Brief History of Art Therapy

Topics: Psychotherapy, Art, Family therapy Pages: 11 (3441 words) Published: January 21, 2012

This history of art therapy focuses on the precursory and continuing trends that have shaped the theory and practice and the literature that reflects this development. Scholarship, like history, builds on the foundations laid by others. I am indebted to the authors of four other histories that I found to be particularly useful in the preparation of this chapter. Both Malchiodi (1998) and Rubin (1999) have assembled histories based on contributing trends, as did Junge and Asawa (1994) who have pro-vided extensive details on the personalities and politics involved in the formation of the American Art Therapy Association. My fourth primary source (MacGregor, 1989), while never intended as a book about art therapy, has proven to be an excel-lent "prehistory" of the field. Each of these references provided information as well as inspiration and I encourage readers to consult them for additional perspectives. Finally, it should be noted here that art therapy was not a phenomenon exclusive to the United States. Readers interested in art therapy's development in Europe should consult Waller's (1991, 1998) two books on this subject. History is like a tapestry with each colored thread contributing not only to the formation of the image but to the strength and structure of the fabric itself. Imagine for a moment a tapestry with bobbins of different-colored threads, each adding a hue that becomes part of a new creation, and we can better understand the history of this field. INFLUENCES FROM THE DISTANT PAST AND NEIGHBORING FIELDS

Art therapy is a hybrid discipline based primarily on the fields of art and psychology, drawing characteristics from each parent to evolve a unique new entity. But the inter weaving of the arts and healing is hardly a new phenomenon. It seems clear that this pairing is as old as human society itself, having occurred repeatedly throughout our history across place and time (Malchiodi, 1998). The development of the profession of art therapy can be seen as the formal application of a long-standing human tradi-tion influenced by the intellectual and social trends of the 20th century (Junge & Asawa, 1994). 1

From the Realms or Art Art making is an innate human tendency, so much so it has been argued that, like speech and tool making, this activity could be used to define our species (Dissana-yake, 1992). In his book, The Discovery of the Art of the Insane, MacGregor (1989) presents a history of the interplay of art and psychology spanning the last 300 years. This history covers theories of genius and insanity, biographies of "mad" artists, depictions of madness by artists, and the various attempts to reach an understanding of the potential art has as an aid to mental health treatment and diagnosis. In 1922, German psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn (1922/1995) published The Artistry of the Men-tally III, a book that depicted and described the artistic productions of residents of in-sane asylums across Europe. This work challenged both psychiatric and fine arts professionals to reconsider their notions of mental illness and art (MacGregor, 1989). Even today, debate rages within the field variously titled outsider art/art brut/visionary art/folk art as experts struggle to place work by self-taught artists (some of whom have experienced mental illness) within the art historical canon (Borum, 1993/1994; Russell, 2002). Contemporary writers from art therapy and other disciplines continue to explore the notion of art practice for the purpose of personal exploration and growth (Alien, 1995; Cameron & Bryan, 1992; C. Moon, 2002) and to reevaluate the traditional boundaries between personal and public art (Lachman-Chapin et al., 1999; Sigler, 1993; Spaniol, 1990; Vick, 2000).

Medicine, Health, and Rehabilitation Hospitals have long served as important incubators for the field of art therapy. For better or worse, medical model concepts such as diagnosis, disease, and...
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