Barry McNamara  |   Published April 05, 2022

Senior Profile: Kendall Burt

Psychology major impresses art therapy interview team at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville grad program.

e-Z DECISION: Once the interview team at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville told Kendall B... e-Z DECISION: Once the interview team at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville told Kendall Burt she'd been accepted to the school's art therapy graduate program, her answer was an immediate "Yes!"MONMOUTH, Ill. – The more Monmouth College senior Kendall Burt of Freeport, Illinois, learned about getting into the field of art therapy, the more she learned it could be an exclusive field.

That was especially true of finding a graduate school with a three-year master’s degree program. Most offer only two years of study.

“I found that there’s not many out there,” said Burt, a psychology major and an art minor who was considering settling for a two-year program.

But after consulting with Sydney Greenwalt, one of her Monmouth psychology professors and a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville alumna, Burt found a three-year program she liked at SIU-E.

But there was a catch.

“I looked it up and thought, ‘This would be cool,’” she said. “But they only accept 10 students for the program. I was super nervous about that.”

Burt submitted her application and heard back within three days that the school wanted her to interview her as a candidate for the program. Her next response from SIU-E would come even quicker.

Burt began with group interviews on the first day of the two-day process. On the second day, she had a solo interview with three SIU-E faculty members.

“I told them how much I valued forming relationships with the faculty, like we have here at Monmouth. I told them that was super important to me. I also told them it was important to me to still be able to make art.” Kendall Burt


“I talked about the three art pieces I submitted with my application,” she said. “Then I told them how much I valued forming relationships with the faculty, like we have here at Monmouth. I told them that was super important to me. I also told them it was important to me to still be able to make art. For some art therapy programs, there really wasn’t an art component. And I told them it was important for me to have discussion-based classes rather than straight lectures, because that’s how my brain works and what I excel in.”

At the end of the interview, the faculty members broke away momentarily, then returned to Burt.

“They said, ‘We want to let you right now that we would love to have you,’” said Burt. “Right away, there were tears of joy. I thought it was like a dream. I told one of my professors what happened (with the immediate invitation), and they said, ‘They don’t (normally) do that.’”

About art therapy

The most deeply felt wounds are sometimes the hardest for people to discuss. Traumatized people who have difficulty explaining their feelings in words often work with an art therapist, who can help them express and process their emotions in a visual way.

Art therapy is a clinical profession. Art therapists are mental health care providers with master’s degrees who use artwork and art analysis to discover the root causes of a client’s distress and to address those psychological wounds.

“Art has saved my life, in a way. It’s my therapy; it keeps me grounded and calm. … It would be cool to help others through art the same way that art has helped me.” Kendall Burt


When discussing her award-winning artwork last year, Burt described the effect that art has had on her.

“Art is the process of making something out of nothing,” she said at the time. “Art has saved my life, in a way. It’s my therapy; it keeps me grounded and calm. … It would be cool to help others through art the same way that art has helped me.”

Burt provided a recent example of how art has come to her rescue, helping her overcome the not-uncommon issue of body image.

She created a “figure of my body, and it helped me love what I have and who I am,” she said. “It didn’t feel like homework; it felt like therapy.”

She’s already practicing her craft on campus, helping an “Abnormal Psychology” class ease into what could be some difficult topics.

“We did some mindfulness art,” said Burt. “The message was, ‘Let’s be nice to ourselves and take care of ourselves before we talk about these things.’”

“(My research) data showed that even just 30 minutes of an activity like coloring can help reduce anxiety.” Kendall Burt


Her senior research in psychology examined how making art can reduce anxiety in college students.

“Even though I had a small sample size, I found significant results,” said Burt, whose decision to attend Monmouth was based on its ceramics program and the psychology faculty she met. “The data showed that even just 30 minutes of an activity like coloring can help reduce anxiety.”


Future plans

When Burt completes her master’s degree in 2025, she’s open to possibilities, which could include joining an established art therapy organization or starting her own.

“If one exists, I would join it right away,” she said. “But I could also see pairing up with people to make that a thing. My ideal audience would be to work with college-aged students and up – more middle-age people. I think those would be good age groups to expose to art therapy.”

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