The Department of Art Education’s Art Therapy Program recently held its first of three summer weekend courses. The course took place on June 9-10, 2017, from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. It focused on the treatment of trauma-related disorders, ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to the dissociative disorders. In attendance were individuals from a diverse range of fields, including Art Therapy, Career Counseling, and Construction. Upon completion of the course, students learned that certain art therapy techniques make it possible for trauma survivors to process their traumas without in-depth psychotherapy. Regardless of the severity or the specific type of trauma, adults and children can use art therapy techniques to address the troubling and often disabling symptoms of flashbacks, nightmares, phobias, and mood disturbances.
The course was taught by visiting professors Linda Gantt, PhD, ATR-BC, LMFT, ATCS and Paula Howie, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, LCPAT, HLM. Dr. Linda Gantt has been an art therapist for 40 years. She earned an MA in Art Therapy from the George Washington University and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Gantt has been active in art therapy teaching, writing, and research. She has held several offices in the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), including that of President and is an Honorary Life Member. Dr. Gantt is best known for developing the Formal Elements Art Therapy Scale (FEATS), which is used to rate the Person Picking an Apple from a Tree (PPAT) Assessment. Her business interests include the ITR Training Institute and Intensive Trauma Therapy in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Paula Howie directed the Art Therapy Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 1979 to 2002. She was an Associate Professorial Lecturer in the Art Therapy Graduate Program at the George Washington University from 1980 to 2015. She currently lectures in the Art Therapy Graduate Programs at the School of the Visual Arts in New York and at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Paula is active in the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), holding numerous positions including past President. She attended and taught in the Advanced Psychotherapy Program (APTP) at the Washington School of Psychiatry. She maintains a private practice in Washington, DC, where she focuses on the treatment of trauma with children and adults. She co-edited a book on Art Therapy with Diverse Populations: Crossing Cultures and Abilities (2013). She is currently editing the manuscript for Art Therapy with Military and Veteran Populations: History, Innovations, and Applications which will be published in 2017. In addition to her writing, private practice, and teaching, Paula is an avid watercolor painter.
Dr. Linda Gantt and Paula Howie taught students about the historical developments in trauma therapy, how art therapy has been used with the military population, collective traumas and individual traumatic experiences, the ubiquity of trauma, and associated diagnoses. Dr. Gantt emphasized the importance of treating the foundational trauma (i.e. severe neglect, early medical trauma, or serious illnesses) first to avoid the misdiagnosis of patients. She stated, “Treat trauma first and see what is left over,” noting that trauma is usually the common denominator of most patients’ symptoms. Dr. Gantt and Paula Howie taught students about the Instinctual Trauma Response (ITR) as a psychoeducational tool and method for treating trauma. Students were taken through the process of how to treat trauma using the ITR, by being given the opportunity to create graphic narratives about an experienced trauma, witnessing a re-presentation, and participating in an external dialogue.
Dr. Gantt and Paula Howie led an enlightening and engaging weekend course on the treatment of trauma-related disorders using art therapy. Students and the department thank them for sharing their time and wisdom to create better-informed future professionals in their specific fields.