Davis & Elkins College will host art therapist and founder of Playing to Live Dr. C. Alexis Decosimo for a fire side chat style discussion about global art therapy. Sponsored by the Morrison-Novakovic Center for Faith and Public Policy, the presentation will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11 in Myles Center for the Arts on the college campus.

The discussion with Dr. Decosimo will be titled “Where can you go with a liberal arts education?” and will focus on the breadth of opportunities for real-world impact students can have on their community and on the world.

“I’m excited to welcome Alexis Decosimo to campus,” Dr. Andrew Jones, interim director for the Morrison-Novakovic Center for Faith and Public Policy, said. “She has a deep connection to Appalachia and has traveled the world helping folks everywhere she goes. I’m particularly excited to hear what Dr. Decosimo has learned about the importance of art and play as we cope with trauma.”

As an art therapist and public health professional, Decosimo aims to bring expressive arts therapy best practices to communities that have limited clinical resources. She values working alongside the community to fill in the mental health access gaps by building ethical and sustainable capacity. Her work experience ranges from West, South and East Africa, India, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Caribbeans and North America, where she has a specialty working in emergency and humanitarian settings.

As a response to the Ebola epidemic in 2014, Decosimo founded the nonprofit Playing to Live (PTL). Through community collaboration and UNICEF funding, PTL built and researched a large-scale art and play program for children most impacted by Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia. The program hired female Ebola survivors as facilitators and taught them how to use art and play to support mental health outcomes. Decosimo led the publication of two peer reviewed articles outlining the process and outcome of the program. She later facilitated a similar program in South Africa for children experiencing homelessness and led the implementation and publication of a large mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) needs assessment for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda during the 2016-2018 crisis.

Decosimo also has worked and consulted for numerous INGOs and academic institutions including UNICEF, Columbia University, Save the Children, World Vision and Danish Refugee Council. Her roles have included principal investigator for needs assessments, program developer and trainer, and consultant for program development for emergency settings. Her work has spanned the fields of health, early childhood education and protection. She has been a co-author in several publications including three Global Happiness policy reports (2021).

In addition to her global work, Decosimo continues to work as a clinician in Asheville, North Carolina, where she values the importance of staying up to date with current best practices in the mental health and expressive therapy fields. She also is trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychological first aid.

Opened in 2016, the Morrison-Novakovic Center for Faith and Public Policy provides an open space where students, faculty, visiting scholars, and others can explore issues of faith, and social and public policy. It is named for D&E Trustee and alumnus David Morrison ’79 and his wife, Phebe Novakovic.

For additional information on the lecture, email Jones at jonesa7@dewv.edu.

Alexis Decosimo

Alexis Decosimo