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 Sadie Ellis (Dreikurs) Garland  (1900 - 1996)

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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: painting, art therapy

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following article by Teresa Barker was published in the Chicago Tribune Lifestyles section, April 12, 1987. 

Sadie ``Tee`` Dreikurs was in 1st grade when an art teacher ripped up a drawing she had done of a purple cow and dismissed it as trash because, ``Cows are not purple. Cows are brown.`` The 87-year-old artist, therapist and social worker recalls the incident--and the anguish she felt--in her autobiography``Cows Can Be Purple: My Life and Art Therapy.``

Through decades of work, Dreikurs came to be respected internationally as the matriarch of ``art therapy,`` a counseling technique that taps creative expression as a source of emotional strength. Dreikurs came of age with some historic figures. At 11, she enrolled in art classes at Jane Addams` Hull House, the Chicago social settlement, and later came to live there and work closely with Jane Addams.

Twice widowed, Dreikurs was the wife and professional partner of Leon Garland, a noted painter, and later of psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs, international lecturer and founder, 35 years ago, of the Alfred Adler Institute graduate school of psychology in Chicago. Dreikurs talks with Teresa Barker about how she was able to take her submissive personality out into the world and change others` lives.

Probably one of the most influential events in my life was studying Adlerian psychology, because it isn't just a psychology, it`s a philosophy of life, and it changed me a great deal. It certainly made a more courageous person out of me.

I was a middle child. I had this beautiful older sister and this charming younger brother, and I was the sickly little girl. The thing about Adlerian psychology that charms me is something that Adler said that is my cup of tea. Translated it is, ``Everything can be different, it`s not fixed. It can always be something else.`` That creativity of not seeing everything in a static way is very different. In my own situation, you see, I could face the world as part of my family forever--always the runt of the litter--or I could step out of it and do something for myself, and that`s exactly what I did.

It was in 1962 that Dr. Bernard Shulman, a psychiatrist at St. Joseph Hospital, came to our house for lunch one day to discuss with Rudolf an idea about offering a different type of therapeutic experience to psychiatric patients at the hospital. This idea was the beginning of my career as an art therapist.

Up until this point I had been an adjunct to Rudolf in his work and--with one exception--had not even painted after Leon`s death in 1941. While I was serving lunch, both Rudolf and Bernie looked at me and said, ``Why don`t you come and help us? With your experience you could develop an art therapy program for us. Just experiment. It`s all yours.``

This approach from the very beginning freed me from the pressure of having to produce something that required immediate approval. I could be as innovative as I wished, and, in fact, I did try many things with patients as I worked out my program. It wasn't until after Rudolf`s death in 1972 that I began working on a regular basis. I continued to travel as we had before, giving art therapy sessions in foreign countries as well as in the United States. I worked with lay groups and professionals who wanted to learn my methods.

A few years after Rudolf died, I began teaching at the Alfred Adler Institute. Art therapy was later incorporated into the curriculum. I was shocked to realize recently that I now actually enjoy being on center stage when I present art therapy workshops to people all over the world. I love the role. I adore it. However, I think it reflects a slight touch of vanity, because I continue to rely heavily on Rudolf. I' m constantly thinking, "If Dreikurs were here, what would he do?"

Art therapy for me implies help through art. This medium can help people feel better about themselves, change their perception of themselves or merely provide an enjoyable experience. In an art therapy session participants may discover, contrary to their previous belief, that they can use their hands to produce something very satisfying. This may be a revelation that gives them a different self-concept, more self-acceptance, but it doesn't necessarily change the lifestyle. It is not my goal to change one`s lifestyle or one`s basic mistakes. It is my intention, however, to enable participants to see themselves and how they function more clearly so that they are able to choose alternatives.

I don`t consider myself a "success." I don`t measure achievement through either success or failure. From my study of Adlerian psychology, I was imbued with the idea that as soon as you observe what you are doing, you start to lose your creativity. In my studies with Rudolf and my earlier experiences with Jane Addams and Leon, I saw they didn`t measure whether what they were doing was a success or failure. They were completely task-oriented. And I became task-oriented. What is important is what you are doing.


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