ATWB Advisory Council Spotlight on Elizabeth Warson, PhD, ATR-BC, LPC, NCC

Posted: February 14, 2011 by Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC in advisory council spotlight interviews, art therapy, collaboration
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During 2011, Art Therapy Without Borders will be featuring members from the Advisory Council as an opportunity to learn more about their work and some of the art therapy initiatives they are involved in that speak to this community’s vision.  February’s spotlight includes Dr. Elizabeth Warson:

Elizabeth Warson, PhD, ATR-BC, LPC, NCC is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Art Therapy Program at George Washington University. She is on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Arts in Healthcare and serves as the co-chair for the Society’s research committee. Her research interests focus on American Indian cancer survivors and their family members and is the recipient of a Johnson and Johnson grant, co-sponsored by the Mayo Cancer Clinic’s Spirit of EAGLES program and a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts grant.  As a professional artist, she has exhibited her sculptural work nationally and internationally.


Tell readers a little about yourself and what your interests are in art therapy: Like many art therapists, I am a person with diverse interests.  Depending on the day, I may identify myself as an artist, researcher, instructor, workshop facilitator, mentor….  Being an artist is the core of who I am; I savor my time in the studio and am always looking for venues to exhibit my work.  I feel fortunate that my day job as an assistant professor at George Washington University provides me with a supportive environment for all my endeavours.  Art therapy has always made “sense” to me regardless of the politics, lack of employment, and misconceptions about the field.  What make “sense” to me these days is collaborating with American Indians/Alaska Natives/Native Hawaiians on wellness-based initiatives.  My “story” can be accessed from a recent article in GWToday.

What do you believe are important considerations or emerging issues for the international art therapy community to pay attention to? Community-based participatory approaches are on the frontline of research and have relevance to practitioners with respect to developing successful partnerships.  Collaboration from the inception of any program/study is vital to creating sustainable practices, which is key to working with underserved communities.  International organizations such as Art Therapy without Borders and the Society for the Arts in Healthcare are providing the platform to create successful collaborative relationships.

What are some special art therapy projects you are working on and for 2011? In collaboration with the Coharie tribe and North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs –through funding from the NEA–we are conducting monthly cultural art workshops for the youth in two settlements of the Coharie tribe.  The documentation from workshops will lead to a traditional arts curriculum for the Cohaire, contributing to their archiving and preservation efforts.  Two traditional artists from the tribe serve as the workshop facilitators.

Through the GW Summer Institute program, we are offering a two-week American Indian Art Therapy immersion experience with the Oglala tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.  This trip is open to students and professionals not affiliated with George Washington University.  Learn more here.

I am presently wrapping up two studies:  An American Cancer Society grant provided me with funding to conduct 14 wellness-based art therapy workshops for American Indian cancer survivors in North Carolina.  An internal grant from George Washington University supported a one-day community workshop exploring the interrelationship between American Indian medicine and art therapy.

This fall I will be conducting a two-day felting making workshop for the Native People’s Circle of Hope conference in Billings, Montana.  This workshop is an extension of my work with my collaborator John Lorance.  John and I have been offering therapeutic feltmaking workshops together since 2006.

How can people contact you or find out more about your work? You can contact me directly at eawarson@gwu.edu or 703-299-4147 or you can facebook me at Elizabeth Warson.  Because much of my research becomes property of the tribal communities I partner with, I am unable to routinely publicize their artwork on the internet.  I have a couple publications coming out this year that I will link to my GW faculty homepage.  Our graduate program also maintains a blog that chronicles our research, international excursions, and special events.

Art Therapy Without Borders thanks Dr. Warson for this interview and sharing her work with the ATWB community!

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