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Art Therapy with the Imprisoned: Re-creating Identity... Dr Dave Gussak at the International Art Therapy Practice/Research Conference

29 March 2019

“I am very excited for this amazing inaugural event as I look forward to learning from my friends and colleagues in the United Kingdom, where art therapy in the correctional arena has a long, well-established and revered history.” Dr Dave Gussak

Prisons in the United States are known for being therapeutically impoverished where security is instituted through the systematic objectification of the inmates. Identity is stripped away-- inmates are given a number and uniform, reinforcing their loss of self, ultimately disempowering and dehumanizing them for control. This is clearly detrimental to success.

Inmates often rebel against such control, becoming violent, manipulative, or simply apathetic. They might also acquire or maintain debilitating mental health symptoms such as depression and various levels of psychoses. 

Art therapy has been demonstrably valuable in mitigating this. This presentation, draws on the perspectives of Social Interaction and Labelling Theory, explores the benefits of art and art therapy in corrections through: illustrations from established arts and art therapy programs; perspectives from inmates and correctional art therapists; and results of several published and ongoing research studies. Ultimately, it will emphasize how art therapy overcomes personal and institutional barriers to mitigate mental illness,  facilitate wellness and re-create new identities for those in prison.


Dave Gussak, PhD, ATR-BC is Professor for the Florida State University’s [FSU] Graduate Art Therapy Program and Project Coordinator for the FSU/FL Dept of Correction’s Art Therapy in Prisons program. He has presented and published extensively internationally and nationally on forensic art therapy and art therapy in forensic settings. These include, among others, Art on Trial: Art Therapy for Capital Murder Cases [Columbia University Press] and the soon to be released Art and Art Therapy with the Imprisoned: Re-Creating Identity [Routledge Publishing] . He is also the co-editor [with Dr. Marcia Rosal] and contributing author for The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy. He is working on his latest book on the relationship between art and violence, for Oxford University Press.

Dr. Gussak has served the art therapy field in many capacities. In 2017, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the  American Art Therapy Association. 

See previous papers by Dr Dave Gussak here 


The International Art Therapy Practice/Research Conference will be held on 11-13 July 2019 at Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London.

For more information please click here

You can also follow the conference on Twitter using #ArtTherapyIntConf