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Girija Kaimal Wins American Art Therapy Association Research Award

May 28, 2015

Girija Kaimal, EdD, an assistant professor in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies, has been awarded the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) Research Award. The award is given each year to members of the AATA in support of excellence in research and to encourage professional art therapists to conduct research in their fields. To qualify for the award, researchers must be a member of the association and the research must be in progress or completed.

Girija KaimalThe research award is the largest cash award given by the AATA. To apply, one must submit an application, a 10 page proposal and supporting documents indicating IRB approval, measures used and any findings from the study. After a blind review of all the applications submitted, each is given a score, and the application with the highest score wins the award.   

Kaimal hopes to use these funds to continue her research on health outcomes of visual expressions, a study previously funded by a Career Development Award from the Drexel University Office of Faculty Development and Equity. Kaimal explained that her main tasks for the study were to examine the experience of, and changes in affect (positive and negative affect), self-efficacy and stress levels (as measured by cortisol) as a result of approximately 40-45 minutes of art making. The study was conducted in the art therapy studio spaces in Parkway Health and Wellness. “Overall the study was a pleasure to do,” Kaimal said. She hopes to continue her research and explained that the most challenging aspect of the study was making sure the saliva samples were stored at the required temperature and transported in time to the lab for analysis.

Kaimal would like to extend special thanks to each of the research participants; Kendra Ray, her graduate research assistant who helped with all aspects of the study within the last year; Juan Muniz, PhD, an assistant research professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, who performed the lab analyses of salivary cortisol, Stella Volpe, PhD, a professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, who supported the study with access to services from the nutrition lab.  Also of note are Sherry Goodill, PhD, a clinical professor and Chair of the Department of Creative Arts Therapies; Sue Smith, PT, PhD, Associate Dean for Research; and Janet Fleetwood, PhD, a professor in the School of Public Health for their help and support at various stages of the study. 

“We are excited for the support Drexel provides to conduct innovative, interdisciplinary research” Kaimal said. She anticipates publishing the results of her study soon, and hopes to build awareness to creative self-expression as a non-pharmacological approach to health and wellbeing.