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The History of Art Therapy at the National Institutes of Health


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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Research Center is a government facility that has a long history of groundbreaking research. Art therapy research began at NIH in 1958 with Hanna Kwiatkowska, whose work contributed to the foundation of art therapy with families, and with Harriet Wadeson, who conducted psychodynamic art therapy research. This article describes the early history of art therapy research at NIH, its loss of salience at the institute as government funding priorities shifted, art therapy's reestablishment there as a clinical practice in palliative care, and possible directions for future research.
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Art Therapy
Journal of the American Art Therapy Association
ISSN: 0742-1656 (Print) 2159-9394 (Online) Journal homepage:
The History of Art Therapy at the National
Institutes of Health
Megan Robb
To cite this article: Megan Robb (2012) The History of Art Therapy at the National Institutes of
Health, Art Therapy, 29:1, 33-37, DOI: 10.1080/07421656.2012.648097
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Published online: 16 Mar 2012.
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Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 29(1) pp. 33–37
AATA, Inc. 2012
brief report
The History of Art Therapy at the National Institutes of
Megan Robb, Edwardsville, IL
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Research
Center is a government facility that has a long history of ground-
breaking research. Art therapy research began at NIH in 1958
with Hanna Kwiatkowska, whose work contributed to the foun-
dation of art therapy with families, and with Harriet Wadeson,
who conducted psychodynamic art therapy research. This ar ti-
cle describes the early history of art therapy research at NIH, its
loss of salience at the institute as government funding priorities
shifted, art therapys reestablishment there as a clinical practice
in palliative care, and possible directions for future research.
Art therapy was purely a research pursuit i n the initial
years of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a U.S. gov-
ernment agency with a long history of groundbreaking re-
search. As par t of NIH, the Clinical Research Center is a
research hospital that provided art therapy with a strong re-
search foundation that supported clinical practice but did
not extend past the 1970s. Due to a shift in funding, art
therapy faded in interest and had no presence at NIH for
decades until it returned in NIH’s clinical arena of pallia-
tive care. This article presents the history of art therapy at
NIH, the loss of the research agenda, and the shift to clini-
cal services. Possible directions for the future of art therapy
within the government-funded Clinical Research Center are
discussed as they relate to clinical care and also to NIH’s cur-
rent research agenda.
The Beginning of Art Therapy at NIH
The National Institutes of Health, a federal agency that
funds biomedical research, traces its roots to 1887 and the
Laboratory of Hygiene at the Marine Hospital in Staten Is-
land, New York (NIH, 2008). NIH provides research sup-
Editor’s Note: Megan Robb, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, is an As-
sistant Professor in the Art Therapy Counseling graduate pro-
gram of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Correspon-
dence concerning this report can be addressed to the author at
port around the world; in the United States, the Clini-
cal Research Center of Bethesda, Mar yland, is the agency’s
own research hospital, established in 1953 (NIH, 2011).
Only a few years later, in 1958, art therapy pioneer Hanna
Kwiatkowska started the first government-funded art ther-
apy research protocols there (Wadeson, 2006a).
Kwiatkowska had formerly practiced art therapy at St.
Elizabeths Hospital, a mental health institution in Wash-
ington, DC (Wadeson, 2006a). Through a connection with
psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichman, she began working
at NIH in its family studies program (Junge, 1994). The
program had been started by family system therapy pioneer
Murray Bowen and continued with Lyman Wynne, who
later became chief of the Adult Psychiatry Branch until
his retirement in 1971 (Wadeson, 2006a). Thanks to the
leadership of Bowen and Wynne, art therapy research was
funded for inclusion in the psychodynamic family research
agenda and led to the development of a standard evaluation
According to Wadeson (2006a), the connection to art
therapy “began accidentally when family members visited
patients and attended their art therapy sessions” and discov-
ered that “both their individual and conjoint art pieces re-
veal[ed] family dynamics” (p. 56). In recounting this history
Wadeson also described family art therapy sessions where
family members drew their perceptions of their family and
made joint pictures to explore family dynamics. Family art
therapy allowed family members to use art to share their in-
ternal conflicts with one another when verbalizations were
not accessible (Stabler, 1967). In addition to her family
work, Kwiatkowska participated in monozygotic twin re-
search with Loren Masur.
