December 17, 2020


During AATA’s first virtual Awards Ceremony, Deborah A. Good, PhD, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPAT, LPCC was presented with the 2020 Honorary Lifetime Member (HLM) Award, the highest distinction of the AATA. Throughout her career, Dr. Good has demonstrated excellence as a clinician, educator, leader, and tireless advocate for the advancement of the profession. 

Deborah Good & Little Miss New Mexico, future Art Therapist.

The criteria for this honor include extensive contributions to the field of art therapy, contributions to the professional advancement of art therapy, and achievement in the arts. “Dr. Deborah Good is an exemplar of a professional who meets the very definition of AATA Honorary Life Member,” as one colleague wrote in a nomination letter. “In [the time we overlapped on the Board of Directors], my appreciation for her organizational savvy, diplomatic skills, and commitment to the mission of art therapy—not to mention her charm and wit—only deepened.” Deborah is not only known for her generous service to the profession but also for sustaining those efforts throughout her career, achieving tremendous results for the field. “Indeed, the increased recognition of the need for art therapy, its value in helping diverse populations, and the case for regulation of the profession, are outcomes that can be directly linked to the tireless efforts of Dr. Good and her lifelong commitment to this field that she so dearly loves,” wrote another colleague. 

We asked Dr. Good to answer some questions about her career, insights on the profession today, and vision for the future.


What advice do you have for the next generation of art therapists? What advice did you receive from your mentors that still has an impact on you today?


You are embarking on a career that will challenge you beyond your imagination.  Do not hesitate to reach out and ask questions to art therapists who you admire, or who serve as experts in an area of practice. Art therapists are very receptive to colleagues and beginning therapists. Be patient with yourself and know that you have entered a career that will demand that you keep learning and growing in order to best serve your clients. There’s a saying on a notebook that I picked up at the Albuquerque Museum that says “I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.” by Le Corbusier. I think that says it all! Trust the art.

Howard McConeghey, ATR and Paula Banek, ATR, were the main influences in my art therapy education. They continued to influence my work throughout my career. Howard’s advice to “go with the resistance” when met with a challenging therapeutic situation has served me well in many clinical settings. Paula instilled in me to “trust the art process and believe in the imagery.” Both of them were steeped in a foundation of Post-Jungian, Archetypal Psychology. I had been trained in Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy from my early work in alternative prison group homes. Working with Howard and Paula opened up a new way of looking at art and therapy. As far apart as these two philosophies seem to be, the training in each created a combined way of working with clients that has been very effective.  


Has working with a particular client group or community shaped your professional focus or specialty? What have you learned from working with these clients?


I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of client populations and settings – from children, adolescents, couples, families, adults with trauma histories, to grief stricken family members and their hospice caregivers. I have worked in group homes, prisons, inpatient and outpatient settings. The majority of my work as an art therapist has been with trauma survivors and clients who experience Post Traumatic Stress. I don’t believe that I sought out to work with this clientele, but rather that they found me through my belief that my job is to listen respectfully to others and follow their lead in therapy.  

Part of my internship experience was working with survivors of the notorious New Mexico Prison riot in 1980. This was one of the most horrific prison riots in the nation’s history.  Many guards and prisoners where killed or brutally injured. I was interning with Paula Banek at the University of New Mexico Hospital’s Drug & Alcohol Mental Health Clinic, where many survivors of the riot were receiving treatment. This internship challenged my core belief system about human nature, and taught me to question my judgmental thoughts. Each of us judges human nature according to our historical upbringing. We accept those influences until we become aware that they may not be appropriate for how we want to view the world. Most importantly, we cannot judge our client’s behaviors. Our job is to help them identify their thought processes and for them to decide which ones to keep and which ones to re-evaluate as to whether they are in their best interest. As their therapists, we have the opportunity to learn from our clients and to evaluate our core beliefs at the same time.

Working with individuals who have been diagnosed with PTSD, I came to understand myself, and my family of origin at a deeper level. My father was a soldier in the 10th Mountain Ski Troops that fought their way through Italy in WWII. I was born shortly after he returned home from the war. Although he never talked about the war, he was very affected by that experience and the atrocities that he witnessed. I believe that my work with clients who have lived through traumatic situations helped me to better understand my parents as human beings and, in turn, be a better, more patient therapist with my clients.  


Since the killing of George Floyd, the topic of race has once again been brought to the forefront of national dialogue. How have race related issues, social justice, and racism informed or impacted your work as an art therapist?


