A Profession Born on the Battlefield
The outbreak of World War II marked the beginning of a profession first practiced in hospitals to treat soldiers dealing with “shell shock,” now clinically termed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since then, practitioners have espoused the benefits of art therapy as an outlet for expression of feeling. Concurrently, evidence-based art therapy research focusing on the neurological implications of art-making to address trauma and loss, depression, and anxiety—as well as the efficacy of psychosocial interventions for cancer survivors—has become the trend and means to validate the profession.
The Art Therapy Program, one of the first to be accredited by the American Art Therapy Association, was established in 1971 based on the teachings by the founders of art therapy—Edith Kramer, Hanna Yaxa Kwiatkowska, Bernard Levy and Elinor Ulman. All of the program’s current faculty are registered, board certified art therapists who bring with them professional expertise and the latest in clinical practice and research.
"The American Art Therapy Association would like to formally thank you, Bernard Levy, Edith Kramer, Hanna Kwiatkowska, and Elinor Ulman; for your work in the AATA film, Art Therapy: Beginnings." (excerpt from a 1978 letter from AATA.)
Timeline of Art Therapy at GW
The GW Art Therapy Program currently has five full time faculty and approximately 20 adjunct faculty (experienced and practicing art therapists) encompassing a wide range of therapeutic specializations, and a full-time administrative manager.
The GW Art Therapy Program has moved to a new State of the Art Facility—Technological studio classrooms; Art Therapy Gallery; on-site open art studio space Program library, and student computer lab. Art Therapy Clinic—community clinic with video and sound capabilities, three rooms with monitoring space
The GW Art Therapy Program currently has two full-time faculty, one full-time clinical placement coordinator, one part-time faculty, a full-time executive assistant, and ten adjunct part-time faculty (during any given semester). We have over 100 internship placements with a wide variety of populations. The current student body is approximately 20 students each year and we have graduated over 500 students since the formation of the George Washington University Art Therapy Program.
Dr. Bernard Levy, Professor of Psychology at George Washington University, and Elinor Ulman, appointed Assistant Professorial Lecturer, were given approval by GW to start an art therapy program on a one-year's experimental basis. Dr. Levy told the deans that "it will cost you pennies but the rewards will be worth it."
Dr. Levy was the Director of the Program and Elinor Ulman was Coordinator of Clinical Training. There were two part-time faculty, Edith Kramer and Hanna Kwiatkowska; four courses; and ten students.
The program was initially housed in another building and we eventually acquired use of the upstairs and downstairs of 2129 G Street, Building L (back), which is where the Program remains.
American Art Therapy Association was founded. Bernard Levy, Elinor Ulman, and Edith Kramer all served as officers of the newly formed organization.
Elinor Ulman published the first journal devoted to art therapy, the Bulletin of Art Therapy (now the American Journal of Art Therapy).