you can understand what's yours and can set some of it aside,

while you also get what their perspective is. So I have sometimes very direct conversations in class about that. If someone makes that declaration, like, OK, let's pause for a sec, because that's very solid. That's your belief, and I appreciate you sharing it. So let's think about this. Can anyone else think of a population you're like, no, I wouldn't work with? And I try to personalize it and then pull it back out to the bigger picture of all the possibilities and perspectives. And also,

how they're usually, not always, but usually picturing one scenario that really bothers them with that population or way of working. And that there are probably 20 others or so that could also be the case. And are they open to those or is this really a no for them? So to both pull it into the personal and give them space to explore and if they feel like voice some of that. And then to expand it back out to, okay, so can you see any situations where this might?

MVK (51:01.749)

MVK (51:22.403)

Emery Mikel (51:28.833)
actually happen and give space for can they expand the perspective and sometimes they can't. It's too deep or too hurt or too whatever it is and that's totally fine and again respecting that boundary that maybe they can't go there right now but posing the question and the space to explore it creates the possibility that it will be more flexible or be at least bring more awareness at some point now or in the future.

MVK (51:57.838)
Hmm. When I taught at Southwestern College, we had a class many years ago called Current Trends. They don't have that class anymore, Current Trends in Art Therapy. And one of the assignments that I created for the class was called the I Will Not. And it was a paper basically, a paper and an art response exploring this topic, right? What population or populations will I not work with and why?

And often by the end of this assignment, students were able to really thoughtfully speak to where they were when they were creating this assignment. And sometimes it was shifting. Sometimes it was like, well, I'm realizing that this is in part because of some of the trauma that I've experienced. And I'm concerned about how I might be triggered with working with this population. And often it was, you

know, sexual predators. Like that was usually one of the big ones, right? And I think that work of identifying the no, like what are my no's? And let's, okay, I got my no's and then like, let's go underneath that, right? Like let's, hmm, let's talk more about why that's a no and what my boundaries or my walls are around that no, you know? Yeah.

Emery Mikel (53:21.229)
Yeah, definitely. So one of my, I think the longest running class I've taught is Ethics and Legal Issues. And I love it. It is one of my favorites because it's all gray area. And the students come in going, I'm very scared of this. And it's in such a cognitive fear way where they're just like, ethics is scary. And you're going, OK, we'll start there, but we're going to shift that pretty quickly. But I love that because it's

MVK (53:28.494)
Wow, it's a great class.

MVK (53:33.782)

Emery Mikel (53:48.721)
peeling away those layers and going, okay, so lots of fear coming in. What are we gonna do with that? Because what if ethics are actually what help you feel super supported and safe as a therapist? What if that were the view? And they all look at me like I'm crazy, the first class, and then as we go through, we slowly work on that. But it's something where I feel like it's creating, and I think this is where creativity can be so helpful.

MVK (54:03.826)

MVK (54:15.11)
Mm. Yeah.

Emery Mikel (54:16.821)
It's using things like creativity to peel those layers away and get under the very strong feeling of fear, uncertainty, whatever it is, so that there can be more room for exploration in a safe way. And so like what I do with ethics is for five of the key things we cover, like confidentiality, for one example. After we've talked about it in the class, their assignment is to create creatures.

MVK (54:26.189)

MVK (54:31.511)

Emery Mikel (54:46.669)
and they have to create two creatures. And one creature represents how it looks when this goes so well. The therapist is like holding great boundaries, keeping confidentiality. The client feels good, like awesome little creature, happy, good, whatever it is. And then the other end of the spectrum when something goes horribly wrong. What does it feel like when confidentiality is broken to you as the therapist, to the client? Like, how does that feel? And what's a creature that really personifies that feeling of...

MVK (55:00.398)
Thanks for watching!

MVK (55:09.769)

Emery Mikel (55:14.561)
something has broken the trust, the rapport, it's not, yeah, something's gone wrong. And they basically make two creatures for several different topics as we go through, and then they have to create scenarios with them at the end of the class, at the end of the semester, where it's like you create a symbol of yourself, you create a symbol for a client, and then one of their assignments is with all these creatures you've made through the semester, how would you put them near you and your clients, spread them out on a table? And what

MVK (55:17.247)

MVK (55:43.005)
I love it.