Kwaitkowskas position was as head of the art therapy
program for the adult psychiatry branch of the National
Institute of Mental Health and her research protocols
resulted in the development of the Family Art Therapy
Evaluation. As reported in a 1967 issue of The NIH Record
(a biweekly bulletin for agency personnel), the Fulbright
Foundation sponsored Kwiatkowskas international travel,
teaching activities, and research for the Family Art Therapy
Evaluation (Stabler, 1967). Her first of three Fulbright
trips was noteworthy as art therapys first nationally funded
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science excursion (Junge, 1994). The article in The NIH
Record also noted that an appealing aspect [was] the
fact that families the world over respond very similarly to
art therapy regardless of cultural and social differences
(Stabler, 1967, p. 3). A 1970 article in The NIH Record
highlights the value of Kwiatkowskas family art therapy as
indicated by the “growing number of requests to conduct
seminars on her techniques (Wardell, 1970, p. 11). Overall,
Kwiatkowskas research focused on the practice of family art
therapy based in psychodynamic theory.
When Kwiatkowska retired from NIH in 1971, she
joined the George Washington University Art Therapy Pro-
gram and, in 1973, received the prestigious Honorary Life
Member award of the American Art Therapy Association
(Davis, 1974). Two years before she died, she published
Family Therapy and Evaluation Through Art (Kwiatkowska,
In 1961, 3 years after Kwiatkowska began art therapy
research at NIH, Harriet Wadeson joined the unit as a
volunteer and was later hired (Wadeson, 1980). At the time
art therapy research was conducted from its own protocol
rather than as an addendum to the research studies of others.
Wadeson described her role as that of art therapist both
for clinical evaluations and continual care during clients
hospitalizations. She wrote that her experience at NIH was
eye-opening [and] exhilarating as she felt perched on the
leading edge of psychiatric research (Wadeson, 2006b, p.
86). Art therapists were hired primarily as researchers to
develop theory and connect psychopathology to artwork,
not as clinicians to provide care.
In gaining understanding of the research climate Wade-
son had to learn how the politics of institutions affected the
art therapist’s clinical work. She observed that patients in re-
search studies at times were valued only for the data they
provide (Wadeson, 1980, p. 19). In the hierarchy of the
medical community she found that the art therapist had to
start near the bottom (pp. 19–20). This parallel status of
patient and art therapist residing at the bottom of the h os-
pital’s hierarchy may have led her to become a patient advo-
cate. She was designated as a gadfly championing patients
rights (p. 20).
For an ar t therapist who was in the position of generat-
ing research at NIH, Wadesons role as near the bottom in
the agency’s hierarchy is a surprising reflection. This implies
that within a system such as a hospital, an art therapist may
not be able to attain power or status. Although the work of
Kwiatkowska and Wadeson did not have a lasting impact at
NIH itself, their contributions to the foundation of family
art therapy and the psychodynamic theory of art therapy is
As part of the 25th anniversary celebration of NIH,
Wadeson exhibited “Portraits of Suicide” (Figure 1) for
which she received the Benjamin Rush Award for Scien-
tific Exhibits (Wadeson, 2006b, p. 88). Wadeson pushed
for the recognition of art therapy beyond family work to in-
clude other areas in the adult psychiatry branch of NIH. Dr.
