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Recap: 2017 AATA Conference and FSU Friends & Alumni Reception

Published November 20, 2017

From November 8th to the 12th, 2017, FSU Art Therapy Program students, faculty, staff, and alumni traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to attend the 48th Annual American Art Therapy Association (AATA) Conference and FSU Friends and Alumni Reception.

The 2017 AATA Annual Conference was titled Art Therapy: Transcending Landscapes of Heart and Mind, which focused on reflecting how the use of art therapy brings together an all-inclusive approach to wellness and provides a rich platform to inspire presenters as they bring their knowledge to light. It was a promising opportunity for attendees to learn the latest techniques in art therapy, expand their knowledge, network with leading professionals in the field, earn continuing education, and reinvigorate their career. Among other topics, presentations included theories, research, and innovative ways to apply art therapy with a wide range of populations, through extensive number of approaches, and in multiple regions around the world.

FSU Faculty, Student, and Alumni Presentations

FSU’s Art Therapy Program established a strong presence at this year’s AATA Annual Conference. In particular, faculty members Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell, Dr. David Gussak, and Dr. Theresa Van Lith, former faculty member Dr. Carolyn Brown TreadonDoctoral students Rachel Nelms, Ashley Hartman, and Jessie Spraggins Rochford, and alumni Dr. Sheila Lorenzo de la Peña and Rachel Mims conducted and/or co-conducted presentations, focus groups, and/or sessions during the conference.

Practitioner Survey: Developing Evidence-Based Practice for Working with Individuals with Autism

Dr. Theresa Van Lith, along with Jessica Stallings, Chelsea Harris, and Megan Campbell

The presentation elaborated a survey conducted to assess common practice of art therapists working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum. A number of domains of importance were identified and assisted the researchers in development of an Integrative Model of art therapy practice for Autism Spectrum Disorder, including an 8-week group model.


Art Therapy in Forensics

Dr. David Gussak

Dr. Gussak’s session focused on the roles an art therapist engages along the continuum from forensic art therapy to art therapy in forensic settings. He relied on his experience as an expert witness for several murder cases and his work and research on art therapy in forensic settings.


Artful Use of Blogging: Examining Therapeutic Potential and Challenges

Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell

Dr. Parker-Bell’s presentation addressed the question: “What do art therapists need to know about blogging?” It highlighted creative uses of blogging for potential therapeutic benefit. Participants learned important considerations regarding blog and blogger characteristics, blogger-reader communication expectations and consequences, as well as privacy and safety considerations. A case example was provided.


How Do We Address the Question: “What’s Art Therapy?”

Dr. Theresa Van Lith

Through discussing findings from a web-based open-ended questionnaire involving professional art therapists in the United States, Dr. Van Lith’s presentation focused on the language, concepts and terminology that art therapists use to define their professional practice.


Pulling it All Together: Identity, Professionalism, and Creative Self – Focus Group

Dr. Sheila Lorenzo de la Peña

Dr. Lorenzo de la Peña’s focus group encouraged attendees to engage with peers and the session moderator in discussion on issues of creativity and art therapist identity. Participants could share interventions, observations and concerns. Topics explored included developing identity as an art therapist, creative self-care routines, and transference of practices into clinical setting.


Awakening Heart and Mind: Re-humanizing the Dehumanized through Art in Prison

Dr. David Gussak

Emphasizing that art can reverse the oppression and dehumanization inherent in the prison system, Dr. Gussak’s presentation considered how art does, indeed, re-humanize the prison inmate. It included an overview of the theoretical perspectives of Symbolic Interactionism and labeling theory, interviews with people in prison, research results, personal experiences, and numerous illustrations.


Navigating Through Graduate School and Beyond
- Special Student Session

Dr. Carolyn Brown Treadon, along with Susan Boxer Kappel, Janet Kempf, Dana Elmendorf, and Corryn Jackson

The student session encouraged attendees to join other students in an informative exchange on the art therapy educational journey. Representatives from the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education (ACATE), the Art Therapy Credentials Board, and others were on hand to answer questions and provide information on the education journey as well as post-education tips for success. A president of a university student group shared her best practice ideas for engaging students and how to organize and support student groups on your campuses.