Emery Mikel (55:44.057)
boundaries do you need to create? What tools do you need to create? And where do they go? Do the creatures have the tools? Does the therapist have the tools? What about the client? And so playing with visually how close are some of these creatures? Usually the ones at the happy end when things are going well are actually sitting there like with the therapist and client being all supportive. And then the ones that they're trying to like keep at a distance, they'll create these little visual boundaries of like for confidentiality, it's like.

MVK (55:52.182)

Emery Mikel (56:09.445)
don't talk in open spaces. And like they'll create little boundaries that have these different things that help them keep the not so great feeling creatures at bay at an appropriate distance. And it's just this amazing way to give them that creative ability and space to explore underneath my initial fear and uncertainty about ethics. What is there? And, oh, I have tools and I can set boundaries.

MVK (56:19.11)

MVK (56:32.642)

Emery Mikel (56:36.041)
And some of these creatures, the ethics creatures are great. I want them with me and they actually support me being with my client and doing all of this. So creating those moments, and it's what I love as a teacher is creating those moments where they see things from a different perspective and get excited about it. And hopefully come out of the class going, okay, it's not that bad. I know what to do, I know where to look, I know I can do this, like that kind of thing because they've been able to see their initial feeling.

MVK (56:43.267)
I love it.

MVK (56:53.346)

Emery Mikel (57:05.133)
and go under it and really see what's actually there and how can they work with it if they're ever stuck, uncertain and that kind of thing.

MVK (57:12.526)
Hmm, that sounds like that sounds like a lot of fun. I that externalization and then really, you know, playing with space and relationship. That's that sounds like a really fun assignment.

Emery Mikel (57:15.957)
It's so much fun.

Emery Mikel (57:23.789)

Emery Mikel (57:30.221)
Yeah, it is. And it's something where I give them free reign, however they want to create creatures. And people have made little stuffed animals for each creature. People have done drawings. Some people have done amazing anime or cartoon images. People have played with clay. One person did a whole bunch of crocheting. I mean, it's really given the free reign to really explore over the semester. It's amazing what comes out and how, as they're creating them, what they understand about.

MVK (57:38.022)

Emery Mikel (57:57.733)
their own fears, uncertainties, selves, and also confidence grows. Because they're like, I like my creatures. These are great. And they hold that because they have these little things with eyes that they're happy in there. And yeah, they're really great. It's awesome. I love it.

MVK (58:01.666)

MVK (58:12.59)
That's awesome. I'd love to deepen into the ethics of being an educator. And a little while back, you brought up the term, the concept, gatekeeping, which it's a relatively, it can be a controversial term because of what gatekeeping can represent in systems, interpersonally, in countries, et cetera, et cetera.

How does gatekeeping show up in your job? You know, what are the types of, what shows up in students that maybe make you question the timing of them being in an art therapy program and moving towards becoming an art therapist? Yeah, what does that look like and how do you manage it?

Emery Mikel (58:52.09)

Emery Mikel (59:07.177)
I think that, so, like, Nazareth University, where I work, has some amazing systems in place which help. And I think a huge part of gatekeeping is it can't just be one person trying to figure it out. It needs to be a team effort so that there are multiple perspectives involved and there's also coordination. So I think that, like, sometimes red flags for me are when someone consistently, not just once or twice, has trouble...

