Where art is used mainly as a tool in psychotherapy, art materials are limited to those that produce effects quickly and without the need for a great deal of technical proficiency. Art methods aimed at spontaneity of expression are presented in the hope that unconscious material will escape censorship. Since the art works are valued mainly for their immediate communicative value, the complete development of expressive art products is not emphasized.
Therapy is primarily interpretive,with the client’s own verbal associations and formulations playing a large part.Provided that the therapist has sufficient training, the development of transference (shifting feelings about significant people to the therapist) may be encouraged and its handling then becomes an important element in treatment (Naumburg, 1966).
Where therapy depends primarily on values inherent in art itself, the therapist strives to help clients make art products whose expressive quality and depth are as fully realized as the individual’s capacities permit. Art materials are selected on the basis of their suitability for this purpose in the hands of people of various ages or who are in particular stages of artistic development.The therapist uses his clinical background to respond to the latent as well as the manifest messages contained in the art and to help clients to be more tolerant of the less easily accepted aspects of themselves.The significance of habitual behavior and attitudes is likely to be discussed, but direct interpretations of unconscious material evident in the art work are seldom made or invited.
Art therapy of this kind does not stand alone as an agent of profound psychological change. It complements psychotherapy by providing an area of symbolic experience, where new attitudes may be tried out, gains deepened and made an integral part of the person (Kramer, 1971).
There are many variations on these two basic technical approaches. For example, clients are sometimes asked to collaborate — in conducting a pictorial dialogue, producing a mural, or working on a single small picture. In most of these instances, emphasis is placed on the way in which the immediate experience enhances self-awareness and demonstrates or influences the relationship between group members. Both artistic development and insight gained through the interpretation of symbolic content play a relatively minor part.
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