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by Patricia L. Scott

Using art as therapy or intervention permits people with serious or life-threatening physical illnesses to express themselves in a manner that is often felt to be safer and less difficult than a strictly verbal means. When coping with serious illness, invasive medical procedures, drug, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, and, in some cases, terminal illness, art expression is a powerful method for dealing with physical changes, emotional trauma, interpersonal problems and spiritual dilemmas. It can also enhance a therapist's understanding of patients' perceptions of themselves, their families and their environment, and allows both therapist and patient to obtain a fresh perspective on problems and directions.

Over the years, art therapy pioneers have contributed towards the informal and formal beginnings of this fascinating and innovative profession. The development of the art therapy profession concerns a special breed of person who discovered the profound and unique power of the integration of art and psychology and had the energy and drive to create the new field. Important movements and milestones are highlighted including the dilemmas and crucial events of art therapy's evolution.

Unique features include: the early days and influence; the United States at the time of the formation of the art therapy profession; Florence Cane and the Walden School; Margaret Naumberg's theory of psychodynamic art therapy; Edith Kramer's theory of art as therapy; the Menninger Foundation, art therapy in Ohio and the Buckeye Art Therapy Association; Elinor Ulman and the first art therapy journal; Hanna Yaxa Kwiatkowska and the invention of family art therapy; a brief history of art therapy in Great Britain and Canada; the 1960s and their influence on the development of art therapy; Myra Levick and the establishment of the American Art Therapy Association; the pioneer art therapists and their qualities and patterns; the definition and expansion of art therapy; the development of master's-level art therapy; art therapists of color and influence; the history of humanistic psychology and art therapy; the expressive arts therapy; Jungian art therapy; and the art therapists that began in the 1970s.

Chronologies and study questions for discussion appear at the end of most chapters. Finally, the book presents issues essential to the field today such as art therapy registration, certification and licensing, art therapy assessment procedures, research, multiculturalism and art therapy as an international phenomenon. This text will be of primary interest to art therapists and students, to art educators and historians, and to those interested in how mental health disciplines evolve.

The History of Art Therapy

During the classical period of art therapy, the 1940’s to the 1970’s, mental health professionals from psychiatrists, analysts, social workers, psychologists, and counselors contributed to writing about the value of art therapy. The early days of art therapy saw researchers seeking knowledge from psychology and the behavior sciences (Kaplan, 2000). Each of these early pioneers of art therapy was trained in other mental health professional fields. There were four pioneers who wrote about the field of art therapy in the classical period. Margaret Naumburg is called “The Mother of art Therapy” and is the primary writer of art therapy.

She was heavily influenced by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and took many of her ideas from psychoanalytic practices.

Naumburg believed that art drawings were a “symbolic communication of unconscious material and said it would diminish transference in the therapeutic setting (Detre et al., 1983). Edith Kramer took the approach that “art can be therapy”. She took a great interest in the actual art making process and paid close attention to the sublimation of the defense mechanism, part of Freud’s personality theory (Kramer, 1993). She worked in the educational setting and applied art therapy in therapeutic schools.

The third major contributor of art therapy is Elinor Ulman. Ulman founded “The Bulletin of Art Therapy” and published the first book of essays on art therapy, “Art Therapy: Problems of Definitions”. Another pioneer, Kwiatkowska, contributed in the area of family art therapy and art therapy research.

In the 1970’s two major publications of art therapy came about. The first is “Art Psychotherapy” in 1972 and “Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association in 1982.

Art Therapy is a combination of many therapeutic approaches. These include Psychodynamic (Freud & Jung), Humanistic (Gestalt, Existentialism, Person-Centered, Adlerian, & Phenomenological), Cognitive / Behavioral Therapy, Developmental Therapy, Behavioral Psychology, and Marriage and Family Therapy as well as many others.

One can see that the average mental health professional has training in many of the therapeutic approaches above. So, what makes an art therapist different from a regular mental health professional?

In my opinion, all licensed therapists have the capacity to use art therapy with their clients. Of course, training for the licensed professional is necessary with continuing education courses in art therapy. Naumburg is widely credited with being the first psychotherapist to use art therapy, and she believed the modality could be used both to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. She directly influenced the introduction of a graduate level program at New York University in 1969. The program remains one of the most highly accredited art therapy programs in the world.

Naumburg's book Dynamically Oriented Art Therapy was published in 1966. Dynamically oriented art therapy uses a psychodynamic approach, influenced by Sigmund Freud. The practice emphasizes the role of the unconscious; Naumburg believed that art could enable unconscious feelings to come to the fore, just as psychoanalysis had been traditionally used to address the unconscious. She frequently used art to help clients both envision and resolve interpersonal conflicts, and argued that the client, rather than the therapist, should interpret the meaning of art.

A classic in the field & one which may have inspired many to become art therapists, this eminently readable volume is ideal for acquainting students with some of the fundamental ideas in the field. Subjects such as a sense of identity, feelings of emptiness, interpretation of reality, ambivalence, aggression, defenses, & sublimation are discussed as Edith Kramer's eloquent words capture the interplay between child, artwork & therapist, bringing to life the fast-moving events in an artroom peopled by emotionally disturbed children.

Kramer has a deep knowledge of psychoanalysis, skill & intuition as an artist & the humane love of a born teacher. In one reviewer's opinion, her book's discussion of sublimination, art & defense, aggression & the role of the art therapist have not been surpassed by later volumes or other authors. Richly documented with case material & abundantly illustrated, this book offers inspiration not only to fledgling clinicians, but to any one working with children who wishes to understand how & why art can have such a profound effect. Edith Kramer is a practicing artist & educator who has worked with disturbed, handicapped & normal children in a variety of settings. She is currently adjunct professor of art therapy at NYU. (less)

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