fbpx Alumna Stories: Man-Hsuan Chen, art therapist — PCA

Alumna Stories: Man-Hsuan Chen

Man-Hsuan Chen

In February 2024, we caught up with Man-Hsuan, a former PCA student who is currently obtaining her art therapist license, to learn more about how her experience at PCA shaped her decision to pursue this profession and how creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being. As part of her practicum to become a licensed art therapist, Man has also been offering free Zoom art therapy sessions to our students.

Please introduce yourself, name, where are you from, and when did you graduate?

My name is Man, I am Taiwanese and I graduated from PCA in 2020 with an MA in Design for Social Impact.

You are currently in the process of getting your art therapist license. How did your experience at PCA prepare you for what you’re doing now?

My experience at PCA really launched my art therapy studies and practice. Specifically, my thesis project and the discoveries I made in the art therapy field, along with the experiences I gained helping clients, provided me with an initial frame of reference. It gave me both the passion to keep learning and the assurance that I was in the right place.

It seems that you were already interested in the art therapy field even as a student at PCA. Can you tell us more about your thesis project and its link to art therapy?

My thesis project is about understanding how to support the mental wellness of homeless people in Paris. I soon realized that communication might be challenging due to the language barrier. As an art student, I believe that art itself is a universal language that can be a wonderful medium for communication and expressing emotions. I started an art program in a church in the evenings, providing music, group movement activities, and mostly art-making workshops. Through that, I was able to conduct interviews and observations on how art therapy can support this population.

Were you able to pursue this project after graduating from PCA?

Yes, but my path took a bit of a detour. I went back to Taiwan in a rush due to Covid. With my future unclear, I got a position in a startup tech company as a project manager. I conducted some interesting projects to understand immigrants’ stories through art-based workshops and preserved their artwork via 3D scanning. I soon realized I still wanted to pursue the field of art therapy and wished to, one day, practice as a professional. I quit my job and enrolled in a Canadian art-psychotherapy post-Master program. As a result, in 2023, I became a practicum art therapist working with clients via a virtual art therapy clinic. As part of my practicum, I was also able to do in-person work directly in Taiwan. I brought art therapy into senior homes and held an art open studio for homeless people in Taipei. Finally, as a PCA alumna, I give back to my community by offering my support and promoting mental well-being at PCA through free virtual art therapy sessions for students.

What was your most valuable class or experience from PCA?

As I mentioned before, both my thesis research and project were really enjoyable and helpful. I am also very thankful to President and Chair of the Design for Social Impact program, Linda Jarvin, who was extremely supportive. She guided me academically, connected me with experts in the field, and was very encouraging throughout the project. Also, collaboration work with makesense was a wonderful experience that introduced me to the world of NGOs and social entrepreneurship.

Many PCA classes transcend art disciplines to bring us back to real-world applications: how to promote artwork, bring positive change with art, or make connections with artists. I truly appreciated this transdisciplinary approach to artistic studies.

That’s really great to hear and is actually very helpful for our future students!
Our last question is what are you up to now and what’s next for you?

I am nearing the end of my art therapist training and will soon be working on building my own private practice in Montreal, Canada.

I look to build on my positive experiences with virtual art therapy and working with communities, as well as facing the challenges that come with moving to a new country.

My dream is to have a multifunctional space in which to hold group art therapy sessions, have tea/wine tastings, and host an art gallery. Perhaps share this space with other therapists and give our guests a unique, wholesome sensorial experience.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors!


Interviewer: Zainab Affejee

Man-Hsuan art therapy sessions