As an art therapist, Debra has worked around the world to study the impacts of turmoil and violence and the ability of art therapy to “provide an effective means of expressing the resulting experiences of fear, loss, separation, instability and disruption.”
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Political violence, civil war, terrorism – words we hear on a regular basis as the news cycle tells us of chaos and upheaval across the world, from China to the Middle East to Africa and beyond.
But for GSASS Expressive Therapies alumna Debra Kalmanowitz, these issues are an integral part of her every day professional life. As an art therapist, Debra has worked around the world to study the impacts of turmoil and violence and the ability of art therapy to “provide an effective means of expressing the resulting experiences of fear, loss, separation, instability and disruption.”
Her latest work has brought her to China. Living in Hong Kong, Debra works as an art therapist and art therapy supervisor with local NGOs. She and her colleagues have recently released a new book, Art Therapy in Asia, an edited volume with chapters from leading art therapists and community artists across the region. The first of its kind, Art Therapy in Asia details how art therapy is growing in this area, what new and traditional techniques are being used, and how practices are evolving.
“Art therapy provides unique opportunities to help people across nationalities, physical boundaries, political and religious barriers and economic status,” Debra explains. “Through the years I’ve been able to practice in my field and to work with people of all ages and from all walks of life. My experiences at Lesley and the strong foundation I gained from my graduate school training firmly grounded me in the deep understanding of the arts and art therapy. It is this foundation that has allowed me to adapt the practice to working in precarious situations, outside of the clinical settings, across the globe.”
Debra graduated from the Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences at Lesley University in 1992 with a degree in Expressive Therapies which involved studies at the Arts Institute Project in Israel. Since then she has co-authored three books and numerous articles in the field, and worked with both adults and children in countries of war and upheaval around the world. Her work has focused on political violence and torture as well as trauma, loss and social change. She co-founded the Art Therapy Initiative (ATI) in 1994, and has held a number of leadership positions and served as a consultant and trainer for other professionals in the field.
Lesley University Professor Shaun McNiff, a pioneer in the field of Expressive Therapies and founder of Lesley’s program, notes that Debra’s work is vital to the growing field of art therapy. “With the publication of Art Therapy in Asia Debra has authored what I consider to be three of the most important books in the now extensive art therapy literature,” McNiff explains. “This new volume builds upon the first truly international practice of art therapy as documented in Art Therapy and Political Violence (2005) focusing on the Balkans, Middle East, Sudan, Northern Ireland, New York, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and The Portable Studio: Art Therapy and Political Conflict: Initiatives in the Former Yugoslavia and KwaZuluNatal, South Africa (1997), both co-authored by Debra with Bobby Lloyd. The unusual scope and vision of these works is an inspiration and indication of the universal healing powers of artistic expression.”
One of the fastest growing graduate programs at Lesley University, the arts in therapy field is expanding internationally, and our alumni continue to be leaders in the field. Debra’s work will continue to be an important part of the field for years to come, and we look forward to her continued success.
Debra’s books are available for purchase online by clicking here.
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