Ph.D., ATR-BC, LCAT
Dr. Raquel Stephenson is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Lesley University’s Art Therapy Program, Core Faculty in the Ph.D. Expressive Therapies program, and Faculty Fellow in Lesley’s Institute for the Arts in Health. She was a 2010/2011 Fulbright Scholar to Estonia, where she taught in the Department of Applied Creativity at Tallinn University and continues to teach periodically as a visiting guest lecturer. She is adjunct faculty at New York University. Dr. Stephenson is a board certified, registered art therapist (ATR-BC) and a licensed creative arts therapist (LCAT).
Committed to improving the lives of older adults through the arts, Dr. Stephenson’s clinical work and research has focused on a wide spectrum of older populations. She was the founder, clinical supervisor and program director of New York University’s Creative Aging Therapeutic Services - a community-based program that provided art therapy to well older adults and those with dementia. She also worked on the geriatric psychiatry unit at St. Luke’s hospital in New York City, and with programs for individuals with HIV/AIDS. She presents her work on the intersection of arts and aging and consults with emerging clinical art therapy programs nationally and internationally. She designed and implemented the first creative arts therapy program for older adults with dementia in Estonia.
Dr. Stephenson serves on the National Advisory Council and Program Advisory Committee of Arts for the Aging in Rockville, MD, and the Advisory Council of the Art Therapy Outreach Center in New York City. She also serves on the Editorial Board of the international journal, Creativity and Human Development. Dr. Stephenson is involved with the American Art Therapy Association, having served on the Educational Program Review Board and Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education.
Lesley University empowers students to become dynamic, thoughtful leaders in education, mental health counseling, and the arts. Located in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to the world’s best-known universities, Lesley combines an intensely creative environment with the practical experience students need to succeed in their careers. Each year, 2,500 undergraduate and 5,300 graduate students pursue their degrees at Lesley. Along with our more than 86,000 alumni, they’re discovering the power of creativity to overcome obstacles, foster connections, and reveal fresh answers to the world’s problems. Highly evolved and uniquely conceptualized, our pace-setting Master's, Certificate, and Doctoral Programs in Expressive Therapies provide a meaningful connection between the arts, theory, and practice in clinical training. As one of the most recognized Expressive Therapies programs in the world, our students are expertly trained and qualified providers of mental health services.
When we talk about healthcare in the USA, we are often talking about treating illness and how much it costs. If we think about our health as a pyramid-shaped iceberg with good health being the wide base upon which growth and wellbeing are supported, and illness at the very top, we see that only the tip of the iceberg gets all the attention. What about that much larger mass of ice submerged under the surface of the water - the part of the iceberg that caused the Titanic to sink? The ideas of health promotion are beginning to address that largest part of the health pyramid. That large submerged part of the iceberg is where we have the greatest possibilities of keeping people healthy and living healthy as long as possible.
Freshly inspired from attending the annual National Center for Creative Aging Leadership Conference, I was asked to guest edit an issue of the international journal, Creativity and Human Development, with a focus on Creativity in the United States of America. It was without hesitation that I chose to highlight the incredible work in the field of Creative Aging in this issue.
I am currently in Kyiv, Ukraine giving art therapy training to psychologists and counselors who work with refugees, combat veterans and older adults. Art therapy is in an embryonic state here in Ukraine, but there is interest and need, so I hope to return to give this training again. I will be presenting my work on arts and aging at the National Center for Creative Aging Conference in a few weeks, and in the Fall I presented my work on creative aging at the Arts and Health Australia Conference.
In September, I will be presenting some new scholarship that I am currently working on at the ECaRTE Conference in Palermo. I am especially interested in this new work, as I am exploring how historical and cultural differences influence the training, research and practice of arts therapists working inter-generationally, with a comparative look at USA, Estonia, Australia and Ukraine. I have found the post-soviet intergenerational experience especially intriguing in this context.
This article is based on a qualitative study that examines the creative experience of three women artists over the age of 70 to understand why art making is important to older adults and how it influences the aging process. Some guiding questions include: How do older women engage in making art? In what ways are the art making process and product important to them? How do developmental changes in old age impact the creative process?
This article is based on a qualitative study that examines the creative experience of three women artists over the age of 70 to understand why art making is important to older adults and how it influences the aging process. Some guiding questions include: How do older women engage in making art? In what ways are the art making process and product important to them? How do developmental changes in old age impact the creative process? The study draws from literature discussing aging and human development (Atchley, 1999; Butler, 1963; Erikson, 1959; and Tornstam, 2005), creativity and aging (Cohen et al, 2006; Fisher & Specht, 1999; Lindauer et al, 1997; Reed, 2005; and Simonton, 1990a), and art therapy (Kerr, 1997). The study involved open-ended interviews of the three women and observing their participation in an open art studio group.
The findings indicate that gaining an identity as an artist is particularly important to these women in negotiating their aging process, along with motivation, connection and legacy. The creative experiences of these women reveal that the interrelation of art and aging influences emotional and physical processes, which are evident in the artwork and creative processes of these women. These findings have implications for understanding how creativity plays a role in the aging process of older adults and for the design of therapeutic arts programmes for older adults.
Keywords: creativity, aging, art, identity