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Girija Kaimal, EdD


Lab members performing an assay

Our lab conducts research and evaluation studies that examine health outcomes of art therapy and arts-based interventions. In addition we evaluate psychosocial learning outcomes of school based educational interventions (in the US and internationally).  

The lab is led by Dr. Kaimal and her expertise lies in the areas of health outcomes of creative self-expression, art therapy research, program evaluation, qualitative and mixed-methods research. 


She is the Principal Investigator for a the first qualitative study funded by the Department of Defense on Gulf War Illness. She is also the PI for the National Endowment for the Arts Research Labs cooperative agreement, examining outcomes of art therapy for in hematology/oncology settings as well as military service members with PTSD and TBI. She is PI on a series of studies that examine the health outcomes of visual self-expression arts including changes in physiological indicators (like salivary cortisol, amylase, IL10, TNF alpha), brain activation (as measured by functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy, fNIRS) as well as psychological indicators like mood, perceived stress, and, self-efficacy. These studies include healthy adults participants as well as caregivers of patients facing chronic and terminal illnesses. Most recently she is examining outcomes of virtual reality artmaking using FNIRS technology. This study is being conducted in collboration with the International Arts+Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University.  


In addition, she has a portfolio of research and evaluation studies funded by the US Department of Education, National Science Foundation as well as several foundations. Her grant funding to date totals approximately $3 million. Dr. Kaimal also serves as a research advisor to Oxfam America and Save the Children on international projects that examine issues of disparity related to gender, and, the role of the arts in education and human development. In a recent multi-year evaluation study on leadership development funded by Lehigh University (through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education) we are examined how participation in the arts could ignite learning transfer to leadership practices. Other prior research experiences 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).  


The HALE lab research team has presented and published peer-reviewed journal articles on the role of changes in neuroinflammatory markers as a result of art making, technology in art therapy practice, the psychosocial outcomes of arts participation across the life span, and using narratives in research.


Keywords: Visual self-expression, stress, art therapy, health outcomes, biomarkers, military, hematology/oncology, caregivers, virtual reality, indigenous and traditional art forms  

Principal Investigator

Girija KaimalGirija Kaimal, EdD, MA
Associate Professor - Creative Arts Therapies PhD program
View Faculty Profile

Lab members

  • Rebekka Hartwell
  • Jacelyn Biondo

Doctoral Students

  • Katrina Carroll-Haskins
  • Kathryn Snyder
  • Marygrace Berberian
  • Bani Malhotra
  • Asli Arslanbek

STAR Scholars

  • Merlin Kochunilathil (2018)
  • Alexandra Pitts (2019)


  • Angela Guierrero: Assistant Professor, Westchester University
  • Marygrace Berberian: Assistant Clinical Professor, New York University
  • Janelle Junkin
  • Kendra Ray

Internal Collaborators

  • Kara Spiller: Biomedical Engineering
  • Juan Muniz: Nutrition Sciences
  • Jennifer Nasser: Nutrition Sciences
  • Fengqing Zhang: Psychology
  • Hasan Ayaz: Biomedical Engineering
  • Erin Solovey: Computing and Informatics
  • Karen Nulton: English
  • Florence Gelo: DUCOM
  • Wiliam Levin: Penn Medicine
  • Joshua Smyth: Penn State University
  • Guy Diamond: Couple and Family Therapy

External Collaborators

  • Joanna Herres: The College of New Jersey
  • Allison Hayes-Conroy: Temple University
  • Tonia Hsieh: Temple University
  • Laura Toran: Temple University
  • Melissa Walker: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
  • Thomas Degraba: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
  • Sunil Iyengar: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Bill O'Brien: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Wiliam Levin: Penn Medicine

Research On Art Therapy For Active Duty Military Service Members With PTSD And TBI (2015)

Funded by The Writer’s Center (sourced from the National Endowment for the Arts), the project involves analysis of art therapy data from active duty military service members at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. In addition, the project will develop an evaluation plan for the 2016 year for all the satellite sites. 
Role: PI for research and evaluation of art therapy and expressive writing data

Neuro-inflammation and Gender (Drexel Areas of Research Excellence grant) (2016-2017)

Funded by the Drexel University, the project involves interdisciplinary collaborations and analysis of physiological indicators of health and wellbeing.  The art therapy component examines changes in salivary biomarkers like IL10, IL6, cortisol, amylase and oxytocin.
Role: Co-Investigator

Arts-Based approaches to Spiritual Well-Being at the End of Life (2015-2017)

Funded by The Foundation for Spirituality and Medicine, the project involves analysis of physiological, survey and narrative data from an arts based intervention for patients and caregivers at the end-of-life. 
Role: Co-PI

Evaluation of the NSF-IRT grant (2016-2019)

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the evaluation assesses outcomes for graduate student creativity and learning in biology and anthropology for a STEM initiative.


National endowment for the arts logo


The NEA Research Lab is a project of the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Drexel University. Drexel University is the recipient of an inaugural cooperative agreement under the National Endowment for the Arts’ Research Labs initiative. The lab at Drexel—Arts Research on Chronic Stress (ARCS)—will examine the intersection of the arts, health, and social/emotional well-being. The goal is to connect creative arts therapies with community-based arts organizations to enhance social engagement and overall well-being in those who have been affected by prolonged stressors such as chronic pain, extended caregiving, academic stress, and trauma. In the future we will feature findings from the studies including short-term/interim deliverables; working drafts/final versions of policy briefs, literature reviews, white papers, technical guide for the field

The lead investigators for the studies are Dr. Kaimal, EdD, MA (PI, Assistant Professor, PhD program in Creative Arts Therapies and Dr. Bradt, PhD, MT-BC (Co-PI, Associate Professor, PhD program in Creative Arts Therapies).

Girija Kaimal  

Girija Kaimal, EdD, MA


Joke Bradt, PhD, MT-BC


Study 1: Health outcomes of visual self-expression for caregivers of patients with cancer

Girija Kaimal, EdD, MA will lead the study on arts-based approaches to promoting health and well-being for caregivers of patients with cancer. The study will compare outcomes from two brief visual self-expressive approaches with family caregivers and professional healthcare providers. The study is being conducted in collaboration with the Radiation Oncology Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Caregivers of patients receiving treatment at the center, as well as health care providers, will be recruited to participate. The variables to be examined in the study include affect, mood, perceived stress and indicators of physiological health. The community partner for the study will contribute to transformations in the space of the hospital with murals and exhibitions of artwork created during the study. The aim is to examine how integration of arts into different aspects of healthcare can impact both quality of life and quality of care.

Research Team 

Dr. William Levin, MD: Penn Medicine
Juan Muniz, PhD, Lab analyst, Drexel University
Janell L. Mensinger, PhD, Statistician, Drexel University
Ms. Jess Drass, Graduate Research Fellow, Drexel University
Ms. Rebekka Dieterich-Hartwell, Graduate Research Assistant, Drexel University
Ms. Katrina Carroll, Graduate Research Fellow, Drexel University


Study 2: Creative music engagement to improve core outcomes in chronic pain

Joke Bradt, PhD, MT-BC will lead a mixed methods study that examines the effects of a 12-week music therapy treatment (MT) program followed by participation in community-based music groups compared to a waitlist control group on chronic pain management. The following outcomes will be measured: pain-related self-efficacy, pain interference, pain intensity, emotional distress, physical functioning and participation in social activities. The feasibility of post-intervention community music engagement in people with chronic pain will be tracked. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with study participants about their experiences of the MT intervention and their participation in community-based music groups. The purpose of these interviews is to help explain treatment outcomes and enhance understanding of possible barriers and facilitators of treatment success. Our community partner for this project is the Settlement Music School (, one of the largest nonprofit community schools of the arts in the U. S. The School provides 10,000 weekly services of individual lessons, classes and activities in music, dance and visual arts to children and adults throughout Philadelphia.

