The Two Main Branches of Art therapy
Art therapy began as a natural extension of Freud’s groundbreaking psychoanalytic theories at the turn of the last century. Psychiatrists discovered that visual arts could be used as a tool of assessment, and by the 1940s art was being used not only for assessment, but also in therapeutic applications (Junge, 2010). Two main branches evolved from these early years: art as therapy and art psychotherapy.
With Freud and others at the forefront of modern psychological thinking, it is not surprising that the theories of psychoanalysis entered into art therapy. Margret Naumberg, considered by many to be the creator of art therapy, incorporated her concepts of artistic creation and symbolism with Freudian psychoanalysis (Junge, 2010). Art psychotherapy assumes “that imagery [is] an outward projection of the patient’s inward intrapsychic processes” and relies on “symbolic communication between the patient and therapist” (Junge, 2010, p. 38). Naumberg’s approach to analysis differed from Freud’s however. She allowed the patient to make his or her own interpretations rather than rely on the omnipotent therapist to provide insight (Junge, 2010). Goals of art psychotherapy include: making the unconscious conscious, transference through art making to the artwork itself, and client-based interpretation.
Art directives in an art psychotherapy approach are understood in terms of the spontaneous expression that gives access to unconscious material (Case & Dalley, 2006). The triangular relationship between the art, client, and therapist is considered more important than the final art product. Case and Dalley (2006) describe an art psychotherapy directive in which a child client is asked to paint a series of castle images. The child was given the opportunity to mix the paints, select the paper, and access materials in an art studio type setting. Through the observation of the art making process and the images created, the art therapist was able to analyze the client’s “internal defenses to a situation in the external world” (Case and Dalley. 2006, p. 143). Art psychotherapy directives are typically more open ended with the belief that the image created springs from the unconscious. Similarly, art materials are often viewed in terms of their metaphorical linkage with unconscious process. The mixing of paints might be understood as the collision of two worlds, for example (Case & Dalley, 2006). A variety of art materials may be made available to the client with the aim of promoting that spontaneous expression that leads to understanding the client’s inner world.
Art as therapy is second major branch of art therapy practice. Art as therapy focuses on mastery, expression, and sublimation with the art therapist working in a more teacher like role. Edith Kramer is known as the second great art therapy theoretician and the founder of the art as therapy movement (Junge, 2010). Kramer insisted that the art product itself initiates...