Harriet Wadeson

Harriet Wadeson, Ph.D., LCSW, ATR-BC, HLM, this year’s recipient of the Marilyn Richman Legacy Award, not only embodies the spirit, dedication, forward thinking, and tireless devotion to others that exemplify the work of Marilyn Richman, affectionately known as “Toddy,” she also shares with Toddy the distinction of being a highly esteemed pioneer in the field of creative arts therapies. Known for her eclectic approach to art therapy, Harriet has shared her expertise in this field as an accomplished author, researcher, educator, and international guest lecturer who has presented papers, led professional delegations, and conducted workshops in 14 countries throughout Europe and Asia. In addition, she has authored 8 books, 70 papers in refereed journals, and numerous chapters in psychology and art therapy texts.


Harriet began her career in art therapy at the National Institute of Mental Health where she trained under the highly esteemed Hanna Kwiatkowska in the ways of family art therapy. Over the course of thirteen years at NIMH, Harriet conducted art therapy with adolescent groups; patients with affective disorders including mania, psychotic depression, and suicide risk; and people who suffered from schizophrenia and received no medication. She published twenty-nine articles while at NIMH, primarily in psychiatric journals, and won the Benjamin Rush Award for Scientific Exhibits from the American Psychiatric Association for her exhibit, “Portraits of Suicide,” which was also included in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 25th anniversary celebration.  Other notable endeavors for Harriet during this time were teaching art therapy and obtaining two master’s degrees: one, in psychology and art therapy from Goddard College; the other, a master’s in social work from Catholic University.


Harriet went on from NIMH to establish her private practice and begin working on her Ph.D. At the same time, she continued to teach, establish, and direct graduate programs at the University of Houston, the University of Illinois, and Northwestern University.   Harriet’s dissertation, Art Psychotherapy, was one of the first books in the field. It currently has sold 24,000 copies. 


Harriet’s long-standing membership in the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is another noteworthy aspect of her dedication to the creative arts therapies. She holds distinction as an Honorary Life Member of the AATA, the profession’s highest honor; she won a first prize for research from the AATA; and she has held various positions in the association such as Associate Editor of the Art Therapy Journal of the AATA, Research Chair, Publications Chair, Ethics Chair, Newsletter Editor, Honors Chair, and Status of Women Chair. Other distinctions worth noting are Harriet’s Distinguished Faculty Award from Northwestern University, her first prize for art from the Smithsonian Institute, and her Resolution of Commendation from the Illinois State Legislature.


Today, Harriet continues her contribution to the field of creative arts therapies as she gives presentations and workshops throughout the United States and Canada in connection with her most recent book, Journaling Cancer in Words and Images, Caught in the Clutch of the Crab, and its emphasis on the use of creative self-expression in facing the challenge of living with cancer.