Eight graduate students in the clinical mental health counseling program travel to India to learn about the latest neuroscience discoveries and expressive therapies.
The road to learning more about recovery methods started in India for a group of Indiana State University students who journeyed to the country for a two-week, eye-opening experience in December.
Led by Catherine Tucker, associate professor and clinical mental health counseling program coordinator at Indiana State, eight graduate students traveled to India, Dec. 9-23, to learn about recent neuroscience discoveries related to how people process trauma and why creative arts are a good tool for recovery. Tucker and her students also served as presenters at the International Seminar on Art and Expressive Therapies for Trauma: India and U.S. Perspectives, Dec. 18-19 in Mumbai, India.
Co-sponsored by Indiana State and Nagindas Khandwala College in India, Tucker said the conference received great enthusiasm from attendees, as was reflected in the turnout and audience engagement.
“Vinay Prabhu, the professor at the college who helped us organize it, and I thought we might get 100 people there. In the end, we had over 250 people show up from all over India. It was exhilarating to see so many psychologists, counselors and students wanting to learn about art and play therapies,” Tucker said. “There was a wonderful energy to the conference — no one fell asleep or looked bored for the entire two days, which is not usual in my experience of professional conferences.”
The opportunity for the students to attend the conference was aided by a grant from Indiana State’s Center for Global Engagement, which helped to offset student costs. Ritika Latke, a senior mental health counseling student and India native, was also instrumental in the trip’s planning.
“(The students) were prepared and professional, and they were superb ambassadors for the university during the entire duration of the trip, which included some really packed trains, unusual weather, long, hard days and the usual language and cultural barriers,” Tucker said. “I hope they’ve developed or deepened their love for travel and adventure, and I hope they’ve seen that crazy ideas, like going to India to visit an international student’s family, can come to reality if you are patient and persistent.”
The most valuable experience for Courtney Hull, a first-year graduate student in the counseling program, was learning about trauma informed care and expressive therapies, which included giving a presentation with three of her classmates on the U.S. perspective on trauma informed care.
“I found it interesting that we were able to see expressive therapies at work with colleagues and children, as we laughed, danced, sang and played,” she said. “Although our communication was limited, we made a connection. Hope, love and joy are things that you can transmit without saying a word. These are the things that heal and bring people together.”
It wasn’t all work and no play, though, as the students learned about India’s culture and traditions.
“Mostly, I learned that the people and problems in India are not so different from those in the U.S.,” Hull said. “After meeting with agencies such as Arpan (an organization that works diligently to spread awareness about childhood sexual abuse) I learned that, in the field of counseling, we face many of the same obstacles. It is nice to know that there are phenomenal, caring people working around the globe to better the lives of others.”