Research team:

Fenqing Zhang, PhD, Statistician, Drexel University
Amy Kesslick, MA, MT-BC, music therapy clinician, Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services, Drexel University
Mark Bottos, MCAT, Zausmer Program Director of the Kardon Center for Arts Therapy, Settlement Music School
Ming Yuan Low, MT-BC, Graduate Research Fellow, Drexel University
Clarissa Karlsson, MT-BC, Graduate Research Fellow, Drexel University



Challenges related to conducting clinical studies in community healthcare settings [PDF]

Refered articles (*student co-author)

Walker, M., Kaimal, G. Myers-Coffman, K.*, Gonzaga, A.M.L., & DeGraba, T. J. (in press). Active duty military service members visual representations of PTSD and TBI. therapeutic journey. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being.

Edwards, J., & Kaimal, G. (2016). Using meta-synthesis to support application of qualitative methods findings in practice: A comparison of meta-ethnography, narrative synthesis, and critical interpretive synthesis. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 51:30-35. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2016.07.003
Junkin, J.,* Katz-Terry, J., Smith, K. &, Kaimal, G., (in press). Evaluation of the Art of Growing Leaders program: Supporting identity and leadership development through arts-based self-expression. Journal of Allied Arts and Health.

Kaimal, G., &, Ray, K.,* (2016) Free art making in an art therapy open studio: changes in affect and self-efficacy. Arts and Health. DOI:10.1080/17533015.2016.1217248

Walker, M., Kaimal, G. Koffman, R., & DeGraba, T. J. (2016). Art therapy for PTSD and TBI: A senior active duty military service member’s therapeutic journey. The Arts in Psychotherapy 49(2):10-16.Doi: 10.1016/j.aip.2016.05.015

Kaimal, G., Gonzaga, A.M.L., & Schwachter, V. (2016). Crafting, health and well-being: National trends and implications for art therapists. Arts and Health. Doi: 10.1080/17533015.2016.1185447

Kaimal, G., & Jordan, W. (2016). Do incentive-based programs improve teacher quality and student achievement? An analysis of implementation in 12 charter schools. Teachers College Record, 118 (7): 1-34

Kaimal, G., Drescher, J., Fairbank, H., Gonzaga, A, Junkin, J.* &, White, G.P. (2016). Learning about leadership from a visit to the art museum. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 17(6). Retrieved from

Kaimal, G., Ray, K.,* & Muniz, J.M. (2016). Reduction of cortisol levels and participants’ responses following artmaking. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 33,(2): 74-80. Doi:10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832.

Kaimal, G. & Beardslee, W.R. (2015). The Perceived Impact of Parental Depression on the Narrative Construction of Personal Identity: Reflections from Emerging Adults. Narrative works, 5, 1: 40-67.

Kaimal, G. & Blank, C.L.* (2015). Program Evaluation: A doorway to research in the creative arts therapies. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 32 (2), 89-92. Doi: 10.1080/07421656.2015.1028310

Kaimal, G. (2015). Evolving identities: The person(al), the profession(al) and the artist(ic). Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 32, 3: 136-141. DOI:10.1080/07421656.2015.1060840

Kaimal, G., Drescher, J., Fairbank, H., Gonzaga, A. & White, G.P. (2014). Inspiring creativity in school leaders: Leadership lessons from the creative arts. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 15 (4). Retrieved from

Kaimal, G., Barber, M., Schulman, M., & Reed, P. (2012). Preparation of urban high school principals in Philadelphia through multi-organizational partnerships. Journal of School Leadership, 22, 5: 902-921.

Huang, T.*, Kaimal, G., Beachum, F., White G., &, Fitzgerald, A.* (2012). Preparing urban school Leaders: What works. Planning and Changing Journal, 43, 1: 72-95

Brooks, W., Kaimal, G., Savage, L.*, & Gonzaga, A. (2012). Inspiring academically talented high school students to consider teaching in urban schools. Urban Review, 44, 4: 423-440.

