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Girija Kaimal

Contact Information

Girija Kaimal

EdD, ATR-BC

Assistant Dean for Special Research Initiatives, Associate Professor
Creative Arts Therapies Department

Girija Kaimal is the assistant dean for Special Research Initiatives and an associate professor in the PhD program in  Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University. In her Health, Arts, Learning and Evaluation (HALE) research lab, she examines the physiological and psychological health outcomes of visual and narrative self-expression. She has published over 60 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, has led research and evaluation studies and has had continuous grant funding since 2008. Her research has been featured by NPR, CNN, The New York Times as well as a range of media outlets worldwide. She was listed among 100 women scientists leading research and also featured as one of the ten people whose research changed the world. Most recently, she was awarded the first qualitative research grant for studying aging and demographic differences in Gulf War Illness by the Department of Defense. She is also PI for two studies funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, examining outcomes of art therapy for military service members with traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress, and arts-based approaches to mitigate chronic stress among patients and caregivers in pediatric hematology/oncology units. Additional current studies include examining the therapeutic underpinnings of indigenous and traditional artforms and serving as a research advisor to Save the Children International on projects that examine the role of the arts in education and human development. Kaimal has also conducted multi-year evaluation studies on leadership development funded by Lehigh University (through grants from the U.S. Department of Education). As part of these mixed methods studies, she examined how participation in the arts could ignite learning transfer to leadership practices. Other prior research experiences in human development include conducting secondary analyses of qualitative data from a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) longitudinal study of depression in families; and a multi-disciplinary study on the outcomes of genetic testing for hearing loss funded by the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Living out her research  interests, she has been a lifelong  visual artist and her  art explores the intersection of identity and representation of emotion. Her service commitments at present include being the president-elect of the American Art Therapy Association (a member organization of over 4,000 members) and faculty senate representative from CNHP.

Academic Distinctions

  • International Travel Award, Drexel University, 2019
  • Best Paper Award, Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal, 2018
  • 100 Women in Science, 2018
  • Faculty Summer Research Award, Drexel University, 2017
  • Assessment Fellow, Drexel University, Inaugural Cohort, 2016 – 2017
  • American Art Therapy Association Research Award, 2015
  • Career Development Award, Drexel University, 2014
  • Alpha Eta Honors Society, Elected member, 2001
  • Advanced Doctoral Grant, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, 2005
  • Gender Studies Doctoral Research Award, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2003
  • Dean’s Award for Doctoral Students (2002), Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Sherry Jaspan Lyons Award for Clinical Excellence in Therapy with Children and Adolescents, Drexel University, 2001

Faculty Fellowships

Assessment Fellow (Inaugural cohort), Drexel University

Professional Society

American Art Therapy Association
Pennsylvania Art Therapy Association
American Evaluation Association

Selected Publications

Selected Recent Publications:

Kaimal,  G., Carroll-Haskins, K., Mensinger, J.L., Dieterich-Hartwell, R.M., Biondo, J. &, Levin, W.P.   (2020).  Changes in Measures of Stress, Affect, Anxiety, Self-efficacy, and Salivary Biomarkers as a Result of Therapeutic Artmaking in Patients Undergoing Radiation Oncology Treatment: A Mixed Methods Pilot Study.  Integrative Cancer Therapies, 19. Doi: 10.1177/1534735420912835.

Kaimal, G., Walker, M.S., Berberian, M.G., Herres, J.M. & DeGraba, T.M.(2020) Examining Associations Between Montage Painting Imagery and Symptoms of Depression and Posttraumatic Stress Among Active-Duty Military Service Members. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Doi: 10.1037/aca0000316.

Kaimal, G. (2019). Adaptive Response Theory (ART): A clinical research framework for art therapy. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 36 (4): 215-219. Doi: 10.1080/07421656.2019.1667670.

Kaimal, G., Carroll-Haskins, K., Berberian, M.G., Dougherty, A., Carlton, N.R., &, Ramakrishnan, A. (2019). Virtual reality and art therapy: A pilot qualitative study of the novel medium. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 37 (1): 16-24. Doi: 10.1080/07421656.2019.1659662.

Kaimal, G., Mensinger, J.L., Drass, J.M., &, Dieterich-Hartwell, R. (2017). Open studio art therapy versus Coloring: Differences in outcomes of affect, stress, creative agency and self–efficacy. Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal. 30 (2): 56-68. Doi: 10.1080/08322473.2017.1375827.

Grant participation:

Current grants:

ARTS RESEARCH ON CHRONIC STRESS: March 2017 – May 2021 ($300,000). Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, this project examines outcomes of art therapy chronic stress. The first study involved collaborations with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to conduct and focused on the outcomes of brief art therapy sessions on caregivers and patients facing terminal cancers. The second is a multi-site study is examining the role of art therapy in reducing anxiety and improving quality of life in pediatric hematology and oncology patients as well as their caregivers. Role: Principal Investigator

CELL2SOCIETY AGING RESEARCH NETWORK AWARD: INTEGRATIVE INTERVENTION WITH CREATIVE ARTS AND NUTRITION (I2CAN) FOR POST-MENOPAUSAL WOMEN’S HEALTH. April 2020 – May 2021 ($8000). Funded by the Drexel University, this study will examine findings from a pilot intervention on post-menopausal women’s health that incorporates creative art therapies with nutrition counseling. Role: Principal Investigator

VIRTUAL REALITY BASED ART THERAPY AND FNIRS: JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL ARTS+MIND LAB AWARD. June 2019 – April 2020 ($25,000). Building on previous exploratory work on VR, this study examines blood flow in the PFC using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) while creating art in virtual reality. Role: Principal Investigator

VETERANS WITH GULF WAR ILLNESS: UNDERSTANDING THE SPECTRUM OF EXPERIENCES RELATED TO AGING AND DEMOGRAPHICS: September 2018 – September 2021 ($548,000). Funded by the Department of Defense (DoD, CDMRP) this project is the first ever qualitative study of Gulf War Illness. The study design integrates narrative and visual data and is expected to result in the development of a curriculum for health care providers. The project is being conducted in collaboration with the VISN 17 Center of Excellence in Waco, Texas and the University of Colorado. Role: Principal Investigator

RESEARCH ON ART THERAPY AND THE MILITARY: April 2016 – February 2021 ($300,000). Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, this project examines outcomes of art therapy for active duty military service members. We are analyzing visual and clinical data from two sites, namely, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and initiating an RCT at Camp Lejeune to assess the impact of art therapy on PTSD and TBI. Role: Principal Investigator

Editorial review board membership:

  • Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association
  • Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal
  • International Journal of Art Therapy
  • Urban Review
  • The Arts in Psychotherapy
  • Frontiers in Psychology (Clinical and health psychology)

Research Interests

  • Stress and trauma
  • Neuroscience of visual self-expression
  • Oncology and survivorship (pediatric and adults)
  • Indigenous and traditional artforms
  • Virtual reality art therapy
  • Qualitative and mixed methods research approaches

View Research Profile

Doctor of Education (Human Development and Psychology):
Harvard Graduate School of Education
, Cambridge, MA

Master of Arts (Art Therapy): Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

Bachelor of Design: National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India.