Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State students travel to India to learn new perspectives on art therapy

December 2, 2014

The road to learning about arts-based approaches to counseling will take a group of graduate students in Indiana State University's counseling programs to India for a two-week cross-cultural experience this month.

Catherine Tucker, associate professor and clinical mental health counseling program coordinator at Indiana State, and eight graduate students, will present at the International Seminar on Art and Expressive Therapies for Trauma: India and U.S. Perspectives, Dec. 18-19 in Mumbai, India. The conference is co-sponsored by Indiana State and Nagindas Khandwala College in India.

"The hosting professor (Vinay Prabhu) at NK College and I creatured (the conference) as a vehicle to bring together Indian- and U.S.-based expressive arts therapists and students," she said. "As far as I can discover, it's the first event of its type in India."

Indiana State's students will present research on expressive arts for trauma in the U.S. and learn about the Indian perspective on arts-based therapy on the first day of the conference. Tucker, who is a registered play therapy supervisor, will deliver the conference's keynote address. She will conduct a play therapy workshop on the following day.

The trip, Dec. 9-23, is supported in part by  a grant from the Center for Global Engagement and will give students an opportunity to share recent neuroscience discoveries about how people process trauma and why creative arts are a good tool for recovery with their Indian counterparts.

It will also afford students a chance to network internationally with others in their field and see firsthand how therapy is delivered in India when they tour a mental health facility.

To prepare for the travel portion of the course, ISU students are learning about Indian systems of belief and healing, Indian culture, and Indian history.

"I try to offer a study abroad course every other year. Our master's in counseling programs take two years to complete, so that gives all of the students a chance to go somewhere," Tucker said. "I'm currently talking to colleagues in Nepal, The Dominican Republic, and Jordan about possible future trips. India is our destination this year because we happen to have a student from there with excellent connections who could facilitate the project for us."

As the only India native going on the trip, Ritika Latke, a second-year graduate student in the clinical and mental health counseling program from Mumbai, said the trip will provide her a chance to look at her culture from a different perspective.

"I've come to learn that people have weird perspectives about India and some are hard to hear about, but hopefully students will come into the experience with an open mind because what they take away from the trip is up to them," she said.

Jessica Flynn, a Terre Haute native and second-year graduate student in the school counseling program, said she is interested in how art therapy is practiced in India and is excited to attend a dance therapy workshop while on her first trip abroad.

"It's a different perspective on counseling than we get in the U.S. and this will give us a multi-cultural view of how art therapy is practiced in another part of the world," she said.

Since counselors encounter people from all over the world, Tucker said she uses trips abroad to help prepare students to work effectively with, to understand and help a wide variety of people.

"In order to do this, they need to encounter a variety of people, and the best way to do this is to travel, to experience being an outsider and an ‘other'," she said.

Students will also have a chance to see the Taj Mahal, go on a tiger safari and visit the Elephanta Caves during their two-week trip to the world's second most populous country.

"Having studied abroad before, I know how good international experiences are for students and how cool it is to experience a new culture and learn their approach to things," said Courtney Hull, a first-year graduate student in the clinical mental health counseling program. "Being able to present at the conference is an important piece of the trip for me, too, because I would like to apply for doctoral programs when I finish my master's degree, so this will be a good experience for me."

Contact: Catherine Tucker, associate professor of counseling, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University,

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or