Kaimal, G. & Beardslee, W.R. (2010). Emerging Adulthood and the perceptions of parental depression. Qualitative Health Research, 20, 9, 1213-1229.

Kaimal, G., Steinberg, A.G., Ennis, S., Moyer-Harasink, S, Ewing, R., Li, Y. (2007) Parental narratives about genetic testing for hearing loss: a one-year follow up study. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 16, 6, 775-787.

Steinberg, A., Kaimal, G., Bain, L., Krantz, I. & Li, Y. (2007). Parental  narratives on genetic testing for children with hearing loss: a qualitative inquiry. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 143A, 14, 1533-1545.
Steinberg, A., Kaimal, G. Ewing, R.*, Soslow, L., Lewis, K., Krantz, I. & Li, Y. (2007). Parental narratives on genetic testing for hearing loss: Implications for audiologists working with children with hearing loss and their families. The American Journal of Audiology,16, 1-11.

Li, Y., Steinberg, A., Bain, L., Yaeger, D., Bieler, A.*, Ewing, R.*, Kaimal, G., &, Krantz, I. (2007). Assessing parental attitudes towards genetic testing for hearing loss: before and after genetic consultation. American Journal of Medical Genetics,143A, 14, 1546-1553.

Kaimal, G., & Gerber, N. (2007). Impressions over time: Community progressive murals in an outpatient HIV/AIDS clinic. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 34, 2, 151-162.

Kaimal, G. (2007). Emerging adulthood and the perception of parental depression.  (Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Human Development and Psychology program)

Kaimal, G. (Spring 2003). Docile wives and duty-bound husbands: myth and gender roles in the Ramayana. South Asian Journal, 1,1, 10-16.

Kaimal, G. (2001). The role of individual art therapy in reducing disruptive behavior in a young adolescent male: a single case experimental study (Masters thesis, MCP Hahnemann University, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Creative Arts in Therapy Program).

Manuscripts in development (* student co-author)

Scotti, V.,* DiMaria-Ghalili, R., & Kaimal, G. (in preparation). The meaning of food in an older woman’s life.

Kaimal, G., Ayaz, H., Dietrich-Hartwell, R., Kaiser, D., Herres, J., Makwana, B.*, &, Nasser, J.A., (under review). Drawing and brain activation: outcomes of doodling, coloring and free drawing as measured by fNIRS.

Jones, J.P., Walker, M.S., Drass, J.M.*, & Kaimal, G.(in preparation). Short and long term art therapy for active duty military service members with PTSD and TBI.

Kaimal, G.,  Walker, M.S., &, Dieterich-Hartwell, R.* (in preparation). Using LIWC analysis of clinical notes to assess changes over time for Active Duty Military service members with PTSD and TBI.

Landless, B.M.*, Walker, M.S., & Kaimal, G. (manuscript in preparation). Expressive writing: comparison of themes in the artwork of military service members with PTSD and TBI examined using human analysis and computer based analysis.

Kaimal, G., & Muniz, J.F. (in preparation). Correlations between cortisol, oxytocin, and alpha-amylase before and after artmaking.

Kaimal, G. Walker, M.S., Herres, J., & Degraba, T.J .(in preparation). Correlations between clinical data and Active Duty Military service members’ visual representations of PTSD and TBI.

Invited Article

Kaimal, G., Miller, G., Rattigan, M.D., & Haddy, J.*(2016). Implications of national trends in digital media use for art therapy practice. Journal of Clinical Art Therapy. 3,1.  retrieved from:

Kaimal, G. (2008). Alana's advice: Where there is a clique you got to think quick. [Review of the book by A.S. Bender]. Educational Review. Retrieved from 

Kaimal, G. (2002). Sound bytes from the field: Community Problem Solving and the 
Internet. Project on community building headed by Dr. X.D. Briggs, John F. Kennedy
School of  Government, Harvard University and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Retrieved from conf/pdf/girija_kaimal.pdf.

