Art is the most powerful communication tool of all. It is now acknowledged by most that art expression is a manner to visually communicate those feelings or thoughts of a person that are too painful to be put into words. Creative activity is not only used for the purpose of exhibition. It is also used due to its inherent ability to appeal to people belonging to all ages and allow them to explore their beliefs and emotions, resolve conflicts and problems, reduce stress, and enhance the overall feeling of well-being.
Art therapists have accepted that art expression is not only effective as a therapy but also as a method of nonverbal communication. Art therapy is of the belief that every individual has the capacity to express their thoughts and feelings in a creative manner. It is not the end product or the art created that is important, but the therapeutic process of creating the art. The aim is to help the individual find meaning in the process of creating and sharing the experience of creating art with the therapist.
A brief history of art therapy
The history of art therapy is like a beautiful tapestry with each thread indicating not only an inculcation of art therapy technique in the practice of psychotherapy but also how the same shaped and enriched the process of client-therapist interaction and helped people understand and interact with their inner thoughts and feelings.
Influences from the past
Art therapy is a discipline that involves both arts as well as psychology. However, the interaction of art in the process of healing is hardly something new. Drawing, painting, and sculpting is a very old tradition in the human society and has been occurring regularly throughout history in different times and places. The development of art therapy as a technique of psychoanalysis is just the formal application of a very long human tradition.
Understanding the relevance of art
Art-making or doodling is a tendency that is innate to human beings. A few authors have proposed that art-making can be used as a way to define the human species. In the year 1922, a German psychiatrist by the name Hans Prinzhorn published a book named ‘The Artistry of The Mentally Ill’. This book focused on the artistic works of patients from different mental asylums all over Europe. This book challenged fine art as well as psychiatric professionals to really think about their notions focusing on art and mental illness.
The history of art therapy from medicine, rehabilitation, and health aspects
The history of art therapy as well as the present involves medicine and rehabilitation. Hospitals have always served as incubators for art therapy. For a long time, art therapists have used psychoanalysis as well as art therapy to work with patients suffering from asthma, cancer, chemical and drug dependency, burns, AIDS, tuberculosis, and other kinds of medical and rehabilitation needs. There have been reports of connections between mental status, biochemistry as well as a person’s creativity. These reports led to the evolution of a new medical science known as art medicine.
Understanding the 19th and 20th century psychology trends
Kris, Freud as well as other great psychologists have contributed to understanding mental illness by gaining a deeper insight into the person’s thought process through art. They theorized that instead of being random nonsense, the depiction of the fantasy world which the patient lived in, can give therapists an idea about the mental state of the patient.
Around 1971, the history of art therapy started involving other authors who also began recognizing art as a method that could be used within the treatment. Soon after this, the term “art therapy” came into focus. Art therapy described a form of psychotherapy that used art practices as well as interventions along the process of talking as the central theme of treatment.
Research and psychological assessment in the history of art therapy
In the year 1952, Kris proposed that the work of a world-renowned artist or a mentally ill individual employed the same psychic process. Both these individuals would project their inner experience into the outside world in the form of an image. The early impact of psychoanalysis on the development of art therapy was huge. In a book by Hammer (1958), which focuses on the art of drawing as a protective instrument. Many of the other serotypes focusing on art therapy and on the therapist’s role in understanding the real meanings of the drawings can be traced to this era.
In the history of art therapy, most of the writers belonging to this time formed their own assessment methods which mostly comprised of a battery of art focused tasks with different structures. Even in the present day, the notion that a person’s artwork reflects their psychic experience is a fundamental concept of art therapy.
Despite of having a common history, there are many distinctions between the assessments used in a normal psychoanalysis session compared to the ones used in the art therapy session. The primary difference is that in art therapy, the process of creation and viewing of art has been observed to have a therapeutic effect for the client, something that cannot be said in case of psychoanalysis.
Through out the history of art therapy, art therapists improvised on the standard assessment protocols to suit the purpose and use more expressive and building materials to help their client express their thoughts and feelings by the creation of art.
Early researchers of art therapy also focused on psychology and embraced the approaches of psychology into their research. Off late models from the study of behavioral sciences, as well as other fields, are being used as approaches in the conduction of art therapy research.
What do you think about the history of art therapy? Have you ever tried to use art therapy to de-stress yourself? If you would like to share your story with everyone, please write it down in the comment section below. If you want me to feature your stories in my blog post, feel free to contact me on any of my social media channels. I would be glad to share your story with the world. If you have any queries pertaining to this post or any other, feel free to contact me through the comment section or any of my social media channels.