David Gussak, PhD, ATR-BC, is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Service Award. This prestigious honor is conferred on a Professional member of the Association in recognition of significant contributions to the field of art therapy, specifically in the area of the Association’s internal development as well as its relationship with other organizations. In recognition of his significant contribution to the literature in art therapy, his advocacy and leadership in pro-art therapy legislative efforts, his service to the profession, and the countless students and peers he has mentored and inspired, the AATA was pleased to bestow this honor on Dr. Gussak during the 2017 conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Dr. Gussak is a Professor and the Chairperson for The Florida State University Department of Art Education. He has written and presented extensively internationally, nationally and regionally on: art therapy in forensic settings, working with clients dealing with aggressive or violent behavior, the work of the art therapist, and various governmental and legislative issues facing the field.
Gussak received his MA in art therapy from Vermont College and earned his PhD from Emporia State University in 2001. Previously, he was the director of the Graduate Art Therapy Program in the Department of Psychology and Special Education at Emporia State University in Kansas. He has additionally been an adjunct and visiting professor for several art therapy programs across the country. Known for his work in prison systems, Gussak has practiced art therapy with inmates in various penal settings. He began practicing art therapy in California prisons and continued in Florida where he conducted empirical research on the effectiveness of art therapy to increase locus of control and decrease depression in both male and female prisoners. Gussak published several influential journal articles and two books on art therapy in the penal system. He also co-edited the Wiley Handbook for Art Therapy (2016), a highly referenced, comprehensive collection of essays on art therapy.
Dr. Gussak’s service to the Association and to the furthering of the profession is extensive. He was a member and chair (1995-1998) of the Government Affairs Committee (GAC), and the Education Committee, Doctoral Programs (appointed 2016). He also served on the Nomination Committee as a member (2011-15) and as the chair (2013-15). He is currently on the GAC of the Florida Art Therapy Association (FATA) and is chairing the Communications sub-committee for the Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) in preparation for the 2018 annual conference in Miami. He previously sat on the board of the Northern California Art Therapy Association as President-Elect (1996-97) and Board Member/Governmental Affairs (1994-96). Gussak also served on the board of the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) (2007-10) as well as on several ATCB committees over the years. Dr. Gussak sits on the editorial board of four peer-reviewed journals: Art Therapy: The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association (2006-present), Journal of Clinical Art Therapy (2010-present), Arts in Psychotherapy (2015-present), and Journal of Art for Life (2009-present).
In their nomination letters, Gussak’s colleagues comment on his contributions to the field and on his strength of character. One colleague says,
“Whether he is in front, such as at a conference, or working silently and tirelessly behind the scenes, Dave continues to contribute in meaningful and impactful ways.”
He is recognized for his leadership on the state level for his “ability to interface with the complexity of the California legislative process and its maze of licensing boards in his attempts to advocate for art therapists” and for having “advised several Presidents of the Florida Art Therapy Association over the past few years on its quest toward a state license for art therapists.” He is additionally well-known for his humor and charisma. “He carries a room and he lights up a stage,” a colleague notes.
Nomination support letters cite his ability to bring people together, both within and outside the profession. “He is interconnected with those that gave rise to the profession as well as those that are following…His unique stance enables him to link AATA’s past with its future by continuing the work that continues to evolve as the membership grows and the art therapy frontier expands,” observes one colleague. Another letter concludes:
“He deserves to be recognized for all that he does internally, externally, inwardly and outwardly for AATA and for art therapy, within the field and for the field and making connections with other professions.”
Congratulations, Dr. Gussak!