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Annual AATA Conference Recap

July 20, 2016

The American Art Therapy Association held its 47th annual conference in Baltimore, MD from July 6-10. Every year, art therapists from around the country and world come together to present and discuss emerging clinical practice, theory, and research relevant to the health and well-being of diverse populations in our local and global communities. 

Continuing the tradition of having a unique theme, this year’s conference focused on “Art Therapy: Integrating Creativity, Healing and Professionalism.” The conference is organized around seven major subject areas by which the presentations are categorized:  1) Clinical approaches; 2) Contemporary issues & current trends; 3) Education and Supervision; 4) Multicultural; 5) Research/Evaluation; 6) Studio & Community; and 7) Theory & Assessment.  Additionally, it provides a place where in-depth short courses, master supervision groups, governance and committee meeting work also occurs.

The primary keynote speaker was Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a neurologist on staff at Pennsylvania Hospital, and a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. He has conducted research on the artwork of those who have been diagnosed with traumatic and/or degenerative neurological disorders.  The artwork has helped to illuminate which aspects of the brain might be affected by particular traumatic and/or degenerative neurological events and how those impact the ability for individuals to express themselves in the artwork and language.

“One striking observation is that brain damage sometimes paradoxically facilitates art," said Chatterjee. “We are researching how we can assess attributes of artwork that allow us to systematically characterize the effects of brain damage on the production, perception, and evaluation of artwork.” These studies have numerous implications one of which is to “think about brain-behavior relationships and speak to people’s resiliency in artistic production.” 

"This year’s conference boasted the largest registration ever at approximately 1250 attendees, which is a very encouraging sign about the growth and health of our profession,” said Nancy Gerber, PhD, associate clinical professor, author and the director of the PhD in Creative Arts Therapies Program, and one of the many Drexel Creative Arts Therapies Department alumni and faculty in attendance. “We had an amazing turnout at the conference of art therapy students, alums and faculty. Our alumni reception boasted about 72 attendees,” said Gerber.

“In addition we had a booth with materials about our PhD Program in Creative Arts Therapies and our MA Program in Art Therapy and Counseling,” said Gerber. “Our admissions coordinator Ms. Kristen Scatton ably manned the booth.  We received a great deal of interest in our programs through discussions at our exhibit table and dissemination of our program materials.”

Not only was the conference well attended by the alums and faculty from our Art Therapy and Counseling Master’s Degree  and PhD in Creative Arts Therapies programs, but there were a great deal of individuals from these programs who conducted presentations during the conference.

Below is a list of presenters from our very own Creative Arts Therapies Programs.

Robin Niesenbaum Jones ‘82, MCAT, presented on “An art therapist’s approach to self-treatment for early onset Alzheimer’s disease,” which was an account of Ron Hays’ art making in the early years of his diagnosis. Ron Hays was the former Chair of the Department of Creative Arts Therapies and Director of Art Therapy in our department.

Jessica Anne Drass, MA, ATR-BC, MCAT ’12 and incoming PhD Student, and Mindy Jacobson Levy, HMC MCAT ’78,presented on; “The interface among providers sing multi-stage approaches in dissociative treatment (Case Study).” 

 Gioia Chilton, PhD, ’14 co-presented on - “Spirit dolls for integrating professional strengths”  and “Positive psychology and art therapy."

Girija Kaimal, EdD, MCPHU, MCAT ’01, assistant professor in the Creative Arts Therapies Department, and Juliet King, MA, presented on “Using biological indicators and brain image in in art therapy research.”  Kaimal also co-presented on “Art therapy for active duty military service members with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

Bethany Stiltner, ’10, MA, presented on “My 12 days of Christmas: Decisions, transitions and puddle jumping capture in light and sound.”

Denise Wolf, MCPHU ’99, MA, adjunct faculty, presented on “Sequential Art Therapy:  Art history technique and the art of Georgia O’Keefe.”

Abbien Crowley Ciucci, , MA ‘06, adjunct faculty, presented on “Young at Art: Art therapy with young toddlers in a medical setting.”

Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, MCPHU MCAT ’96, presented on "Archetypal Art Therapy: The PPAT, the Garden of Eden, and the Birth of Consciousness"

Juliet Laura King, MCPHU, MCAT ‘98 presented a panel of authors representing the newly published book of which she was the editor “Art therapy, Trauma, and Neuroscience: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives.”

Michele D. Rattigan, ATR-BC, NCC, LPC, MCPHU, MA ‘96, assistant clinical professor in the Creative Arts Therapies Department, and Jessica Anne Drass, MA, ATR-BC, MCAT ’12 and incoming PhD Student, presented on “Just 30 minutes: Exploring professional and artist identities through art meditation.”

Caroline C. Peterson, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, MCPHU ‘00, with Donna Kaiser (former Director,Art Therapy and Counseling program) presented on “Walkabout: Restoring active engagement and attunement for adults with life-threatening illnesses.”

Nancy Gerber, PhD, ATR-BC, LPC, HMC, MCAT ’77, director of the PhD Program in Creative Arts Therapies and associate clinical professor, co-facilitated the Educator’s Workshop and the Research Roundtable.

Marcia Cohen-Liebman, HU, MCAT ‘91’, PhD candidate and adjunct faculty, presented a half-day course on “Forensic Art Therapy and mandatory reporting: The ethics of children’s drawings.”

Jeannine Cicco Barker,  PsyD, ATR-BC, MCAT ’08, presented a half-day course on “Self-compassion for art therapists:  The importance of mindful compassion for therapists in practice.”.

Yasmine Awais, MAAT, ATR-BC, ATCS, LCAT, LPC, assistant clinical professor and former interim director of Art Therapy and Counseling Program, presented a, “Master Supervision Group, for Therapists of Color.”

Natalie Carlton, PhD, ATR-BC, LPCC, MCPHU, MCAT ’96, director of the Art Therapy Program, presented “Living Baltimore: Cultural Awareness through Digital Storytelling”.

Several faculty, alumni, and students were presented with awards at the conference for their clinical and scholarly contributions to the field of art therapy.  Yasmine Awais won the award for “Best Paper” from the Art Therapy Journal for her article: “Efforts in Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Field of Art Therapy.”  Co-authored with Ann Marie Yali ‘15, Caroline Peterson and Donna Kaiser won the Research Award for their article “Walkabout: Restoring active engagement and attunement for adults with life-threatening illnesses.”  There were also two students from the MA in Art Therapy and Counseling program who won awards Kyra Sjarif was awarded the Cay Drachnik Minorities Fund Scholarship and Christine “Chris” Hillman was awarded an AATA student scholarship.

By Jacob Cushing ‘19