Imagining a World Without Art Therapy Credentials: Views from USA and Russia

Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell and Dr. Carolyn Brown

The presentation addressed the following statement: “In a world where there are many demands on art therapists’ time and funds, and where related licenses may be sufficient for practice, some may question the necessity of art therapy credentials.” To amplify the importance of credentialing, Dr. Parker-Bell and Dr. Brown Treadon examined potential consequences of a “credential-less world.”


Inspiring Creativity: Mindful Arts in Forensic Mental Health

Dr. Sheila Lorenzo de la Peña

Dr. Lorenzo de la Peña’s presentation reflected on two types of mindfulness- informed art therapy groups developed at an inpatient mental health hospital: an acute baker act unit versus a forensic unit. It emphasizes how having the media and process take lead made the often foreign concepts of mindfulness more accessible to a broader range of individuals served.


Partnering Royals Charities and Art Therapy: Grant Funded Arts and Autism Programming

Jessica Stallings, along with Dr. Gaelynn Wolf Bordonaro and Keslie Humburg

The presentation described how the Kentucky Art Therapy Association partnered with Royals Charities to provide arts-based programs for children with autism and their families. Facilitators were passionate about art therapy and Autism, and fans of the 2015 World Series Champion! Participants were introduced to the diverse components of the programming, and sporting organizations as resources.


Master Supervision Group: Military Population

Rachel Mims, along with Jane Avila

The session provided the opportunity for participants to discuss experiences working with military veterans, both within a government system, an education setting and out in the community. Art therapy interventions and practical information were shared within the group setting.


Connecting the Hearts and Minds of Grieving Inner-City Youth Through Art Therapy

Rachel Nelms

Using a case vignettes in an art therapy bereavement program, Nelm’s presentation examined the relationship between grief and aggression in adolescents, particularly in response to violent and traumatic deaths. The program was illustrated to emphasis on rituals and closure, development of empathic social connections, and potential reduction of aggressive symptoms.


Wellness at Universities: A Group Art Therapy Approach

Jessie Spraggins Rochford, along with Ashley Hammond

The presentation focused on Acoma
Group art therapy, which provides university students with unique and beneficial avenues for expression, self-care, and connection with other students. Spraggins Rochford and Hammond explored the use of group art therapy at a university counseling center and provided specific examples of common student clinical presentations and appropriate group art therapy interventions.

The Department congratulates the presenters for their outstanding presence and representation at the AATA conference!

Conference Awards Recipients

Professional AATA members can nominate art therapists to be awarded honors for their outstanding contributions to AATA, the profession of art therapy, art therapy education, and clinical work. Moreover, the AATA Research Committee recognizes outstanding achievements in research by both students and professionals through annual awards.  All awards are announced at the annual conference. FSU Art Therapy Program faculty Dr. David Gussak and Dr. Theresa Van Lith were distinguished during the 48th Annual AATA Conference.



Dr. David Gussak

Distinguished Service Award

The Distinguished Service Award is conferred in recognition of significant contributions to the field of art therapy, specially in the area of AATA’s internal development as well as its relationship with other organizations.







Dr. Theresa Van Lith, along with Jessica Stallings

Rawley Silver Research Award

The purpose of this award is to fund an art therapy research study in its proposal stage.



Congratulations, Dr. Gussak and Dr. Van Lith Cuyler, for such exceptional and outstanding achievements!

FSU Art Therapy Program Friends & Alumni Reception

Hosted by the FSU Art Therapy Association (FSU-ATA), the FSU Art Therapy Program Friends & Alumni Reception was held at the Albuquerque Community Foundation on Friday, November 10th, 2017, at 8:00 p.m. Nearly 60 guests were in attendance, including FSU alumni, current and former faculty, AATA board members, and long-time friends. Also present were members of the Florida Art Therapy Association (FATA), Emporia State University, and Notre Dame de Namur University, which all agreed to serve as sponsors for the reception.


Guests were able to enjoy cold beverages and hors d’oeuvres while conversing and networking with current students, faculty, alumni, staff, colleagues, and friends of the Department. Later in the event, Dr. David Gussak gathered all guests to deliver a brief speech in gratitude for their attendance and in honor of the FSU students, faculty, and alumni, including those responsible for arranging the event and those with recent accomplishments and awards. After Dr. Gussak acknowledged special guests attending the event,  directors of the Emporia State University and Notre Dame de Namur University Art Therapy Programs, respectively, followed with corresponding speeches to their students, faculty, alumni, and friends.

Thank you to those who made the FSU Art Therapy Program Friends & Alumni Reception possible and those who attended the event!