Lynn Cukaj - NAMI-NYC

Lynn Cukaj

Lynn Cukaj is an art therapist, educator, and counselor. She works primarily with children to help them gain insight into their strengths. Those strengths are then supported to help with the presenting problem, friendship issues, identification and regulation of feelings, communication skills, etc. This process is done by using art or talking, whichever is more comfortable for the child.

For me, art has been a way to break down roadblocks and was a tool I enjoyed and often used during difficult times. My fascination with the impact of artmaking on my personal development led me to study Art History professionally. It was during undergrad when I learned how influential an artist’s mental health was in their creations. I decided on Art Therapy as a profession after my sophomore year in college when I read an article on how the process of art helped Vietnam Veterans deal with their PTSD symptoms. I became a double major in Art History and Psychology with a minor in studio art. My undergraduate thesis studied the human figure and assessing anxiety in those projective techniques.

I took a year off before going back to school for my graduate degree. During that time, I worked full time as a mental health worker in a psychiatric hospital and volunteered in a woman’s shelter working with children. I went to graduate school at the College of New Rochelle on a scholarship, which helped me to be able to volunteer and complete my degree in two years. Both my master’s in art therapy and my master’s in education focus on different aspects art can play in assessment of an individual’s functioning and learning.

Today I work with children and adults through the creative process of art therapy. Throughout my twenty years of working, I have found most often that anxiety, fear, and pain are roadblocks to an individual’s growth. These feelings seem to work against the individual and cause negative thoughts and behaviors which become barriers to change. My way of working is to provide a safe, non-judgmental environment where the client can feel at ease to begin exploring their personal roadblocks. Oftentimes, it is what is not being said that becomes the focus of the session. The artwork becomes the voice of the client and interventions are built around that experience. My unique approach of using the process of art making is a way for the client to connect with themselves and then with the world. My focus is on client strength, unconditional positive regard, and a non-judgmental approach. Therapeutic goals are focused on freeing oneself from the roadblocks and barriers that anxiety, fear, and pain have caused. This allows for clients to go on to live a life filled with joy and hope with tools and coping skills to better navigate the ups and downs of everyday life.