Wynne (as cited in Wadeson, 1980), Chief of the Adult Psy-
chiatry Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health,
referred to art therapys place in NIH research when address-
ing a patient’s prognosis as gleaned from art therapy out-
These findings are documented by collaborative research
which suggests that the patient’s recovery style can be eluci-
dated by the quality and the expressiveness of his or her picto-
rial representation. The recovery style can then be a determin-
ing factor in planning the best type of treatment by all the staff
and in deciding whether drug therapy or other approaches are
indicated. (p. xxii)
It is clear from Wynnes claim above and from early pub-
lications at the time that art therapy research at NIH fo-
cused on changes in artwork that could be correlated with
psychopathology. Wadeson disseminated her art therapy re-
search findings in more than a dozen papers on a breadth
of topics, including the impact of television on the forma-
tion of delusions (Wadeson & Carpenter, 1976b), indica-
tors for various psychiatric illnesses (Wadeson & Carpenter,
1976a), the correlation of suicide with certain features in
drawings (Wadeson, 1975), and conjoint family art therapy
(Wadeson, 1972). In addition to her prolific output of peer-
reviewed articles, Wadeson wrote Art Psychotherapy (1980)
based on her research at NIH.
In 1973 NIH funding priorities changed from psycho-
dynamic theory development to biomedical research (Wade-
son, 2006b). According to Junge (1994), two art therapy
publications were produced by the agency during this tran-
sition time: a bibliography of art therapy literature from
1940–1973 by Linda Gantt and Marilyn Schmal and a
booklet entitled Art Therapy in Mental Health complied by
Rosanna Moore. The Public Health Services agency, which
administered the National Institute of Mental Health arm
of NIH, was restructured into a ne w entity called Alco-
holism, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration in
1973 (NIH, 2011). Many renowned psychiatrists left NIH,
as Wadeson did 2 years later (H. Wadeson, personal com-
munication, April 6, 2010). With the reorganization and
change in leadership of NIH, which by then included no
medical staff who supported art therapy research, a rt ther-
apy research faded. The new leadership brought new ideas
but did not make room for art therapy.
Return of Art Therapy
There is little mention of art therapy in the record of the
National Institute of Mental Health or the larger National
Institutes of Health from the mid 1970s until the 1990s. In
the 1990s, however, a return of art therapy occurred within
the large Recreation Therapy section headed by recreation
therapist Dr. George Patrick. The Recreation Therapy en-
tity of NIH had spent the previous few years transitioning
recreation therapy away from general recreation toward a
clinical approach with specific treatment goals for clients
(G. Patrick, personal communication, April 8, 2010). As
part of that transition, Pain and Palliative Chief Dr. Ann
Berger supported expressive therapies a nd nontraditional
therapeutic modalities, including yoga, tai chi, acupuncture,
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Figure 1 “Portraits of Suicide, Harriet Wadeson (Color gure available online)
music therapy, and art therapy for patients in pain and
palliative care units (A. Berger, personal communication,
March 23, 2010). Art therapy was provided as a clinical
service rather than as a focus for research.
Now falling under recreation therapy and pain and
palliative services, art therapy crossed over many institutions
and protocols, thus increasing awareness for art therapy.
Art therapy practice was extended to patients who were
participants in psychiatric research as part of the Recreation
Therapy sections new mission. In 1996 art therapist Esther
Epstein was hired. She primarily provided clinical art
therapy for children and in the psychiatric units; these
services included no emphasis on research protocols (G.
Patrick, personal communication, April 8, 2010). There
are two mentions of her work as a medical art therapist
in NIH’s historical documentation: Epstein initiated a
window-painting project and she used medical supplies as
art media on a pediatric unit (Kendall, 1999; Brown, 2003).
After Epstein left NIH, I served as an art therapist from
2006 to 2010. I was hired to provide palliative art therapy
and did not conduct research. As the only art therapist in a
234-bed inpatient hospital at the time, I provided services
to patients who, due to NIH’s scope and mission, could
be from any country in the world and could have a rare
or chronic disease. Thus, the type of work I practiced de-
manded both breadth and depth, due to the wide spectrum
of medical and mental illnesses present. The average length
of stay in 2009 was 8.7 days; some patients (as in the psychi-
atric units) resided at NIH for months, whereas others stayed
for as little as 2 days. The work was fast-paced and interdisci-
plinary, just as Wadeson described her work in the 1970s (H.
