Welcome to Our
We love to hear and share stories. If you've been looking for a place to share yours, we hope you'll go for it! Was there a defining moment or experience that set your feet on the path you've chosen as a career or philanthropic journey?
"Why I Do What I Do:
A Message in Humanity"
Angel C. Duncan
PhD Candidate, MA, MFT, ATR
Art therapy was introduced to me when I was in Texas. After graduating Texas Lutheran
University with a BA in Art, I got employment homeschooling a boy with Asperger’s and
introduced art into his curriculum. Having not been exposed to art prior, it was interesting
to observe him create and process what his artwork meant to him. His speech pathologist
and director at a university I would take him to reflected on his art when I shared it with her
because his art seemed to give him a voice. He started to improve in his studies and in his
communication skills. She was astonished and told me I should go into Art Therapy.
I started to look more into art therapy and it was in Northern California where my Masters
in both Art Therapy and Marriage and Family Therapy came to fruition. I needed volunteer
field work hours and a local Alzheimer’s residential community across the street from the
university offered art therapy to their residents. The art therapist who facilitated the sessions was employed by the Alzheimer’s Association and she took me in as an intern, later hiring me as her co-director for the Memories in the Making program, where I also became the Support Group Supervisor. She became my life-long mentor and friend and it was her and the Alzheimer’s Association that cultivated my career.
Having no personal experience with dementia in my family with plans to return to Texas, my calling kept coming at me and I eventually accepted it. Over the past 18yrs now, my life’s dedication and passion has been working with those who have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, their families and care partners. Working with the Association, homecare, assisted living, CCRCs, private practice and consulting, and as an Alzheimer’s clinician in research trials, I have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad in care standards and treatment.
My work in dementia education, programming, clinical research trials and as a therapist has filled me with so much gratitude, inspiration and empathy. It is through my work with diverse people coming from all walks of life that gives me hope in human kindness. As society and medical communities tend to dismiss those with memory loss as not having a sense of self, not being fully aware of their surroundings and stigmatizing them, it is through the art where memories come alive.
The stories and memories captured when processing their art are treasure chests filled with a human enlivenment of spirit. It is an honor and a privilege to be the keeper of those stories, advocate for them and provide the opportunity for creativity to enrich quality of life. There is much to be learned by these individuals and I am blessed. I feel physicians and scientists could gain a wealth of knowledge from their patients through such “medicine,” as art and science need each other.