History & Development

For over thirty years the art therapy program at Loyola Marymount has been committed to the education and training of art psychotherapists in Los Angeles and the greater southern California region. During this time, its faculty has maintained a level of excellence that has made the program one of the finest in the country.

The Early Years

Helen Landgarten was the visionary founder of the Clinical Art Therapy program at Loyola Marymount University. In 1964, as a result of her exploratory work with a geriatric population in a community center and an inpatient unit at U.S.C. County General Hospital, painter Helen Landgarten began to develop a therapeutic and psychologically-oriented approach to teaching art.

In 1967 Helen presented her ideas to the Mental Health Division at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and initiated a six week trial program there. The success of this program resulted in her becoming a regular staff member. Her association with Cedars Sinai/Thalians Community Mental Health Center as coordinator of Art Psychotherapy continued until her retirement. This association provided Helen with clinical training and the opportunity to further develop her theory and techniques of clinical art therapy.

In 1972 Helen was invited by Immaculate Heart College (IHC) to teach two art therapy courses. In the spring semester IHC requested that Helen set up a certificate program with a master's degree being initiated the following year. The original faculty members at IHC consisted of Helen Landgarten, Leslie Thompson and Maxine Borowsky Junge. The first class graduated in 1975.

One of the most important strategies for introducing art therapy to the Los Angeles area mental health community was the program's practicum system. As students received clinical training, mental health agencies and institutions where they were placed became acquainted with art therapy. Helen initially established the field placements and Maxine Junge soon became the first field placement coordinator. Shirley Riley became field placement coordinator in 1979 at IHC and continued in this role at LMU until her retirement from the position in 1994. Subsequent practicum coordinators were Janise Escobar, Sherry Lyons, Carla Cross, and Linda Petteway. Kathleen Fogel-Richmond became the current practicum coordinator in 2006.

Coming to LMU

Although the program at IHC proved successful, the college experienced serious financial difficulties in 1978-1979. Rather than lower educational standards or raise tuition, Immaculate Heart College chose to close its doors. The art therapy program moved to Loyola Marymount University in 1980 and became a separate department within the Graduate Division of the university.

Debra Linesch began her art therapy education as a student at IHC in 1979, moved with the program to LMU, and in 1981 was in the first class of art therapists to graduate from Loyola Marymount University. Soon after, Debra became an assistant in the group dynamics course. She began formally teaching in the program the following year as a part-time instructor in the child art therapy course.

In 1979, the American Art Therapy Association had granted the Immaculate Heart College program "Approval" which continued when the program moved to Loyola Marymount University.

In the same year, the State of California recognized the IHC art therapy degree as meeting eligibility requirements towards the Marriage and Family and Child Counseling. As a result, other art therapists became licensed MFCC's. The license is now called Licensed Marital and Family Therapist (LMFT).

When the program moved to LMU, Helen continued as director and Shirley Riley as field placement coordinator. Maxine Junge became associate director and a tenure-track faculty member. The program held a probationary status in the University for two years, eventually becoming fully established.

Years of Challenge

In 1985, the California state board issuing MFCC licenses began a process of changing their regulations which could have excluded art therapists from licensing. The program found itself engaged in a political struggle for its graduates to remain eligible for licensing. Faculty, alumni, and students testified before the state board for many months, spoke with legislators and at legislative hearings in Sacramento, and helped to craft new, more inclusive legislation. California art therapists banded together with the art therapy educational programs at the center and the struggle was ultimately successful.

While the testing for licensing has grown increasingly more difficult and has changed many times over the years, graduates from the LMU program have one of the highest pass rates in the state.

Transition, Expansion & Innovation

Maxine Borowsky Junge Helen Landgarten retired in the spring of 1988, and Maxine Junge became the chairperson until January, 1995. In 1988 Debra Linesch was appointed as a visiting assistant professor and associate director, a position that was formally changed to tenure-track in 1989 after a national search. In January 1995, Debra Linesch became the chairperson. Debra received tenure from the university in 1998 and was promoted to full professor in 2003. Maxine retired from the university in 2000, and Paige Asawa, a 1992 graduate, was hired as a member of the faculty.