Wadeson, personal communication, April 6, 2010). How-
ever, today patients with a range of diagnoses arrive from all
over the world rather than solely from local communities.
Patient-centered care commonly defines clinical prac-
tice in medical settings. In addition, the view of art ther-
apy as an agent of social change and advocacy is widely held
(e.g., Allen, 2011; Argue, Bennett, & Gussak, 2009; Kaplan,
2000; Newman, 2010). Therefore patient rights, reduction
of stigma, and communication as a form of social advocacy
were focal areas in my patient-centered care. For example,
in collaboration with patients, caregivers, and the staff, pa-
tients told their stories of illness and hospitalization in small
paintings that resulted in a permanent art therapy exhibit
first displayed in March 2009. Common themes expressed
in the artwork were isolation, hope, fear, being cared for,
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and—most frequently—a healthy sense of self. The artwork
showed another side of the patients and helped to address the
stigma associated with medical and mental illnesses. Such an
approach to art therapy echoes Wadesons earlier role as pa-
tient advocate when conducting her research. In my situa-
tion the patient art project could have been conducted as a
qualitative research project but the latter was prohibited by
the hospital administration so as to protect the patients who
were already involved in other research protocols. My role
was to focus on patient-centered care; this example under-
scores the difference between being hired as a clinician and
being hired as a researcher.
Much of the fundamental diagnostic work of
Kwiatkowska and Wadeson is still followed in the United
States, which becomes clear when art therapists com-
municate to others the phenomena of clients creating
artwork and their products. In treatment team meetings,
the psychiatrists with whom I worked were in support of
reviewing a clients artwork and comparing works made
over the course of a client’s symptom change. For example,
when working with children who had childhood-onset
schizophrenia, which is often misdiagnosed as pervasive
developmental disorder or autism, the staff psychiatrist
confirmed that the content and form of the art products
and process of art making helped her diagnose correctly
(J. Tossell, personal communication, May 8, 2010). This
is one example of what past research has brought us—a
structure for looking at artwork as well as an indication of
needed development in assessment (Slayton, D’Archer, &
Kaplan, 2010).
The American Art Therapy Association (AATA; n.d.)
posted a position statement on ARTSblog, the blog of Amer-
icans for the Arts, about challenges to the field of art ther-
apy in the 21st century. AATA noted that the health care
environment and culture are also evolving, with alternative
and complementary health practices becoming more widely
accepted” (p. 1). An expanded research agenda with joint
research ventures with other behavioral health fields is a fo-
cus for the future. A parallel position of the Clinical Re-
search Center is to focus on biomedical research, specifically
with genetic research and neuroscience. National Institute
of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel stated that “impor-
tant discoveries in areas such as genetics, neuroscience, and
behavioral science largely account for the substantial gains
in knowledge that have helped us to understand the com-
plexities of mental illnesses and behavioral disorders over the
past 15 years (U.S. Department of Health and Human Ser-
vices, 2008, p. iv). In a press release, NIH Director Fran-
cis Collins reiterated that there is a great need for bedside
research to develop therapies and to take them from the
laboratory bench to the patient bedside” (NIH, 2010, para.
4). Both AATA and NIH have a shared research agenda of
interdisciplinary work that focuses on applying research to
treatment. The researcher–practitioner model or participa-
tory action research may help bridge the clinicians role into
more of a research role.
One lesson learned from our history is to build a vari-
ety of networks for art therapy by providing patient-centered
care. Art therapy cannot rely on the interest of a few medical
doctors; rather, it needs broad institutional support from di-
verse disciplines within the health care system. Although art
therapists at NIH are hired to do clinical work rather than
research, there are ways that art therapists in any setting can
work with such limitations. They can inform research by
developing relationships with researchers and staying cur-
rent with research agendas. Given the small number of art
therapists employed either specifically at NIH’s Clinical Re-
search Center or more generally in government-funded re-
search hospitals, long-term outside collaboration is essential.
