October 16, 2019
Mildred (Millie) Lachman-Chapin, MEd, ATR-BC, HLM, died on August 26, 2019 at the age of 97. An educator, clinician, author, and internationally-exhibited painter, Millie was involved with the AATA since its founding in 1969. Her academic work included art therapy faculty positions at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vermont College of Norwich University, The George Washington University, and Prescott College. Millie was the pioneering force behind the formation of AATA’s Art Committee and served many positions in the Association, such as Publications Chair, Newsletter Editor, and as the first Associate Editor of Art Therapy: The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. The AATA awarded Millie Honorary Life Membership in 2001.
We invite everyone who will be joining us for our 50th conference in Kansas City, MO to attend the Annual Memorial Ceremony on Saturday November 1, 2019 from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm to honor Millie and other colleagues we have lost this year.
Thank you to the friends and colleagues who submitted the below reflections in response to our call for reminiscences and memories in tribute to Millie.
Dan Anthon, MA, ATR-BC
Millie was a professor in my graduate program at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she taught Group Techniques for Art Therapists. She was as enthusiastic about presenting us techniques for working with groups as she was in exhibiting her paintings. Millie exhibited her paintings often at some of the best galleries in the city. I remember walking into a Chicago gallery and having a feeling of pride. Millie’s paintings showed a part of her that seemed to be expressing an exhilaration of life itself, sometimes focusing on her relationships, sometimes elements of landscape but always with a vibrancy and sensitivity. I was fortunate to have her as a professor and then as a life long colleague. Her voice was clear and strong in our field, championing the artist as therapist. I am forever in her debt.
From Haiku, Painted, & Written by Mildred Lachman-Chapin. “Fauna” (left) and “Light, Heat, Wire” (right). 12 x 12 oil paintings on canvas. 2009.
Julie Houck, MA, ATR
Hearing of Millie’s loss was sad and inspiring at the same time. Millie was my amazing art therapy professor and advisor during her years at Prescott College’s Expressive Arts Therapy Graduate Program. As I reflect back on my experiences as a graduate art therapy student with Millie, I am reminded that, in truth, she herself modeled the high expectations that she had of her students. It was my good fortune to have experienced and reaped the benefits of Millie’s intellectual gifts, her therapeutic insight and experience, strong psychiatric theoretical background, literary acuity, and amazing ability to push beyond what may be possible. Millie’s dedication and willingness to work hard helped bring art therapy to the forefront as an important profession to be recorded, reported, and recognized as a viable and necessary form of emotional healing. She demonstrated this often during her career, while inspiring her numerous students in the process.
Millie motivated me to push the limits, experience and achieve professional growth, maintain my education in professional practice, and my own art expression. Over the years viewing Millie’s amazing abstract paintings also inspired me. Knowing that Millie continued to paint, with great determination and effort after a major medical challenge, was also amazing and inspiring. Painting was her therapy and balm for the soul. It was truly my honor to know Mildred Lachman-Chapin.
Paula Howie, MA, ATR-BC, HLM
Millie Lachman was my first clinical supervisor in 1973 when I enrolled in the Graduate Art Therapy Program at The George Washington University (GWU). At the time she taught at GWU, she also worked at Area B Mental Health Center supervising and seeing clients mostly in groups in the Child and Adolescent Clinic. My earliest memory of her (I had been in the art therapy program for 3 weeks) was when she led a workshop with members of the staff of Area B. Workshop participants were amazed by what she learned from their interactions. Some were frankly taken aback, some saying that the art therapy she was doing could be destructive if used improperly, stressing how this technique must be cautiously delivered to patients due to its power. Even though it was a very different time in terms of therapy and therapeutic interventions (pre-DBT, trauma focused work, etc.), it was clear to me from that first initiation that Millie’s keen therapeutic savvy and her innate sense of people allowed her to understand and see much further into others than they had wanted and, for some, this had been frightening. Although I did not see this as clearly at the time, in my mind it has become a great endorsement of Millie, of our chosen profession, and of her lifelong dedication to art in the service of healing the psyche and the soul.
When Millie moved to Chicago, she became interested in the work of Heinz Kohut. She built on his recommendations to help people with borderline personality disorder develop missing abilities such as empathy and self-observation. This was accomplished by urging the therapist to empathically experience the world from the patient’s point of view so that s/he would feel understood. Millie developed a style, which included mirroring the person using art. We were lucky to have her lecture at Walter Reed where she taped several interventions using this art mirroring technique.
Millie and I continued to meet for coffee or lunch at the conferences we attended. When she was interim director for a year at Vermont College and I was a teacher, I remember long walks in the neighborhoods or in the woods where she and I would discuss her fervent desire to keep the art in art therapy. Then and into her later years, she was a prolific artist and has many, many works, some of which she would display in one woman or in group shows.
Millie was a free spirit with a vital, spirited intellect. She advocated for art therapists to show their art and to collaborate whenever possible with the art world. And she was an inspiration; she had the greatest belief in and zeal for the profession of Art Therapy. She will be greatly missed.
Judith A. Rubin, PhD, ATR-BC, HLM
From the time she gave me a ride to Washington after the first AATA conference until I last visited her in Tucson, Millie was a beloved and admired friend and colleague. She was one of the most creative human beings I have ever known. From her beginnings in dance to her long career as a productive artist and writer, Millie continued to articulate her independent ideas in poetic writings and gorgeous paintings and pastels.
She was a wonderful travel companion, and an always-available consultant about more issues than I can list. The world of art therapy has lost one of its most productive and talented leaders, whose capacity to express herself in many modalities was equaled only by her steadiness as a human being. I salute her spirit, and am grateful to have known and been with her.
Parenthetically, along with Gladys Agell, another HLM who died this year, Millie met with Laurie Wilson and myself before or after AATA Conferences for a peer supervision group, where we shared case material with each other and gave feedback. We were all eager to be able to improve our work by consulting with other experienced art therapists, and did this for a number of years, at least one meeting taking place in Millie’s Chicago apartment.
After her stroke while living alone in Tucson and not found for 2 days, Millie put all her energy into speech, occupational and physical therapy, and was eventually able to walk again and to draw and paint with the opposite of her preferred hand. She was a mensch, and worked as hard at her recovery as she had in all her previous learning efforts. Millie was therefore a model of courage, determination, and an optimistic spirit that was in glorious evidence at her 90th birthday party.
Millie, who is right-handed, drawing with her left hand after her stroke. Photo courtesy of Judith Rubin.