NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Student aspires to be art therapist

By: Emily Marsden, Correspondent

Helen Shiepe, 22, is an art student at NECC aspiring to combine her interests in both the arts and the medical field to become an art therapist. Having a passion for art since her elementary years, Shiepe aims to help both the young and old express themselves using their creativity.

“I love art so much because it helps to express so many different things: emotions, events, life experiences, anything,” said Shiepe. “Art was just a different way I could get my point and feelings across, and I’d like to help others do the same. Drawing and painting, even music and dance, are great ways of finding subliminal answers to reasons why people do what they do and think the way they think.”

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.

The main expressions for this variety of therapy are music, fine art and dance. Music therapy could involve playing instruments, singing or simply listening to music. Dance therapy utilizes dance and movement, releasing endorphins into one’s body and uplifting their mood.

Fine art therapy is anything from coloring, to painting to sculpting.

Art therapy not only helps with mental health, but also with general illnesses and physical disabilities. It also encourages self discovery and personal growth.

“Art therapy, to me, is an easier type of therapy because all you need is a pencil and paper and just by the way people draw certain things, I can figure out how to help them,” Shiepe explains.

“Instead of speaking about your problems all you need to do is express it in a nonverbal way. With children, that would be a major help for them.”

While Shiepe is passionate about art, she also shares an interest in the medical field, obtaining her Medical Office Assistant Certificate during her second year of college.

“That was what got my feet wet into the medical field and I found that I enjoyed that,” she says. “Also, I still loved doing art so taking those medical courses helped to decide my career as an art therapist.”

Shiepe ultimately would like to end up in Rhode Island or Fall River, Massachusetts, working at a hospital with young children and the elderly.

“I want to be able to better the younger and older generations in a calm and comforting environment,” she says.

While Shiepe enjoys the art program offered at NECC, and praises Marc Mannheimer for being the most helpful professors she has ever had, there is one change she would like to see happen. “

If I were to change anything about the art program, it would be to give the art students 24/7 access to the art studios to work on our pieces,” she explains. “

I know a lot of people don’t have the space at their homes to actually work on their pieces, so having the access to the studios would be a great help.”

If interested in the art program offered by NECC, contact Marc Manheimer at (978) 556-3242 or

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