Many of the studies at the Clinical Research Center are life
history studies or other longitudinal research, which provide
an extended focus that is a critical factor in research at NIH
and many other institutes and offers future opportunities.
Currently art therapy is provided as bedside care at
NIH, but where does that leave research? From my perspec-
tive as a clinician who has worked in a research facility, I be-
lieve that joint art therapy research can be supported at NIH
and particularly in the areas of pain and palliative care and
recreation therapy. In my review of the institutional changes
at NIH from psychodynamic research and projective draw-
ings to biomedical research, I recognized that neuroscience
research on alcoholism, schizophrenia, mood disorders, and
medical illnesses are currently the focus of the Clinical Re-
search Center. Areas of potential research include the study
of art therapy as a tool to (a) increase the motivation to
stay sober (translational research with motivational inter-
viewing); (b) decrease substance abuse cravings; (c) iden-
tify graphic indicators of childhood-onset schizophrenia; (d)
decrease negative effects of schizophrenia in adults; (e) aid
with bereavement and the process of dying; and (f) assess
the needs of diverse populations utilizing art therapy assess-
ments that have been shown to be reliable and valid. Because
medical research and government sponsorship now involve
patients from all over the world, NIH has a unique set of
populations to study—ones rich with ethnic and socioeco-
nomic diversity. Such a population sample would increase
generalizable results of research.
Another strategy is to train art therapists in methodolo-
gies that fit within a biomedical model. The advancement of
doctoral level art therapy programs and faculty is encourag-
ing, which can only bring about a more comprehensive focus
on research and better training for graduate students. Con-
nections between institutions of higher learning and research
facilities can be a positive outcome. Students may then be
prepared to meet other researchers on equal footing, just as
art therapists are equal to other mental health providers in
their clinical work.
One product of the initial work at NIH was
Kwiatkowskas Family Art Therapy Evaluation. Since then
there has been minimal research conducted to assess this
tool’s reliability and validity. In part this may be due the
historical challenges of projective drawing assessments in
research. Betts (2006) explained that psychoanalysts and
art therapists perceived art as a reflection of mood or
progress and attempted to understand the individual more
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thoroughly. This approach was faulty in that it lacked sci-
entific rigor” (p. 428). Betts has advocated for improving
assessment and research in this arena.
Art therapists can incorporate research into their
clinical work at government-funded research hospitals, but
this can happen only with the h elp of other art therapists.
The future of art therapy research depends upon networks
of expertise, not upon one person alone. By partnering
with other professionals who have an expertise in research
design, forming relationships with researchers, and building
a supportive research network, we can increase the output
of art therapy research. The history of art therapy at NIH
suggests the power of relationships and interdisciplinary
work to fur ther our field.
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Given the detrimental long-term physical and emotional effects of self-mutilation (SM) coupled with the tendency not to disclose suffering and the shortcomings of current diagnostic techniques, early detection of the phenomena utilizing an external tool such as a projective drawing test (not a medical examination) might provide an opportunity to identify and consequently assist self-mutilators.This study aimed to determine if and to what extent indicators of self-mutilating behaviors are expressed in self-figure drawings of female adolescents who were sexually abused. Researchers used a version of (draw yourself) Machover's Draw A Person (DAP) Test, because it is an easy to administer and non-intrusive screening tool, hypothesizing that it will improve the detection of SM. This will facilitate practitioners’ future location of adolescent females at risk for SM as well as assist in prioritizing accessibility to treatment.A convenience sample of 92 adolescent girls was recruited for this study. Participants completed the DAP test in addition to a previously validated self-report questionnaire, the Traumatic Events Questionnaire (TEQ).Findings include positive correlations between psychometric assessments and two indicators of self-mutilation in the DAP test (body line and sexual signs). The study also provides validation of four indicators of sexual abuse previously documented in research: face line, eyes, hands/arms, and genitals.