MVK (59:25.873)

Emery Mikel (59:36.613)
getting things in on time, finishing things, like managing their schedule, managing their work, managing everything. And isn't able to either ask for help or when help is suggested, follow through with it. So multiple layers. So I don't think, I think we all think of gatekeeping as someone has an interview to get into the program and they say yes or no. I mean, it would be great if it were that simple and accurate, but it's not because it's hard to balance the gatekeeping of

who should be coming in to be a therapist? That is a question that really doesn't make a lot of sense because I think many people can become many different kinds of therapists in many different kinds of ways, and you don't wanna stifle that, and you don't want to say no to someone just because it's different than you. That does not work. However, I think there are some people who try to come into a program who maybe don't, who maybe need to be

MVK (01:00:18.286)

Emery Mikel (01:00:33.621)
out in the world after college for a few years to gain either more understanding of people, the world, experiences, whatever it is. And it's hard to look for that. But if you have a group of people who are sort of aware of what are issues coming up in different classes, are they able to ask for help, follow through with it, like find the resources they need in order to do this and make those

more mature decisions around how do I manage my life in this moment or when I'm having challenges how do I figure out how to work with that so I can still make it through. And there are many ways to work with that. I think that for me one way I've seen it is like in the ethics and legal issues class there's a big paper that they write at the end and for both accrediting purposes and other things it's one of the important papers of how is a student doing in the program.

And most students do fine. And it is going through an eight step ethical decision making model with a case study I give them. They all usually do pretty well. Like there might be different issues in different parts where they're having trouble like figuring out what different things are, but most of them can work through it. And we practice it multiple times. When I get a paper where steps are missing, and they have a very detailed outline, so that

can't really happen if they're looking at it at all. If I get something where steps are missing, or the writing is not clear, or something is not making sense, and I had a paper once where I had to ask the person to totally rewrite it because it didn't make sense. Like I couldn't follow it no matter how hard I tried, that's when I start to worry. Because we as therapists need to be able to

MVK (01:02:11.339)

MVK (01:02:18.337)

Emery Mikel (01:02:23.237)
hold a certain space no matter who we're working with or what we're doing. We need to be able to work through certain things. We need to be able to act ethically. There's a lot we need to be able to do that you need to, it's not that if a student can't do it they shouldn't be a therapist. It's can they then find the resources to help them do it. If they can then I'm totally fine with however they need to do things. That student spent extra time at the writing center, rewrote the paper, got help, it worked out fine.

MVK (01:02:33.474)

Emery Mikel (01:02:53.733)
passing grade like wasn't a problem, but they showed me they could do it. So my gate keeping was, I'm concerned, this needs to shift, can we do that? And her answer was yes, and that was wonderful. I have had students where the answer has been no, and it's not up to me whether that student stays or anything. I basically then take that to either the head of the program and say, I'm concerned, here's how I'm concerned. And

MVK (01:03:04.426)

MVK (01:03:10.957)

Emery Mikel (01:03:22.873)
This is where I think the gatekeeping, once people are in a program, matters. They have very specific planned out steps when a concern comes up about a student. And it takes more than once for there to be a real problem. And it's multiple levels of, we're now more concerned if this has been like the fifth time something is happening. So having a system in place that helps multiple people be a part of the gatekeeping process, to me is most important. So that it's not that a student messed up once.

MVK (01:03:36.735)

MVK (01:03:42.902)

Emery Mikel (01:03:52.217)
It's not that we're judging anyone on one issue, one challenge, something that's come up. It's over time with multiple classes or people, something is not working. And maybe either this isn't the right program or therapy isn't the right profession. Either way, they've had multiple connections with people to try to figure that out. Does that make sense?

MVK (01:04:03.094)

MVK (01:04:14.178)
Totally. It absolutely makes sense. It sounds like you're appreciative of how Nazareth has the system that's in place at this school. It sounds as supportive for the student and also for the teacher who's bringing the concern, which is really an important offering. I'm curious about the flip side, which is one of the many flip sides, which is.

Emery Mikel (01:04:26.309)

MVK (01:04:41.982)
What are some of the challenges working in higher ed? Systemic challenges, interpersonal challenges, what does that look like?

Emery Mikel (01:04:46.341)

Emery Mikel (01:04:53.143)
I think that...

The hard balance between money for the program in university or college and having quality numbers of people in classes, making sure to balance the quantity and quality and financial gains and losses, like that line is so hard to find. And I think with a lot of the different hierarchy happening,

because there are so many people involved in many ways. It's not just, oh, the head of the program decides. No, they're answering to people who are answering to people. There's a lot of hierarchical decision that's being made and people need money to do this, but how do you balance that financial gain with X number of students coming in and paying for the program with having 16 people in the class, eight people in the class versus 23?

