Art Therapy in Siberian Russia: The FSU Faculty Luncheon with Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell


When I think of Siberian Russia, I picture lots of snow, fur jackets, and ice-cold temperatures unfit for human consumption. This is, perhaps, the average American perception of Russia’s northern territory; a barren land where Soviet prisoners were once sent to Gulags. But, to Florida State University faculty member Barbara Parker-Bell, Associate Professor of Art Education and Director of Art Therapy, Siberian Russia is a land teeming with intellectuals and academics, beautifully carved ice sculptures and slides, cozy coffee houses decorated for Christmas, busy preschools with children bundled up in thick jackets, and universities that house psychology students with a growing interest in art therapy. Associate Professor Parker-Bell was the featured speaker at this month’s Florida State University Faculty Luncheon. Her talk, “Beyond the Gulag: Creativity and Psychological Care in Siberian Russia,” highlighted the multifaceted nature of international academia, the importance of developing the psychotherapy field, and her many adventures in Siberia. Next month’s speaker, Giray Ökten, FSU Professor of Mathematics, will be sharing his experiences researching in Istanbul.

Dr. Parker-Bell was first exposed to Siberian life when she hosted an academic with the Fulbright Scholarship, Dr. Tatiana Vaulina, from a city called Tomsk, located in Siberia on the Tom River. After many further experiences with the academic community of Tomsk, Dr. Parker-Bell became a visiting professor of art therapy and cross-cultural communications at Tomsk State University, quite an honor for an American academic. Tomsk is considered to be one of the most lively cities in Siberia, and is home to more than 524,000 people. Amazingly, 100,000 of those are students studying at one of six universities within the town limits. Tomsk State University is the oldest university in Siberia and has one of the most extensive archival libraries in the nation.

In September 2016, Dr. Parker-Bell embarked on a 4-month long Fulbright Scholar grant, titled Understanding and Supporting Development of Art Therapy Use in the Russian Federation. Her host institution, Tomsk State University, gave her the opportunity to research the practices of art therapists in Siberian and European Russia while also teaching art therapy concepts to students and professionals. Art therapy does not currently exist as a distinct profession in the Russian Federation. However, those that practice in a related field such as psychology or psychiatry may participate in formal or informal training regarding art therapy techniques. Only a few formal art therapy post-graduate training programs exist in European Russia and standards for training and professional qualifications have not been set. Yet, interest in art therapy continues to grow.

In contrast, art therapy as a profession is more established in the USA.  Educational programs need to meet rigorous standards set by the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education (ACATE) and the Commission Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). American art therapists, according to the American Art Therapy Association (, require, “A master’s degree… for entry-level practice in art therapy.” While psychology and art therapy have developed differently in the USA and Russia,  Americans and Russians can continue to share their mutual interests in providing creative psychological care.  From Tallahassee to Tomsk, and with the help of Dr. Parker-Bell and the international academic community, there are thousands who will benefit from the development and support of art-therapy.

To learn more about Dr. Barbara Parker-Bell’s Fulbright work, please click here.

If you are interested in attending next month’s Faculty Luncheon, please click here.

If you are interested in the Faculty Fulbright Award, please click here.

-Zoe Zirlin, FSU Class of 2020

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