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The present article reviews the Spanish history of the art therapy profession and research. In addition, a contemporary view of current art therapy research is described through a bibliometric analysis of 160 art therapy articles published in the Spanish Journal of Art Therapy. Papers on Art Therapy and art Education for Social Inclusion from 2011 to 2021. The following research indicators were analyzed: authorship, participants, population, artistic discipline, theoretical models of art therapy intervention, nature of the studies, and assessments. Out-comes revealed that Spanish art therapy researchers are mostly women who usually publish on their own.Additionally, many ages, populations and topics are treated. Visual art is the discipline most used in the analyzed research. Gestalt, community-based art programs, and the eclectic approach are the most selected theoretical models. Most of the studies are qualitative and theory building with no assessment. However, when assessment is included, the type most used is the tools made by the researcher. Implications, limitations, and further lines ofresearch are discussed (4) (PDF) An Overview of Historical and Contemporary Perspectives in Art Therapy in Spain: A Bibliometric Analysis of Spanish Art Therapy Research. Available from: [accessed Mar 08 2023].
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La obesidad infantil constituye una enfermedad compleja causada por la interacción de factores bio-psico-sociales. Aunque existe amplio conocimiento sobre sus causas, consecuencias y tratamientos, afecta gravemente a zonas marginadas y de bajos recursos como la Barranca de Santa Fe, en la Ciudad de México. El presente proyecto se propuso como objetivos: 1) desarrollar un modelo explicativo de la obesidad infantil que considere las necesidades y características de las familias de la Barranca de Santa Fe, y 2) diseñar e implementar un programa de intervención psiconutricional familiar con Terapia de Arte, dirigido a mejorar la autoeficacia infantil, las prácticas de crianza y de alimentación. Se realizaron 4 fases, las cuales incluyeron diferentes métodos y técnicas cuantitativas y cualitativas. Treinta y seis familias o díadas (padres-hijos) fueron estudiadas a profundidad, aunque la muestra total fue de 244 niños de 8-11 años de edad. Se desarrolló un modelo lógico explicativo de la obesidad en dicha comunidad que consideró la influencia de factores diversos, pero realizó una mirada crítica al ambiente familiar y a su relación con factores individuales. Adicionalmente, se diseñó e implementó una intervención psiconutricional familiar con en Terapia de Arte, analizando cómo esta modificó elementos específicos del modelo lógico. Este brindó una caracterización detallada de las familias de la comunidad, facilitando la comprensión del desarrollo de conductas individuales y familiares de riesgo para la salud. El mismo debe ser enriquecido estudiando otras influencias contextuales, comunitarias y escolares. Los resultados sugieren la eficacia del programa diseñado para mejorar la autoeficacia infantil y las prácticas parentales de alimentación y crianza. Sin embargo, este debe ser replicado y evaluado con una mayor muestra y métodos más estructurados. Se elaboraron recomendaciones metodológicas y prácticas para posteriores estudios.
From 1921 until 1936, musician Willem Van de Wall pioneered the modern use of therapeutic music in American prisons and psychiatric institutions. His therapy was steeped in the methods and philosophy of social control, and after World War II, it shaped the professionalizing field of music therapy. Van de Wall's influence reveals an overlooked connection between modern clinical practice and the techniques of control employed in prisons and psychiatric hospitals of the early twentieth century. Given music therapy's broader impact as an element of postwar self-help culture, its relationship to social control practices also disrupts longstanding scholarly ideas about the so-called “therapeutic ethos.” The therapeutic ethos did not originate solely in efforts by the middle classes to adjust to bourgeois modernity. The case of music therapy suggests that some elements of “therapeutic culture” were always coercive and always directed toward the maintenance of race, gender, and class hierarchies.