The program began the 2000-2001 academic year in its new facilities in University Hall with access to cutting edge technology. In addition, this move to University Hall has allowed the department to enjoy expanded space for students and faculty and an art studio.

The Department established its Art Therapy in Mexico program in 2004. The Mexico program is an optional but strongly recommended program for LMU students. It is designed to broaden their art therapy training by experiencing the arts, language, and culture of Mexico. The program also supports the development of art therapy education for Mexican psychotherapists and Mexican mental health agencies. Courses take place in the cities of San Miguel de Allende and Queretaro in central Mexico. The Mexico program is currently co-directed by Einat Metzl and former faculty member, Ana Laura Treviño.

In June 2005, the department formalized its affiliation within LMU's College of Communication and Fine Arts. After 25 years of existing as an independent program, the program celebrates this integration in a system that embraces the arts, provides it with much appreciated resources, and supports its visibility in the university. With the support of CFA Dean Barbara Busse, the department hired two new faculty members: Einat Metzl and Anthony Bodlovic. Additionally, our practicum coordinator position was expanded from half-time to full-time and is currently held by Kathleen Fogel-Richmond.

The Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic was established in 2007 to serve the community by offering clinical art therapy interventions to underserved children and families who have experienced trauma or are facing very serious obstacles in life. Paige Asawa is the clinic director. "We are not building a building, we are building a community of art therapists" is how Helen Landgarten described the clinic named in her honor at its inauguration. The clinic serves the educational needs of the department's graduate students by providing opportunities to participate in and observe art therapy services. The clinic also provides educational opportunities for alumni, conducts research and offers community outreach.

The art therapy program is committed to engagement with underserved populations. In 2007, the MFTH department began the Summer Arts Workshop, an interdisciplinary program for children of Dolores Mission School in East Los Angeles. This yearly workshop is designed to raise the children's self-esteem and broaden their experiences in the visual arts. In addition, during the academic year MFT students have opportunities to engage in other community based learning endeavors at local schools and juvenile facilities.

In 2012, the department created the Art Therapy Research Institute, a collaboration intended to support and provide resources for the scholarship projects of faculty, students and alumni. It provides opportunities for library access, funding and mentoring and hosts an annual Art Therapy Research Symposium each spring.

The entire curriculum is designed to educate marriage and family therapists using the clinical art therapy modality. In 1989, the name of the degree title was changed to Masters of Art in Marital and Family Therapy. In 2008, the program expanded to 58 units with the addition of Introduction to Mental Health, Psychopharmacology, and Aging & Long Term Care courses. Since 2009, two units in Crisis Intervention and Disaster Response have augmented the program to 60 units. The program continues to educate toward registration (ATR) by the American Art Therapy Association and licensure (MFT) with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) for the State of California.

The Way Forward

Helen Landgarten passed away in February 2011, just a few days before her 90th birthday. The experience of this loss for the program faculty, students, and alumni has been enormous, and the program continues to dedicate its efforts to her legacy.

One way this legacy has been honored was through the inauguration in May 2011 of LMU's Journal of Art Therapy, an online peer-reviewed publication. With faculty member, Einat Metzl as editor, the journal contributes to the knowledge base that supports the practice of art therapy within a systemic context.

In the summer of 2012, the College of Communication and Fine Arts came under the leadership of its new dean, Bryant Alexander. Dean Alexander is currently working with the faculty to guide the program in alignment with the University's overall Strategic Plan. This alignment is natural since so many of the program's projects fall in line with the Strategic Plan's emphases on academic and scholarly excellence, dedication to students, leadership in graduate education, and service to others through a commitment to local and global citizenship.

The program that Helen began and that the faculty has maintained and developed has become one of the premier art therapy programs in the country. The early years coincided with a great period of innovation, and expansion in mental health and art therapy found a solid foundation. In later years, as the mental health system changed, art therapists have relied on their innate creativity and remarkable spirit.

It is often exhausting and always exhilarating work, but the vision that Helen Landgarten created still stands and it continues to develop, expand, and grow.

Edited by Lori Gloyd, Administrative Coordinator for the Department, 1984 to present