Judith A. Rubin

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Judith A. Rubin is a well known art therapist with 50 years of experience.

Life and work[edit]

After completing her bachelor’s in art from Wellesley College in 1957 (Rubin, 2010a), Rubin pursued a Master's degree in education from Harvard University. While attending graduate school, Rubin recalled a seminar in Human Development where she did a presentation on “The Psychology of Children’s Art.” It was while working on this research that she discovered some of Margaret Naumburg’s early papers (Rubin, 2006). Naumburg’s papers sparked Rubin’s interest in art therapy, but that interest was not pursued for many years to come. In 1959, Rubin graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with her master’s in Art Education.

Rubin found that while she did love working with the children, she did not fit in as well with the system of the time. As a teacher, she was charged with disruption because of too much singing, rearranging furniture, declining the offer to use stencils for art or paddles for discipline, and failing to write detailed lesson plans, while showing slides of artwork that were not in the curriculum. Although she could see that children benefited from making art, her teaching experiences were less satisfying than she had hoped (Rubin, 2006).

Rubin got her first taste of art therapy in the field after learning about a study of children’s art at a local Child Study Center nursery. Upon hearing of the study, Rubin called the Director and volunteered her services. Although she had no clinical background, Rubin began doing art therapy with hospitalized children with schizophrenia in 1963 under the direction of Dr. Margaret McFarland. Rubin found doing art therapy to be immensely gratifying and wanted advice about becoming a “real” art therapist. She then sought the guidance of art therapists Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer (Rubin, 2006).

Rubin (2006) recalled that both contributed greatly to her professional development. While they had very different ideas about art therapy, both had given the same advice. Each advised that she learn about herself through personal therapy, and then learn how to be a therapist through supervised work under an experienced clinician. In 1964, Rubin presented a case to Professor Erik Erikson of Harvard University. Much to her surprise, Erikson opposed any further clinical training in psychology. He suggested that it might interfere with, or even ruin, the intuitive approach she had been following. With that advice, she postponed further clinical study for a number of years (Rubin, 2006).

In 1964, she met Fred Rogers through Dr. McFarland who was also his mentor. Rogers invited Rubin to be on his new public television program, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Rubin appeared as the “art lady” for three years (1966-1969) and used her segments to communicate the therapeutic value of art to viewers.

Eventually, with the support of Dr. Marvin Shapiro, a child psychiatrist who supervised her work at the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Center, Rubin felt it was time for further clinical training. She therefore enrolled in the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Institute, training first in adult and then in child psychoanalysis. She was then able to use the credits from her master's degree along with credit for the courses at the Institute towards completing her Ph.D. in counseling. She met the dissertation requirement by writing her book Child Art Therapy (Rubin, 2006). She completed her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1976 and earned her licensure as a psychologist in 1979. She completed post-doctoral work at the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Institute in 1983 (Rubin, 2010a).

Judith Rubin has contributed to the field of art therapy by serving in a number of professional positions as well as writing numerous articles, books, lectures and films. Rubin became a Registered Art Therapist (ATR) in 1970 and a Board Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC) in 1994 (Rubin, 2010a). She served on the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) board from 1973 to 1979, including as president from 1977 to 1979. In 1981, she received the award for Honorary Life Member (American Art Therapy Association, 2010).

In addition to her writing, Rubin has worked in private practice and has taught at many universities in the U.S. and abroad. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh where she has been on the faculty since 1974 and also has served as faculty-by-invitation at the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Institute since 1983. She is also a co-founder and president of a nonprofit educational organization called Expressive Media Inc. (Rubin, 2010a).

Rubin’s other books include The Art of Art Therapy (1984, rev. 2011), Approaches to Art Therapy (1987, rev. 2001), Art Therapy: An Introduction (1998), Artful Therapy (2005), and Introduction to Art Therapy: Sources and Resources (2009).


Having started in television in the late sixties with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Rubin has been making films since the early seventies. She stated that film aided in teaching about art therapy when words were often not completely adequate. Her first film in 1972, We’ll Show You What We’re Gonna Do, documented a therapeutic art program with blind children. Shortly after, she created Children and the Arts which highlighted the therapeutic value of the arts when working with children who were at-risk for problem behavior. Since then, she has created six other films: "Beyond Words" (art therapy with older adults), "Breakthrough" (artists in analytic therapy), "Art Therapy: A Universal Language for Healing" (art therapy around the world), "Yes You Can!" (art therapy for people with disabilities), and "Art Therapy Has Many Faces" (now subtitled in 14 languages). With her drama therapy colleague, Dr. Eleanor Irwin, she has produced "The Green Creature Within" (multimodal therapy with adolescents), and "Creative Healing in Mental Health" (art and drama in assessment and therapy).

Rubin’s current efforts with Expressive Media Inc. reflect her involvement with film as an artistic medium. The mission of Expressive Media Inc., to educate both the public and professionals about the healing power of the arts, is an actualization of Rubin’s goals as a person and an art therapist.


  • American Art Therapy Association. (2010) National Conference Program. Sacramento, CA.
  • Expressive Media Inc. [mission statement]. Retrieved from (http://www.expressivemedia.org/ emi.html) on October 22, 2010.
  • Rubin, J. A. (2005). Child art therapy (rev. ed.). New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Rubin, J. A. (2006). Judith A. rubin: An ugly duckling finds the swans or how I fell in love with art therapy. In M. B. Junge, & H. Wadeson (Eds.), Architects of art therapy: Memoirs and life stories. (pp. 105–121). Springfield, IL, US: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.
  • Rubin, J.A. (2010a). [Curriculum vitae]. http://www.expressivemedia.org/pdfs/judycv.pdf
  • Rubin, J. A. (2010b). Introduction to art therapy: Sources & resources (rev. ed.). New York, New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.