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Drawing Her Path: Practicing Art Therapy at Cancer Center

Sierra Sheriff is pursuing a career in art therapy by majoring in art and psychology.

Sierra Sheriff ’21, a dual major in psychology and art and visual culture, is combining her interests and exploring a potential career as an art therapist through an internship at the WellSpan Sechler Family Center in nearby Lebanon, Pa.

Sheriff works one-on-one with cancer patients. She converses with them about any worries or anxieties they are feeling and plans projects and gathers materials for the artistic activities she offers to the patients. Sheriff also incorporates art therapy into an evening support group. 

The people Sheriff is helping have already made several impressionable memories, but one with an older man stuck out to her the most.

“Before I went into the session with him, my advisor gave me a heads-up that it was his first day there, and he was experiencing a lot of anxiety,” she said. “When I entered the room, he seemed overwhelmed with everything but was open to doing some coloring exercises to try and de-stress. I engaged in a lot of meaningful and entertaining conversations with him, such as discovering what he liked to do in his free time, what he liked to watch on television, what his favorite types of music were. He even told me a little about where he was from and what his kids were like.”

The staff told Sheriff later that her patient seemed much more relaxed and positive after her visit. The news confirmed Sheriff’s her commitment to helping others and watching them grow through the power of art. 

With still another year remaining in her academic career at LVC, Sheriff has already put her studies to use. 

“My art classes provided me with different creative ideas and strategies to practice with each of the patients at the Cancer Center,” she said. “My psychology classes taught me how cancer affects individuals physically, mentally, and emotionally, along with diverse ways to interact with the patients.”

Now, Sheriff plans to head into the spring semester stronger, and with a new sense of understanding of the human mind and art. 

“Individuals tend to cope in different ways, and I’ve learned that art is a very beneficial coping mechanism for a broad range of people,” Sheriff says. “Support from family and friends also seem to serve as an essential role in enduring through difficult experiences, which is a beneficial takeaway for all aspects of my majors.”

After graduation, Sheriff plans to pursue a master’s degree in art therapy and either clinical counseling or school counseling. From there, she hopes to further her education and obtain a doctorate in either clinical psychology or school psychology. 

“My number one priority is to help as many people as I can to overcome any challenges that they may encounter in their lives. If I can help people by introducing them to one of my passions, then that is the perfect dream job for me,” Sheriff says. 

 

-- Parker Gallagher, Marketing & Communications Student Assistant