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September 21st, 2001

Art Therapy

My wife (woa, that still sounds weird to me) is in graduate school studying art therapy, an interesting mix between studio art and psychology. One school of art therapy is “art as therapy,” where therapists encourage patients to use art to help them through troubling times. The other school of thought is a more analytical approach, where the therapist analyzes a patient’s artwork as part of their therapy.

It’s an interesting field, and today was the first mainstream news story I had seen about it (via the Obscure Store): Boca Raton art teacher suspended over pupils’ sketches of terror. An elementary art teacher told her students it was OK to draw pictures of last week’s events. But, a parent of a second-grader called the school to complain.

The teacher said, “Often, kids, depending on age or development level, … don?t have the words or ability to verbally express what they?re feeling, so giving them an outlet such as art-making or any other creative modalities ? movement, music, drama ? gives them alternatives for expressing their experience.”

One concern was that “the danger comes when someone who’s untrained in art therapy tries to interpret what a child is drawing, or uses it to diagnose a problem.” However, it doesn’t seem to me that the teacher was playing that role, but was following the first branch of art therapy that I had mentioned above, encouraging her students to express themselves artistically to deal with the inner conflicts they must surely be feeling.

Bowes said she wasn’t trying to be a therapist, just an art teacher. It certainly sounds that way to me. -ram

Posted in Miscellaneous

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