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In response to a review by Reynolds, Nabors, and Quinlan (2000) of the art therapy literature prior to 1999, this review article identifies studies from 1999–2007 that measured outcomes of art therapy effectiveness with all ages of clinical and nonclinical populations. Although numerous studies blend art therapy with other modalities, this review is limited to studies that isolate art therapy as the specific intervention. The results of this review suggest that there is a small body of quantifiable data to support the claim that art therapy is effective in treating a variety of symptoms, age groups, and disorders.
In 2008, the newly developed Inmate Mural Arts Program (IMAP) conceived, developed, and completed its inaugural project—a 22ft×47ft mural painted on the front of a chapel on the grounds of a prison in rural Florida. This mural, entitled “Transformation through Unity,” was completed in collaboration between faculty and students of the Florida State University Graduate Art Therapy Program and a group of prison inmates. This project, complicated in scope and execution, was a students’ masters’ art therapy graduation project. The IMAP project took approximately 8 months to develop and complete. The process required formal and informal negotiations at all levels to succeed. This project overview will present a brief background and history of the project, review the negotiations that occurred prior to, during, and after its execution, and will present the completed mural. It will conclude with a brief overview of anticipated future projects. The negotiations ultimately produced a product that demonstrated the value and benefits of art for this population. The end piece has resulted in far-reaching implications and results, and has become the first of a series of successful projects for the new Inmate Mural Arts Program.
Systematic collection of art products from 55 schizophrenic patients provided unexpected documentation of the impact of television on delusion-formation. Patients' drawings and descriptions demonstrate the ease with which they incorporate TV program material in their psychotic experience. It is suggested that clinicians consider television viewing a relevant variable in the design of treatment programs.
There are many benefits to justify the use of art therapy assessment techniques and rating instruments. However, methodological, theoretical and philosophical problems abound. These problems are explored, in relation to art therapy assessments and their corresponding rating tools. Information about the various types of rating scales is provided, including a comparison of the Diagnostic Drawing Series (DDS) rating system and that of the Person Picking an Apple From a Tree (PPAT) assessment, i.e., the Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS). The most effective approach to assessment in the field of art therapy appears to incorporate objective measures such as standardized evaluation procedures (formal assessments; behavioral checklists; portfolio evaluation), and subjective approaches such as the client's interpretation of his or her artwork.
The literature on art productions from psychiatric patients consistently suggests that specific graphic characteristics distinguish among various major diagnostic groups. These hypothesized differences are summarized. Systematic collection of art productions as part of separate research programs studying affective psychoses and schizophrenia has enabled us to amass a collection of psychotic patients' drawings which are used in an attempt to evaluate these hypotheses empirically. Art sessions were held with 104 patients hospitalized for affective psychoses and with 62 patients hospitalized for acute schizophrenia at NIH's Clinical Center. Comparing these drawings across diagnostic groups revealed, to our surprise and contrary to extant hypotheses, considerable within-diagnostic group variability and between-group overlap. There were, nonetheless, some trends in the hypothesized directions. These differences, however, disappeared when comparisons were made on a subsample of age-matched patients. This discrepancy between this research and expectations based on the literature is discussed. Our studies indicate that pictorial characteristics are not closely associated with diagnosis. We have, however, found that individual patient's art productions, and their associations to the pictures, are of great value in arriving at a dynamic understanding of the patient, regardless of diagnosis.
Television in the hospital: Programming patients' delusions
  • H Wadeson
  • W T Carpenter
Wadeson, H., & Carpenter, W. T. (1976b). Television in the hospital: Programming patients' delusions. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 46 (3), 434-438.
NIMH Art Therapy Unit holds seminar to show techniques with families
  • W Wardell
Wardell, W. (Ed.). (1970). NIMH Art Therapy Unit holds seminar to show techniques with families. NIH Record, 22(21), 11. Retrieved from Archive/ 1970%20pdfs/197001013.pdf