International Journal of Art Therapy: Inscape Volume 23, Issues 1-2, January-June 2018
21 May 2018
The latest IJAT:Inscape is about to go to press! This new double issue contains the following articles...
Volume 23, Issue 1, March 2018
This issue presents five articles, each of a very different nature. Shirley Sharon-Zisser outlines a Lacanian theory of Art Therapy; Jamie Bird describes how an art therapy perspective can help people who have experienced domestic violence; Gary Nash describes Art Therapy in private practice; and Alex McDonald and Nicholas StJ Drey provide a much needed review of Art Therapy work with primary school children. Sian Stott is the winner of the IJAT:Inscape New Practitioners’ Essay Prize. She describes some phenomena associated with the process of copying within the Art Therapy clinical context.
Lacanian theory may be more familiar to UK art therapists from their experience of the ‘Art World’ rather than Art Therapy. My first memory of Lacan was in the context of postmodern art theory, before I became an art therapist. I remember it as exciting, challenging – and confusing. It is sometimes perceived as dense/impenetrable/opaque but Sharon-Zisser attempts to clarify what she believes can be a Lacanian theory of Art Therapy and thus expresses a set of ideas on how the psychodynamics of Art Therapy may be enriched by Lacan's work.
Jamie Bird writes about investigating people’s experience of domestic violence through the use of art. He describes how an art therapist's perspective can productively offer a particular point of view and way of working – even when the art therapist is not delivering Art Therapy. I think that this is relevant to many situations in which art therapists find themselves – for example, when working in a multidisciplinary team, as part of a research project or offering consultation to others.
Gary Nash describes how evaluation methods might be used in private practice. He describes two art-based evaluation methods: the ‘retrospective review’ and the ‘reflect interview and audio image recording’. The ways in which these may be used in this context are discussed. I think it is important to publish writing that highlights some of the similarities and differences between private practice and Art Therapy within large institutions. I hope this article prompts an ongoing constructive debate on the subject.
Alex McDonald and Nicholas StJ Drey contribute a review of the literature on Art Therapy with children of primary school age. The mental health of young people is a serious cause for concern, and a thorough review such as this is a welcome contribution to the development of Art Therapy services that optimally meet the needs of young people. The importance of art therapists in this field auditing their work and understanding suitable outcome measures is also stressed. I believe this does not only apply to Art Therapy with children; it applies to Art Therapy more widely.
The article by Sian Stott is the winner of the IJAT:Inscape New Practitioners’ Essay Prize. She describes the situation of client and therapist copying an image – in this case, an illustration in a book. She discusses the possible psychological phenomena that may be at play in this situation. As well as echoing early child development, it also reminded me of how important copying was in my own art education – especially at school. I wonder if the psychological and artistic power of copying in Art Therapy has been historically rather overshadowed by the ideas related to free association and unfettered spontaneous self-expression.
My tenure as the editor of IJAT:Inscape has now come to an end. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to perform this role over the last three years. I am pleased to announce that Susan Carr, Alex McDonald and Neil Springham will be acting as joint editors in the interim period before the new editor is appointed through the interview process.
Volume 23, Issue 2, June 2018
Susan Carr & Alex McDonald
As our first editorial acting as co-editors for this journal it is a pleasure to present this issue, which includes four diverse articles featuring very different art therapy practices and theories, and yet each in its own way, speaks about the importance of developing a collaborative relationship and enabling the client to not only find a way forward through their particular issues, but to develop a lasting resilience. The development of resilience can also be seen as a positive way to counter the negative connotation surrounding the term ‘vulnerable’, a word often used to describe many of the clients we work with.
Cordy Askew presents an article which explores the use of the story of Frankenstein within art therapy by a client living with a learning disability. Askew discusses the themes that arise for his client ‘Ben’ and how, by engaging with ‘Ben’s’ preoccupation with the Frankenstein story, Askew is able to meet Ben within a metaphor of his choosing, and safely engage with issues Ben needed to face, namely; death, loss, abandonment and relationships.
The term resilience has many different meanings, depending upon the field it is used in, however, most definitions refer to a process of adaption following adversity. Within art therapy resilience can be described as the creative capacity to adapt well, and maintain one's physical and mental health, when faced with challenging circumstances and adversity, e.g.: illness, loss, trauma, tragedy or stressful situations. Resilience also focuses on the positive individual strengths of a person and their ability to ‘overcome’ adversity.
The article by Jones et al. provides an overview of long- and short-term art therapy treatment approaches, used in the USA for military service personnel living with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The treatments described begin in the first instance with therapist-led approaches, developing into an increasingly patient-led format, and provide guidance to art therapists working with military veterans, but also for those working in the more general field of PTSD and TBI.
It is claimed that resilience is not something that people are born with, rather it is something that can be learned and developed. However, this belief misses a vital point made by many research studies, which is that the primary factor for the development of resilience is having loving, caring and supportive relationships. While this can be provided on a short-term basis by the art therapist, this does not provide an ongoing solution for those who are isolated and vulnerable. Consequently these are the very individuals who struggle most with resilience.
Darewych & Bowers provide an article which describes the theoretical framework and practical interventions of positive arts therapists. They suggest that as a creative clinical tool, positive arts therapy promotes psychological well-being, through placing an emphasis on enabling the client to develop positive emotions, personal meanings and resilience.
Resilience is also often wrongly assumed to be a personality trait, something you are born with, whereas in reality it is perhaps a support system you are born into. The concern here is that the concept of resilience as a personality trait places the onus on the client, thus they can be judged and found to be lacking if they do not possess resilience, when in reality, what they lack is the support system that allows them to be resilient. This begs the question ‘can resilience be learned?’ Certainly it seems that developing a personal support system is a key factor in ‘learning’ resilience.
The article by Granot et al. describes Jungian art therapists’ perceptions of Jungian theory and its use within art therapy. The use of archetypes, myth and symbolism are thought to facilitate the drive for self-realisation and individuation within the client. The paper suggests that Jungian art therapists consider the fundamental benefits of Jungian theory as the unique language it provides, and the way in which symbols are seen as universal as well as transformative.
Whatever the theoretical basis underpinning the varying approaches to art therapy practice, and whatever the perspective on resilience, it appears that there is agreement that the ongoing support of others is required. Resilience is not something that can be generalised and learned by rote, rather it is a personal journey of developing strategies and support systems that work on an individual basis. We would welcome further studies on this area as there is a significant opportunity for research in the field of art therapy and resilience, in particular the role art therapy can play in building a person's creative capacity to adapt to adversity.
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