Connect
To Top

Conversations with the Inspiring Erica Curtis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Curtis.

Erica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My story is about following your heart, even when you don’t quite know where it will lead. At the beginning of my story, I never thought I’d become a therapist. Today, I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

I started college undeclared. Everything interested me. I took classes that sparked my interest, finally selecting majors I had taken the most classes in: Cultural Anthropology and Studio Art. Art was my fun major. Cultural anthropology was my “practical” major (somehow ‘being an anthropologist’ seemed practical at the time).

But what next?

I was lit up by the idea that art can change lives (it had changed mine many times). “What about art therapy?” a friend mused. “Sure. Sounds good,” I thought. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything “cooler” to study. I applied to one graduate program in Marital and Family Therapy with an emphasis in Clinical Art Therapy. I got in.

“I don’t want to be a therapist,” I told a friend upon receiving the acceptance letter. “That’s okay,” he said, “You don’t have to be.” He was right. I went.

It wasn’t until I was sitting across from clients in my first practicum that it hit me: I wouldn’t just be studying art therapy; I’d be practicing it. I was being trained to BE a therapist.

Much to my surprise (and despite my previous pseudo-attempts to resist this path), it felt right. I felt at home with my newfound career.

From that moment until now, I have had the privilege to help countless individuals and families, teach nationally, contribute to media outlets internationally, and publish an award-winning book (a childhood ambition now fulfilled). My story continues to be one of following my heart (but now with clearer direction). It has also become a story of passion, creativity, and a lot of time management.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a working mother is simultaneously a challenge and a source of inspiration and support.

I am fortunate to have a career that allows me the flexibility to work around my family’s needs. And, like most working-mothers, it is a challenge: coping with difficult pregnancies while seeing clients; late-night nursing sessions while writing a book; wiping butts and breaking up arguments in between returning phone calls; turning down work opportunities in order to attend school functions. I work on this article late at night, because the kids are finally asleep. It can be exhausting – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My children and husband have taught me more about relationships, adversity, growth, emotions, human development, and dedication than any other experience. Indeed, close, intimate relationships are people-growing machines (if we allow them to be). I am a better therapist because of my own challenges raising a family as a working mother. My interactions with my own three children inspired my first published book: “The Innovative Parent: Raising Connected, Happy, Successful Kids through Art.” They and my husband are as much my cheerleaders, as I am theirs.

Advice?

– Set 1, 3, and 5-year goals. Do one small thing today to make them a reality.

– Find a good mentor, especially if you’re just starting out.

– Take setbacks as information to grow from.

– Critically examine your definition of “successful.” Consider how you will evaluate your accomplishments.

Tell us more about the business.
I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a board-certified Art Therapist. I help children, teens, and adults get past their past; feel more connected; and experience more confidence, clarity, and joy. I’m a generalist when it comes to ages and issues, but a specialist in my approach…

I believe when life gets tough, talking isn’t enough. Many clients come to me after years of talk therapy. It may have helped on the surface, yet long-standing, unhealthy emotional, thought, and behavioral patterns remain. Sure I talk with my clients, but we do much more. Through the seamless blend of research-grounded creative, compassionate, and cutting-edge tools and theories, I see my clients create deep and lasting change.

My private practice is in San Juan Capistrano. I speak nationally. I am cited as an expert in over 70 media sources nationally and internationally. I appear as a guest on podcasts and blogs. I teach and develop curriculum for UCLArts & Healing. I’m an admissions consultant for Loyola Marymount University and an ethics consultant for the Board of Behavioral Sciences. I’m an award-winning published author. This year my co-author and I have been offering monthly, free community workshops around Los Angeles on “Raising Connected, Happy, Successful Kids through Art.” (Go to uclartsandhealing.org for dates and locations).

The common thread through all of these endeavors is the positive impact my work has on others. I believe that every time I positively influence one person, that change has the potential to positively impact many more. Of this, I am most proud.

Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be?
I grew up in a family of helping professionals (my father was a special ed teacher; my mother was a social worker). At ten years of age, I was already aware that I wanted to make the world a better place. I was also surrounded by art (my father, aunt, and grandmother were all artists). These influences undoubtedly shaped my path.

But it was my grandfather’s words of advice that played an outsized role in setting me up for success later in life. As a child, he’d bounce me on his knee while whispering words of wisdom that I was far too young to understand:

“If it’s in your inbox, get it into your outbox.” [got it!]
“If you want to do something, make a plan and do it.” [check!]

He told one particular story that stood out: early in his career, he had laid claim to a position at his workplace that he knew little about: “Say ‘I can do that’ first. Then figure out how to do it after.”

Similar to a “fake it ’til you are it” approach, this mindset set me up to pursue and accept opportunities even at times when I doubted my own abilities.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Katie Lubbers

Suggest a story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in