January 2, 2020


As we step into the New Year, we wanted to hear from the AATA’s new President Margaret Carlock Russo, EdD, LCAT, ATR-BC, ATCS about the year to come for our association and also take the opportunity to learn a bit more about Margaret as a clinician and an advocate for the field.

Dr. Carlock-Russo is sworn in as AATA’s 26th President and the 2019-2020 Board of Directors is installed by outgoing president Christianne Strang, PhD, ATR-BC, CEDCAT-S on Nov 1, 2019 during the AATA’s 50th Conference in Kansas City.


Margaret Carlock-Russo, Ed.D., LCAT(NY), ATR-BC, ATCS, has over 24 years of experience as an art therapist working with individuals experiencing learning difficulties, physical disabilities, or dementia. Currently, she is working as the art therapist in a life plan community in Arizona, building their first art therapy program for adults experiencing cognitive and physical decline.

Margaret is also an associate faculty at Prescott College, coordinating their Expressive Arts Therapy Post Master’s Certificate Program. Prior to serving as Board President, she served as Speaker of the Assembly of Chapters (2016) and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair (2011-2015). Margaret’s academic research interest focuses on teachers’ understanding and integration of students’ social and emotional development within the academic environment.


What excites you the most about what’s in store for the AATA in 2020? 

I’m excited to see how recently implemented platforms such as the MyAATA forum, our Blog, and added conference features will support sharing of ideas, resources, and communication among members. I believe one of our greatest strengths lies in the diversity of our practice. Sharing best practices, research, and varied perspectives can only help strengthen our work.

What are your top three priorities as President? 

  1. To continue cultivating equitable and inclusive member services, including increased communication opportunities with membership.
  2. To build on our existing strategic plan in a targeted manner that helps us focus on key growth areas.
  3. To support art therapy advocacy efforts in the areas of licensure, insurance and professional identity.

Was there a memorable experience you had serving on AATA’s board that changed your perspective or confirmed something you already knew?

For me, there was no one particular experience rather, I recall moments when varying opinions and viewpoints were shared. These were the times that reminded me that listening to differing perspectives widens all viewpoints and creates a stronger end product. I hope to continue to promote an atmosphere where many voices are heard.

Having dedicated so much of your career to teaching and mentoring art therapists, what’s one piece of advice for someone interested in pursuing a career in art therapy?

I often share with students and new professionals that, for me, art therapy is more of a calling than a profession. Often art therapists not only provide support and services to clients but are also involved in educating the public and advocating to advance access to art therapy in many areas. It is up to us as practitioners to continually look for opportunities to expand awareness and access in the communities we serve.

Granted any technological (and monetary) resources necessary, what research question would you ask and explore?

For the past several years, I’ve been working with individuals experiencing various conditions causing memory loss and dementia. Some individuals seemed to be able to maintain a sense of identity through their engagement in art making longer than many other functions. I’d like to understand more about the effect creative expression has on sense of self for individuals experiencing degenerative cognitive processes.

 “Sabino Canyon” by Margaret Carlock-Russo. Pastel. 2017.

Artist’s statement: “Sabino Canyon in Tucson, Az is one of my favorite places. Being surrounded by nature is at once calming and exhilarating. The ever-changing landscape in this canyon never fails to amaze me.”