In 1988 there was a conference in Texas on “Facing Evil.” Incredible people were invited speakers including  Maya Angelou, Phillip Hallie, Senator Barbara Jordan, and Al Huang.  “Facing Evil” by Bill Moyers, (Moyers on Democracy, March 28, 1988) is a great online article that contains excerpts from conversations with the speakers who share intimate testimonies of experiences from their lives. I bought the book that came out of the conference and devoured it. A lot of my clinical work dealt with clients who had endured horrific abuse at the hands of others. Sometimes their abuse occurred as the ultimate betrayal by a trusted family member. Phillip Hallie uses the word cruelty, rather than evil, to describe these atrocities. 

Human beings have the innate ability to be cruel. We saw extreme cruelty in the killing of George Floyd, and unfortunately, many others. Wrestling with how this cruelty continues to happen in our world today is something we all have to do. How do we as art therapists sit with someone who tells us or draws pictures of cruelty that they have imposed on others, or acts that have been done to them? Those images haunt us and they should. They remind us to put compassion first, even to those who have not shown compassion to others. Then we need to process our own accountability for the insensitive parts of our personality and behaviors.  

I am grateful to live in New Mexico where the culture is diverse and my life interweaves with a variety of people every day. My art therapy colleagues have confronted social justice issues and rejected racism. My clinical and supervisory practice involves people of many cultural differences. Our conversations are open, honest and sometimes raw. Our willingness to work together through the belief in the power of art overshadows our differences. But we always can do more. I believe we have the power to make a commitment to change how we treat each other by making a conscious decision, a force of will never to take each other for granted and to treat each other with extreme kindness. As art therapists, we will not agree with all the clients who walk through our doors, but we can respect them.


COVID-19 has introduced myriad hardships, from loss of loved ones, economic insecurity, additional responsibilities, and so much more. And art therapists have been on the frontlines, helping people cope, while often feeling overwhelmed and exhausted themselves. Why do you think art therapists are particularly suited to support people during these difficult times, and do you have any advice regarding self-care as they do it?


Art therapists are best suited to work with people during extremely difficult times for many reasons. We encourage people to work with the images of their stress through art making, not just talk about it. In so doing, art therapy accesses a level of understanding that words cannot express by reaching into the imagery of an experience. Creatively connecting with the image of an experience or emotion bypasses the interference of our natural response to alter what we are feeling with words. Art therapy cuts to the core of what needs to be expressed and understood. The art therapy experience does not need interpretation, or to be verbally explained. The act of creating the visual response speaks for itself and is integrated into a deeper level of the art maker’s understanding.

Being an art therapist working through the effects of this pandemic is very difficult. It is overwhelming and exhausting at times to hold onto another person’s pain. Images created in art therapy can be haunting and touch a personal memory base that is difficult for the therapist.  The beauty of art therapy is that we have a built in way of releasing our own images and the images of our clients. Barbara Fish, PhD, ATR-BC, ATCS, LCPCA, HLM talked extensively last year in her Featured Member article about the value of response art. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves through our own creativity. We have to take time to make our own art.   

Each of us has different means of self-care that help to clear our minds. In order to help others, we must be at our best. After working intently all day as a therapist, it is hard to know how to stop and section off your professional and personal lives. I had to develop a mindful visualization when I left work, leaving my clients and their issues in my office and making a conscious switch to going home. We cannot forget to take care of ourselves with a good meal, time with our families (pets included), and quiet time before going to bed. I enjoy reading non-therapeutic material, or watching movies when I settle into the evening. It also is important simply to move.  Our fellow expressive therapists know about the power of movement, music, and taking time to regenerate through meditation and mindful practices.  


You pioneered the first art therapy license in the country, achieving licensure for art therapists in New Mexico in 1993. And today, you continue to advocate for insurance reimbursement parity. How have you found this work and other service on behalf of the profession rewarding? Do you have advice for art therapists who are interested in getting involved in advocacy for the first time?


The first Art Therapy Licensure Bill in New Mexico was written in 1988 and entered into the 1989 Legislative session. It failed. But that year, the Social Workers entered a bill for licensure and their bill passed, eventually being signed by the Governor. The Counselors also entered a bill along with the Marriage & Family Therapists. It quickly became evident that the State of New Mexico did not have the financial resources to support a separate board for each therapeutic license. Due to the structure of the New Mexico Legislature, new bills could be submitted only every other year during a 60 day session (vs. a 30 day session on even numbered years). For the 1991 session, the Art Therapists joined forces with the Counselors and Marriage & Family Therapists to create an omnibus (umbrella) bill that would create one board to govern three separately licensed professions – The Counseling and Therapy Practice Act. By doing so, we proposed creating a state board that would be fiscally reasonable for the state to enact, while retaining our individual professional identities. Unfortunately, opposition arose from counselors who did not support the idea of licensure and our bill failed to pass before the session ended.  During the next two years, we were able to resolve our differences with the counselors, and the bill passed the 1993 Legislative Session without internal opposition.

