Cooking With a Purpose

(Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
September 25, 2017

If she’s near a kitchen, there’s a good chance Kelly Hicks ’21 is cooking up something tasty. It’s a place of fun, fellowship, and as she discovered, emotional release.

The freshman psychology major from the suburban Chicago village of Sleepy Hollow hopes her kitchen experience can one day help children and teens through a culinary therapy career. Culinary therapy is an emerging sibling to better-known art and music therapy programs.

“Creative therapy gives people opportunities to express themselves that they don’t get in traditional settings,” Hicks said. “It’s easier to paint a picture, play an instrument or cook something and work out issues. That’s especially true with kids and young teens who aren’t self-aware enough to describe what’s bothering them.”

Hicks enjoyed cooking as a child and developed her skills as she grew up. By junior high, she thought about psychology. Those interests came together in high school. With college decisions on the horizon, she took several culinary arts classes at nearby Elgin Community College during her senior year. The experience helped her realize she didn’t want to pursue a career as a chef. However, she decided to blend her interests and move toward a culinary therapy career.

The field is so new that few institutions offer culinary therapy programs. Because of that, Hicks looked for a quality psychology major in the Midwest. The search led to Bradley, where she recognized she could gain a versatile academic base she could apply to career goals.

“Bradley pushes you to get the most out of your degree,” Hicks said. “There are lots of opportunities to do research, and I’ll need to take advantage of those to explore my interests.”

She will approach the next four years like a trailblazer. That will mean a focused approach to academics with an emphasis on researching new territory. She also will continue to challenge her kitchen skills. By the time she graduates, Hicks hopes her work will contribute to culinary therapy’s roots.

After graduation and a likely graduate degree in counseling or psychology, Hicks wants to open a creative therapy center that gives clients freedom to choose between art, culinary or music therapy.

“I’ll have to put in a lot of hard work to get there,” Hicks said. “I’m excited to be on the cutting edge as I watch where expressive and arts therapy go in the next few years.”