Psychotherapeutic Work Using Art

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Art Therapy generally has been found to be a useful method for psychotherapeutic work. Not only does it encompass less threatening, non-verbal techniques with patients that have profound difficulty verbalizing their feelings and thoughts; it can be used to open and expand verbal communication, as well (Crespo, 183). Art therapy, originally conceived by Edith Kramer, is meant to function as a way of supporting ego functioning by enhancing a sense of identity and self-esteem and in the process, fostering maturation in the patient. In other words, Art therapy complements or supports psychotherapy but does not replace it. Art therapy sessions, in short, are geared to reality-testing, which emphasizes mediating secondary process mechanisms of the ego rather than the primary cognitive processes found in free spontaneous drawings (Crespo, 183). The following research will look into Art therapy and how it affects different illnesses.

From the earliest days of psychoanalysis, the making of art was viewed according to the analyst's theoretical stance. This is illustrated in the attitudes of the two giants of Psychoanalysis – Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Freud's ambivalence is reflected in his view of the artist as ‘not far removed from neurosis'. In Freud's view he/she is ‘oppressed by excessively powerful instinctual needs' and ‘turns away from reality and transfers all his interest and his libido too, to the wishful constructions of his life of fantasy, whence the path might lead to neurosis'. Freud described conflicting constitutional factors: ‘a strong capacity for sublimation and a certain degree of laxity in the repressions'. But, in the same paragraph, Freud also wrote: ‘there is, in fact, a path that leads back from fantasy to reality – the path, that is, of art'. The psychology of the ‘true artist', he believed, was a convoluted journey from neurosis to ultimate fulfillment. The latter equated to ‘honor, power and the love of women' (Eisdell, 3). Carl Jung was the forerunner of art therapy. He viewed art-making as a means of expressing the sacred and mysterious – an important element in the ‘individuation' process. Jung used art in his own self-analysis and encouraged his patients to express themselves ‘by means of brush, pencil or pen'.

Developing a strategy on the use of art as symbolic speech, British analyst Donald Winnicott converted a pre-existing drawing game into a ‘technique' to engage his young patients at the start of therapy. He named it ‘the squiggle-game', describing it as ‘a game with no rules'. The focus is on engaging his patient, rather than the creation of a product for interpretation (Eisdell, 3). Winnecott would begin by drawing a squiggly line on a piece of paper, then allowing the patient to draw another squiggly line either connected to the other line or not. Then Winnecott would follow and do the same, stating that it is up to the person whose turn it is to decide where to put the next line. Over all, the squiggle game allows the child and the therapist to be connected more easily.

Robert Hobson also adapted a pre-existing game, a ‘party game'. Hobson used this ‘technique' to engage a withdrawn adolescent. Using a shared pencil and an old envelope, he invited the boy to play, the instructions being simply that ‘someone draws a line and then someone else goes on with the picture. He viewed the technique as ‘an invitation to explore the unknown, an adventure which calls for courage. Imaginative activity proceeded within a relationship – a verbal and non-verbal dialogue. As exemplified by both Hobson's ‘party game' and Winnicott's ‘squiggle game', both analysts specifically utilized these techniques in their initial interviews with difficult-to-engage adolescent patients (Eisdell, 4).

Art therapy can be used for many different types of people. Here we will look at art therapy with Schizophrenics, Autistic children and Anti-Social personalities. A Schizophrenic person does not have the...
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