'Pairing art and medicine stimulates the creation of a discipline through which imagination treats itself and recycles its vitality back to daily living.'
- McNiff, 1992
'It is amazing how many people think they have virtually no ability to express subtle or powerful inner states through drawing. Most adults stop developing their expression through line and colour way before adulthood. However, I have found that with a little prompting we can all go past these perceived barriers in ourselves.'
'Much pleasure and integration comes through abstract expression of music and feelings with crayons, paints and pencils. I have enjoyed guiding many workshop participants to a rediscovery of their creativity and affinity for colour. Creativity and skill in drawing can be developed and greatly enjoyed. It is never too late!' Mark Pearson- The Healing Journey, 1997
Using art in therapy and Process Drawing activates the visual/spatial intelligence (Gardner, 1983) and stimulates the use of colour, line, shape, symbols and metaphor, and image. These are the ways many of us can express inner states, challenging issues, and find a sense of pleasure in release and expression.
The history of art in therapy can be traced to the 1940s, when it was first used by Naumburg (Coleman & Farris-Dufrene, 1996). Her method was based on releasing the unconscious through spontaneous art expression.
A decade later Kramer (Coleman & Farris-Dufrene, 1996) using Freudian ego psychology, concentrated on the therapeutic values in using art. She defined the goals of art therapy as those leading toward personality growth and rehabilitation. In later work Kramer focused on art therapy with children, and described art therapy as a means of '..supporting the ego, fostering the development of a sense of identity, and promoting maturation in general'.
Art Therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which the client usually creates some form of artwork such as a drawing, doodle, clay sculpture, collage, or other 2 or 3 dimensional arts. None of these techniques require any special talent, experience or training in the arts.
The artwork is then used as a focus for reflection in words between the client and therapist. This artwork is used in much the same way as dreams are used in therapy because both artwork and dreams access the unconscious very rapidly.
One of the great advantages of art therapy is that it fosters use of both sides of the brain thus increasing integration. The nonverbal art expression is primarily a right brain process; the writing is coming from the left-brain language centres.
The main ways drawing is used in Expressive Therapies:
This modality - developed at the Institute - involves finding colours, lines, shapes that express our feelings, moods, reactions. The client keeps drawing until the feeling is fully expressed. This can be a valuable step in emotional release processes. These drawings are usually not kept after the sessions, as they are no longer important.
Emotional Release Drawings
The client tunes in to self, finds the somatic aspect of a feeling, then selects colours and lines to express it. When it is difficult to talk about feelings, colours, lines and shapes can help. These drawings develop better emotional literacy.
These are drawings which go with feeling memories. Reflective drawings include Body Mapping - expressing feelings and sensations after self-awareness exercises. They also include:
ways to overcome the "I can't draw" beliefs, eg. using music and movement as a stimulus to start a flow of artistic expression;
- drawing of events: eg. drawing holidays, dramatic events,
- use of colours, shapes, shadings, lines as background to Symbol Work exercises.
Working on completion drawings - especially towards the end of a counselling session - gives time for the body to recover and integrate after emotional experiences. These drawings are usually produced after an exercise, as part of the integration phase and may be kept as a reminder of the experiences and for later review. They give time for the unconscious to complete its expression via colours, lines and images from within. They can be used for recording - eg. draw a record of Sandplay or Symbol Work or draw a specific significant symbol that has been worked with.
In discussing the difficulties of research on the creative arts in counselling, Gladding (1998) identifies the difficulty of controlling and isolating variables that promote or hinder client growth. Research difficulties revolve around the highly subject nature of the methods to be assessed.
Kwiatkowska was the first therapist to introduce art therapy at a research centre (Coleman & Farris-Dufrene, 1996). In 1958 her patients participated in family art therapy and individual art therapy. The family art therapy approach proved suitable for application in community mental health centres.
Ulman (1975, in Coleman & Farris-Dufrene, 1996) defined the arts as a way of bringing order out of chaos and emphasised the healing quality of the creative process.
McNiff (Coleman & Farris-Dufrene, 1996) found that the discipline of art therapy helps in communication with verbal psychotherapies, increases the possibilities for interpersonal understanding, and is sometimes the only method of reaching depressed or withdrawn clients.
The expression of imagery in one's life facilitates an integration of inner and outer reality that makes the creative act synonymous with the experience of self-affirmation. - Robbins, 1980:96
Robbins states that physiological and neurological research demonstrate that imagery is always present and manifests itself in the cognitive style of the brain's right hemisphere, which is imaginative, analogical and nonverbal.
Imagery can enhance a client's active involvement in the healing process (Lusebrink, 1990), and had been used to strengthen the link between body, mind and emotion.
Oster and Montgomery (1996) in discussing the clinical use of drawing, state that the use of verbal communication alone limits articulation of complex and multilayered feelings. Therapists who introduce art into their approaches offer an alternate outlet for release of frustration built up from the difficulties some clients may feel in verbal expression.
Oster and Montegomery (1996) describe how drawings expand counsellor and client interaction as well as increase self-expression for the client, and provide a cathartic outlet.
Drawings enhance the client's willingness to talk. Drawings help a client become "unstuck" and to "do something" (Oster and Montegomery, 1996).
Paula Anne Ford-Martin. Caremark Inc
Art therapy, sometimes called creative arts therapy or expressive arts therapy, encourages people to express and understand emotions through artistic expression and through the creative process.
NZ Society Of Art Therapists
About Art Therapy
Art Therapy is an interdisciplinary form of psychotherapy. Generally based on psychoanalytic or psychodynamic principles, art therapists are able to utilise varied theoretical frameworks in which they feel comfortable to work. Other modes of working include Jungian, humanistic, behavioural, systemic, and integrative approaches.