And where is that balance, especially I think since we're talking about therapist union master's degree at that master's level when this is supposed to be very focused and specialized because they've gone to this point where they're getting that higher education level of training. What does that look like? And it varies program to program, of course, but it's really to me, that's a really hard line to balance. And I've seen multiple programs

sort of ebb and flow and I feel like that is what happens is sometimes it flows more towards we need more money and more people come in but then that can be a challenge that has to be dealt with. So how do you then split classes or adjust? And so a lot of that to me is hard. And I would also say that with, I love being adjunct faculty. It gives me freedom, flexibility, I run my group practice and my other company helping therapists and like I love that I can both

MVK (01:06:26.188)

Emery Mikel (01:06:44.593)
teach and run my practices and do my therapy life that I love. However, when almost everyone is adjunct faculty, it makes continuity between classes really challenging. I mean, I've emailed with people when we've needed to coordinate stuff, of course, but it's not like I see them at work or we happen to cross paths. And some I meet like a couple of years after we've been communicating where it's like, oh, that's who you are. It's so nice to finally meet you.

MVK (01:06:57.485)

MVK (01:07:04.353)

Emery Mikel (01:07:12.613)
So I think there are some really great benefits because you get practicing therapists and teaching roles who can share real life experience in really amazing ways and it gives them flexibility to live their life and teach. And I think that's amazing and I love that personally. But then to uphold that continuity piece takes extra effort and challenge on the part of the administration or those who are full-time faculty. And again, a very hard thing to balance. So to me,

MVK (01:07:20.1)

Emery Mikel (01:07:42.649)
Those are two of the key challenges. I think that those are really hard to navigate much of the time.

MVK (01:07:45.462)

MVK (01:07:50.074)
Yeah, yeah, and I hear that, you know, part of it is how to create community in the staff and faculty in a college or university, yeah, which does trickle down, right, and impact the students and the students community. Such really important considerations. Well, as a way to close, I would like to ask you about responsibility.

Emery Mikel (01:08:12.549)

MVK (01:08:20.682)
and what you know and also feel your responsibilities are as an educator in the art therapy field, to the field, to your students, to your colleagues, to yourself, like in whatever way that you wanna answer that, that'd be great.

Emery Mikel (01:08:40.973)
I think that for me, I really see my responsibility as nurturing and cultivating that next generation of therapists to be as individually unique as they can be while also giving them the tools to be able to step out there and safely, comfortably work with other humans who are going through really challenging things. And for me,

coming from a very different program to New York or even DC, I also see sort of my responsibility to bring that another perspective and another way of working that maybe people who trained here don't necessarily have in the same way as I got when I was out in Boulder. And so bringing that other flavor in a way of existing to students to understand the other ways and how many different.

MVK (01:09:33.518)

Emery Mikel (01:09:35.92)
how many different therapists there are out there and how we do things so differently and how we can be creative and curious and how you can be yourself and be a therapist and that that's what success is, is really finding your way to be a therapist and help people in a way that values who you are while also understanding the stuff that goes around it. So I think for me, it's bringing that curiosity and openness for people to be themselves.

and to bring that other flavor and perspective to the profession. And also to uphold that not only when I'm teaching but in my practice. So I'm modeling it as I'm doing my work as a therapist and someone who has a group practice and someone who trains therapists to run private practices. Like that's, I want to uphold those things not only with my students but there so that if they come.

me or work with me one day or come into my room they go oh she really does do this is actually what she practices on top of what she teaches us.

MVK (01:10:39.522)
Thank you, really, really important. And it's so clear that you lovingly take your work seriously. Yeah. Thank you so much for joining me today. I feel like grounded and inspired at the same time.

Emery Mikel (01:10:49.829)

Emery Mikel (01:10:58.917)
Yes, this was wonderful. Thank you for having me on and I really enjoyed the conversation.

MVK (01:11:03.382)
Yeah, me too. Thanks again.