From this experience, I have learned so much about negotiating, speaking on behalf of art therapy and how to work within a governmental system. To me this has been exciting and enjoyable work. I have met incredible people and been able to elicit support from legislators who had no idea what art therapy was before our meeting.  

Yes, this work has been rewarding. But, it won’t be finished until the LPAT secures full insurance reimbursement. I am still learning how to navigate the system and hope to be able to make the changes necessary for insurance reimbursement by changing the internal language within the state insurance guidelines. I am fascinated with how governmental systems work and how to work within each system. It takes a lot of patience. It has been almost 28 years since the LPAT came into existence here in New Mexico. The Counselors and the Marriage & Family Therapists both receive insurance reimbursement. I am hopeful that early 2021 we will see changes that elevate the LPAT to the same insurance reimbursement status as the LPCC and the LMFT.  

Service work to the art therapy profession has given me the opportunity to focus on the profession as a whole and not become overwhelmed with the issues that confront me in my clinical work. I believe that service work has helped me to expand my perception as a therapist and ensured that I do not become isolated in the day-to-day work with clients. With all that we have been given in the field, it is essential that we give back to the profession. Find what you feel passionate about and volunteer to work for that cause.  You will never regret being part of progressive change.


How do you foresee the field in 10 or 20 years? In what direction do you want the profession to go?


I believe that when the healthcare industry and insurance carriers find out how effective and efficient art therapy is, art therapy will be the treatment of choice. We are expanding as a profession by states creating and passing licensure and reimbursement legislation. I am excited to see this happening around the nation. It’s time for art therapy to be professionally recognized.  

I do hope that as AATA members we always remember that despite our differences of opinions, we are stronger together. We can accomplish so much together.

Four years ago, I received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico Art Therapy Association. I had a surprise visit from Little Miss New Mexico who told me that she wanted to be an art therapist when she grew up. That was an incredible experience. I hope she holds on to that vision for her future. 

AATA has been extremely supportive and proactive in advancing the field. A little over 20 years ago when I was President of AATA, the Board envisioned moving from a management firm to an independent office. Ten years later, that happened. Since AATA made that move, we have grown by leaps and bounds. The reason for that growth is that the AATA Office has one focus – to promote the profession of art therapy. I believe we can only grow as a profession. I am pleased and honored to be part of that momentum.

Artist Statement: My art form is lost wax casting in precious metals. I started these earrings a few years ago, but I never finished them until this past September. They are gray, striped agate stones set in 14 carat gold. My style is to braid wax wire and use that as a base for the stone settings. It’s tedious work, but I love the process of casting the wax model into metal. There’s something fascinating to me about liquid metal.  


Deborah A. Good, PhD, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPAT, LPCC, HLM

Dr. Good is a past-president of the American Art Therapy Association, past-president of the Art Therapy Credentials Board and past president of New Mexico Art Therapy Association. She served as a member and chair of numerous AATA and ATCB committees, including AATA’s Governmental Affairs Committee, Nominating Committee, Journal Editorial Board, Video & Flim Honors Sub-Committee, Conference Local Arrangements Committee and Registration & Standards Committee, ATCB’s International Art Therapy Committee, Nominations Committee and Disciplinary Hearing Panel.

She wrote and advocated for the first Art Therapy licensure bill from 1989 to 1993, which the New Mexico Legislature passed as part of the Therapy and Counseling Practice Act. New Mexico Art Therapists were licensed for the first time in 1994 as Licensed Professional Art Therapists (LPAT). Deborah continues to advocate for LPATs to gain insurance reimbursement inclusion. Her work for the AATA has been recognized by the Presidential Honor Award, Distinguished Service Award, and Honorary Life Membership.

Dr. Good worked 45 years as an Art Therapist and Clinical Counselor in various clinical settings. She started the Art Therapy Program at Southwestern College in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was the Director of that program for 10 years. Currently, she maintains an active clinical supervision practice and continues to volunteer presentations on art therapy and PTSD.