Kaimal, G (2003). Gen X meets Gen-Y: Youth perceptions and concerns about the future.
Foresight and Governance Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Available at 

Book chapters (research, poetry and creative writing

Kaimal, G. (Forthcoming). Emerging considerations for art therapy research. In R. Carolan and Backos, A. (Eds.), Art therapy: Emerging perspectives. New York: Routledge

Kaimal, G. & Momaya, M. (Forthcoming). Evaluating Beyond Bollywood. In R. Rajan and I. Chand O’Neal (Eds.), Evaluation in the Arts.

Kaimal, G. (2014). Motherhood mechanized. In R. Badruddoja (Ed.), X does not mark my spot: Voices from the South Asian Diaspora. New Delhi: Zubaan.

Kaimal, G. (2014). What is your name? In R. Badruddoja (Ed.), X does not mark my spot: Voices from the South Asian Diaspora. New Delhi: Zubaan.

Kaimal, G. & Nayar, N. (2003). The myth of wild oats. In Azmina Ladha (Ed.), Re-righting reality: Young women on their search for self. Center for Research on violence against
women and children (pp. 57-63). Vancouver, Canada: Simon Fraser University Press.

Technical Reports and Blog posts (*student co-author

Jones, J.P., Gonzaga, A. & Landless, B.M.* & Kaimal, G.(2015). Evaluation of the Art therapy at Fort Belvoir Intrepid Spirit One. Report prepared for the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and the National Endowment for the Arts. Philadelphia, PA: Drexel University.

Kaimal, G., & Gonzaga, A. (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011). Evaluation of the Allentown principal leadership initiative (APLI). Report prepared for the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders (CDUEL), Lehigh University. Philadelphia, PA: Drexel University.

Cubit, B., Sacks, F., Kaimal, G., & Song, C. (2015). Diversity in the school district. Report prepared for the Upper Dublin School District. Upper Dublin township, PA: Educational Advisory Committee of the Upper Dublin School District.

Kaimal, G. (2015, July13th). How my artistic practice informs my evaluation practice.

Kaimal, G., & Junkin, J. (2015). Evaluation of the Art of Growing Leaders (AGL).  Report prepared for ArtWell, Philadelphia, PA: Drexel University, Temple University.

Kaimal, G., Gonzaga, A., & Saenz, L. (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009). Evaluation of the Philadelphia high school leadership project (PHSLP). Report prepared for the School District of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Institute for Schools and Society, Temple University.

Kaimal, G., Jordan, W., Gonzaga, A., & Royal, C.* (2011, 2010, 2009, 2008). Evaluation of the Promoting excellence in Philadelphia schools (PEPS).  Report prepared for the School District of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Institute for Schools and Society, Temple University.

Kaimal, G., Brooks, W., Gonzaga, A., & Savage, L. (2008). Pennsylvania Governor’s school for urban teaching (PGSUT): Pilot year evaluation report. Philadelphia, PA: College of Education, Temple University.

Kaimal, G. (2014). Evaluation of the Beyond Bollywood exhibition. Philadelphia, PA.

Kaimal, G. & Momaya, M. (2012). Evaluation of the Gender Mainstreaming, Learning and Accountability Initiative (GMLAI). Philadelphia, PA.

Kaimal, G. (2014). Evaluation of the Abraham’s Path training leaders initiative. Philadelphia, PA

Kaimal, G. (2013, December 27). The Pragmatist’s guide to Long Distance Evaluations. Retrieved from

Kaimal, G. (2013). Art Stories. Art therapy blog index. Retrieved from

Girija Kaimal, EdD, MA, ATR-BC

Associate Professor, PhD Program in Creative Arts Therapies
Department of Creative Arts Therapies, Drexel University

Board of Directors, American Art Therapy Association

Mailing address:

1601 Cherry Street (Three Parkway) 7th floor
Room 7109, Mail stop 7905
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Desk: 267.359.5507
Fax: 267.359.5579