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Introducing Dr Donna Betts...

11 October 2016

At the 2016 Attachment and the Arts conference, Dr Donna Betts will present Applications of Attachment Theory in American Art Therapy Practice Illustrated through Kaiser’s Bird’s Nest Drawing and Story.


The British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) are delighted to have Dr Donna Betts, ATR-BC, as our Keynote Speaker for the 2016 Attachment and the Arts conference in December. Dr Betts is Board President of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) and Associate Professor in the Graduate Art Therapy Program at the George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Through the Attachment and the Arts series of conferences, we have aimed to explore art therapy through the lens of attachment theory. Dr Betts will reflect on how attachment theory has impacted on American art therapy practice and describe Kaiser’s Bird’s Nest Drawing (BND), an art-based assessment of attachment security.

We invited Dr Betts to be keynote speaker due to the high quality of her work and as a step to developing closer links between the BAAT and the AATA.

As well as practicing in a wide range of clinical settings with children, adolescents and adults, Dr Betts has made important contributions to the art therapy evidence base. She is an award-winning researcher and author, and a leading authority on assessment in art therapy.  She has presented internationally on a variety of topics, including adoption and foster care, assessment, autism, eating disorders, and research. Dr Betts was recipient of the 2014 Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association Best Paper Award for her article A Review of the Principles for Culturally-Appropriate Art Therapy Assessment Tools.

Dr Betts was also granted the AATA Research Award, with co-investigator Jordan Potash, for An Art Therapy Study of Visitor Reactions to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Experience (2015). One finding of this study was that visitors who took part in art making groups were more likely to sustain empathy over time than the control group, with images evoking feelings and responses that might otherwise have been forgotten. The art making also facilitated the sharing of perspectives and making connections with others.

The relevance of attachment issues in trauma is well known and has been the topic of papers at previous Attachment and the Arts conferences so it is worth noting that Dr Betts is also the George Washington Art Therapy Project Lead for a US Department of Defense DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) SBIR-funded study, that is exploring the use of a computer-based tools to help US military service members express combat-related experiences through personal narratives in a graphic novel/sequential art format. In her capacity as AATA President, she is also involved in increasing recognition of art therapists’ contributions to treating combat Veterans through advocacy efforts at the state and federal levels of government.

There have been some important differences in the way art therapy has developed in the UK and the USA, two of which are relevant to Dr Betts’ presentation. One is the greater need in the US for demonstrating treatment efficacy to government bodies, insurance companies and other stakeholders through evidence-based research, as well as the use of standardised approaches to assessment, a topic on which Dr Betts has published a number of papers. Historically there seems to have been a greater readiness in the USA to work with empirical measures. This could be said to have led to a greater level of investment in research in the USA. However, this appears to have been slowly changing, as signified by the existence of this conference, for instance. Another linked difference is that until very recently there was little or no discussion of the use of art directives in the UK literature. This is a great contrast to the USA and it is probably fair to say that directive interventions are still only beginning to be explored in the UK. These differences will surely add interest to Dr Betts’ presentation.

We hope you can join us in welcoming Dr Betts on 2nd December, and engaging in the conversations she will spark up in relation to art therapy practice and research in the UK.

Tim Wright, Chair of BAAT Council


We hope you can join us in welcoming Dr Betts to the 2016 Attachment and the Arts conference on 2nd December.

For more information and booking please click here

You can also see highlights of last year's conference, get the latest on this year's conference, and share relevant articles throughout the year by joining the Attachment & the Arts Conference Facebook Group here