History Of Art Therapy – Karabi Art
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History Of Art Therapy

History Of Art Therapy

Originating in the field of arts and psychotherapy, the definition of Art Therapy varies greatly but essentially it is an innovative process of expression used as a therapeutic technique. Art therapy varies as it may focus on the creative process of making art or on the analysis of the expression of the patient through the artwork they may create during a session of art therapy. One of the earliest forms of art psychotherapy was the psychoanalytic approach employing the technique of transference between the therapist and the patient or client who makes the art. After an interpretation of the symbolic self-expression the therapist then draws out interpretations from the clients or patients of their own artwork. This kind of analysis or interpretation is however not always a component in the contemporary scenario.


The art therapy of the contemporary or modern times includes a variety of other kinds of approaches, some of which may be listed as – Person-Centered, Cognitive, Behavior, Gestalt, Narrative, Adlerian, Family (Systems) and more. The tenets of art therapy involve humanism, creativity, reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, and personal growth.


Art therapy is essentially a novel therapeutic approach, however, it originated from the ‘moral treatment’ of psychiatric patients in the late 18th century. This moral treatment is said to have risen from utilitarian philosophy & from non-conformist religious tradition.


As a profession, Art Therapy came to light around the mid-20th century in the English speaking and other European countries. This development across continents was however independent of each other. The art therapists of those eras are known to have accredited the importance and influence of aesthetics, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, rehabilitation, early childhood education, and art education on their work in varying amounts.


Adrian Hill, a British artist was recovering from tuberculosis in a sanatorium, and while doing so he discovered the healing benefits that drawing, painting or art in general had on convalescence. This is when, in 1942, he coined the term “Art Therapy”. He valued art therapy for engaging the mind and body entirely and help release the pent up creative energy in bed-ridden or restricted patients, and for assisting the patients build up stronger mental and physical defense against any such misfortunes that may fall on them. He even engaged his fellow patients in similar art therapy.


Hill’s work in Art Therapy was further extended to the long stay mental hospitals in Britain by the artist Edward Adamson, as he was demobilized after World War II. Art Therapy as a concept and cause was furthered by proponents in Britain viz. E. M. Lyddiatt, Michael Edwards, Diana Raphael-Halliday and Rita Simon which led to the foundation of the British Association of Art Therapists in 1964.
Parallel to the initiative and beginnings of Hill in Britain, forerunners in the field of Art Therapy like Margaret Naumburg and Edith Kramer began their practice in the United States of America. Both with their own vision and backgrounds established the permanence of this approach to therapy. An educator by profession, Naumburg emphasized on the theory that art therapy is inclined psychoanalytically and that free expression in the arts is essentially a form of symbolic speech, thus increasing the extent of verbalization during therapy. The artist in Edith Kramer, however leaned more on the creative process, psychological defenses, and art quality, stating that only when emotions like anger, anxiety, or pain are released through art in any form, does the patient truly achieves sublimation. It was in 1969 that American Art Therapy Association was formed.


Professional art therapy associations of a national level exists in countries like Brazil, Canada, Finland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Romania, South Korea, and Sweden. It is through international networking that concrete standards for education and practice are established.

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