About Tracy Gilbert

Q & A with Tracy Gilbert, Assistant Professor and Program Director,  Expressive Arts in Mental Health 

Tracy Gilbert, ATR-BC, LMHC, is a board-certified art therapist and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. 

In her private practice, she works with teen girls and younger adult women who are facing life transitions. She also has years of experience in clinics, hospitals, schools, and community settings. 

In 2022, she added assistant professor and program director of Russell Sage College’s Expressive Arts in Mental Health bachelor’s program to her impressive resume. 

Below, she shares her inspiration for a career in art therapy and why Sage’s Expressive Arts in Mental Health program is a great choice for anyone who wants to help people find healing through creativity. 

What attracted you to a career in art therapy?

My undergrad degree is in illustration and painting. I worked as a commercial artist for a few years until I realized that I really wanted to be in a helping field. 

I stumbled upon an exhibit of work that art therapists had done in affiliation with Doctors Without Borders with refugees from Kosovo. It made me realize that I could combine helping and art.

What are some aspects of being an art therapist that someone outside the profession would never think of?

Art therapists don’t interpret art! I used to get so many emails — especially when I worked at a school — with random images drawn by people I didn’t know and well-meaning adults asking me what it meant. 

Truly, art therapy is about dialogue. I can’t assume what someone has made but I can have a dialogue and learn about their meaning by asking. 

Art is so subjective. So much of our response to someone’s work is based on our own experiences, so if I didn’t ask questions, I’d put my own meaning on something rather than learn the client’s intent. I would also add that the process of making art in art therapy is much more critical than the product. 

Who should consider a career in art therapy?

Anyone who has an art background and lots of psychology classes or the reverse. Anyone who loves being creative and helping people find healing through creativity. 

How does Sage’s approach to Expressive Arts Therapy prepare students for their graduate degrees and/or careers?  

I love our program because it really allows students to get a jump on what most people don’t even know exists. Before I went to graduate school, I had taken one art therapy class. Most of my classmates had to attend a summer class before grad school started to fulfill that requirement. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I really had no idea. 

Students at Russell Sage get theory and hands-on experience with classes that prepare them for a variety of grad programs or for work afterwards. The students come out confident in working with a variety of populations and exploring a huge range of needs.  

What areas can Expressive Arts in Mental Health majors concentrate in at Sage?

Expressive Arts in Mental Health students at Russell Sage can minor in Music, Theatre or Musical Theatre, or Dance to complement their expressive learning.

What are you excited about this semester?

I am so lucky to be facilitating two art therapy groups at a grief symposium for providers who treat people with substance needs. Three students will be assisting me. 

In addition, three students are volunteering with me at Cindy’s Comfort Camp, a free camp at Double H Ranch for children who have had a loved one die. Two students and I helped at the spring camp, and we can’t wait to return this fall for another camp. It’s such a special weekend.

Is there anything you would like to add?

There is such a mental health crisis right now that no one pursuing a helping field like art therapy will have trouble finding a job any time soon. 


Educational Background

B.F.A., Illustration and Painting
M.A. Expressive Therapies: Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling