Post by Art Therapy Program Director Rebecca Arnold
Most people view art therapy in terms of its relaxing and socializing benefits and many are confused as to why extensive training in the field is a necessary precursor to identifying oneself as an art therapist. My undergraduate art therapy students are usually aware of the power that art making has on their well-being prior to ever entering the art therapy classroom. Many express feelings of hope and healing when they’ve used art and creative processes during the most difficult times in their lives.
However, as the introduction of selected art materials, creative processes and the reliance on metaphor begins to develop their personal insights, their knowledge of and appreciation for the modality also begins to find roots. These roots ground the students in a new understanding of how delicate the balance is that exists between art for relaxation and art for growth and profound healing. They begin to define ethical aspects and begin to shape their professional identity as non-art therapists through these experiences.
It is more difficult to translate these roots to the larger community. Being steeped in a master’s program in art therapy is truly a remarkable experience, and most workshops, training, and presentations offered by professional art therapists are just that. During my research to develop the graduate level syllabus and semester readings for an addictions and art therapy class, I found one of the first articles ever written that accurately defines the parameters that exist between art for relaxation and a meaningful art therapy experience.
Summarized abstract: “This paper describes an injury sustained as a result of art activity. The case was subject to legal proceedings which established arts practitioner and organizational negligence. The case represents an important milestone in the current arts and health debate, particularly with regard to the protection of the public. Lessons to be learnt for organisations seeking to deliver arts and health projects to vulnerable people are discussed.”
Springham, N. (2008). Through the eyes of the law: What is it about art that can harm people?
International Journal of Art Therapy, 13(2), 65-73.
To view the full abstract and link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17454830802489141