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Therapeutic Value of Art and History of Art Therapy

Therapy Emotions Artistic Becoming An Art Therapist
“Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that encourages the expression of emotions through artistic activities such as painting, drawing or sculpture; psychotherapy based on the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life-enhancing” (Webster’s Dictionary). Art therapy opens a creative world for those who cannot express the way they feel by use of verbal communication. To some people, are not enough.
Expression through painting, sculpting, and drawing assists one in overcoming the effects of traumatic or unpleasant happenings in his life. Art therapy is a field that is beneficial to people of all ages, gender, emotional status, or mental ability. It is necessary to examine the knowledge of products resulting from and various methods utilized in a variety of disciplines in order to fully understand the vast benefits of implementing art therapy (Repko, 2005).
It is used for a wide variety of conditions such as: the terminally ill, mentally challenged, emotionally disturbed, those afflicted with eating disorders, the abused both physically and verbally, and many more. The goal of Art Therapy is free and open expression, emotional well-being, mental stability and well-balanced coping skills for the client.
In the profession of Psychology, use of Art Therapy is considered a most crucial component in evaluating, diagnosing and treating patients. Analysis of a person’s psyche and mental health is often difficult with the single use of verbal communication. The use of art in healing dates back to the ancient drawings on walls of caves, revealing that although the profession of Art Therapy appears very young in the family of mental health disciplines it is very old and personally natural in practice.
There is even evidence that the creative act of art may have prevented or forestalled more serious mental disorders for painters such as Blake, Munch or Van Gogh (McNiff, 1980). Patients who are given the opportunity to free themselves of inhibitions stemming from inner hesitations of new experiences, parental influences, cultural or economic are able to express deep fears, even fantasies or wishes through the expression of art.
It is the symbolic language of images that initiates the surfacing of feelings and emotions that one often cannot or dares not to express verbally (Meltzer, 1948). As people outgrow inhibitions their personalities are freed and they can express and project feelings as well as face events that once disturbed them.
In therapy, the developmental stages of art expression go from quite restricted and simplistic stereotypic models to images with actual faces or events expressed. Frustrated or once disassociated personalities are released and reintegrated through the use of art expression (McNiff, 1948).
Art is often neglected as a serious academic subject in educational institutions. However, with further investigation it can compliment even the most difficult educational programs. Art is important to every student, but especially in programs educating handicapped or exceptional children. J. Dewey expressed in his drive to develop humanness in exceptional children that “…artistic activity is the way in which one may gain in strength and stature, the belief in his own powers, and the self respect which makes artistic activity constructive in the growth of personality” (Dewey, 1970 as sited in Integration of Art Education into Special Education Programs, 1976, n.p.).
Curiosity is emerging about the therapeutic values of art, where once there was an emphasis on cognition art is becoming recognized as beneficial in the development and growth of individuals. The goal of both art therapist and art teacher is for an individual to realize his full ego. Teachers and therapists strive to master techniques which affect and develop the inner psyche of students.
Margaret Naumburg was the first educator who had a sophisticated understanding of the importance of art in education. She incorporated free art expression into her work and published writings about her experiences. Teachers joined clinicians and educators in institutions dealing with handicapped, the bereaved and the mentally ill (Rubin, 1980).
Intense and long-term education with clinical practice is required for an Art Therapist to obtain certification. The very nature of altering one’s personality or well-being in therapy necessitates the seriousness in consideration of the academic and practical preparation of an art therapist.
The American Art Therapy Association was formed to regulate and determine and delineate the degree of education and training of art therapists. Standards of registration include strict guidelines with requirements including a master’s program with a highly valued emphasis on graduate training under the supervision and tutelage of art therapists and psychotherapists within clinical settings (McNiff, 1980).
A wide variety of disciplines could be examined to understand the value of Art Therapy. Some are: sociology, psychology, economics, artand education. The scope of this paper will focus onhow art therapy is used in analyzing the psychological health of patients and treatment of; the development of individuality through art incorporated into education; and the aesthetic value of expression through the creative act of art. The most critical disciplines to determine the benefits of Art Therapy incorporated into its goal are psychology, art, and education.
Examining the perspective of psychology will allow understanding of how a person can be evaluated for emotional and mental health, and methods of treatment prescribed to achieve the ultimate of balanced well-being through the use of the creative act. Psychology is the science of the status of the mind and it processes. Many conditions and happenings in life affect an individual’s physical and mental health. It is imperative to evaluate and prescribe the most beneficial methods of treatment to achieve this balance of mental status.
Examining the perspective of art will reveal how expression of emotion and experience within the freedom of verbal communication has a healing affect on an individual and can rid him of past traumas or harmful experiences that prevent ultimate health. Art is the production of what is appealing, considered beautiful or that which is of more than ordinary significance. The avenue of communication through this type of creative expression enhances all individuals who utilize it. Not only is aesthetic value received through artistic expression, rather the therapeutic value far outweighs the former benefits.
Finally, in looking at the perspective of education may explain why there is a necessity of years of academic instruction and clinical practice to obtain the certification of art therapy. Education is considered the intellectual preparation for mature life through acquiring knowledge. Its goal is to develop the power to reason based on knowledge and instruction that is imparted to the student. The profession of Art Therapy requires many years of academic study as well as clinical study and internship to obtain certification. Intense focus is on the importance of proper study and training to perform art therapy with an individual.
Research of articles, journals and literary information pertaining to each discipline will be conducted. Products of the three disciplines mentioned concerning art therapy will be discussed such as American Art Therapy Association standards and requirements, artistic work of individuals before and after treatment, and exhibits of artistic expression from a variety of painters. The effectiveness of art therapy will also be revealed through drawings and paintings exhibited by different artists and individuals.
The purpose of this paper is to reveal the therapeutic value of free expression in drawing, sculpting and the use of images; how art expands the imagination and educational scope of children and adults; and how the development of personality and character is affected when allowed expression through non- verbal means. By looking at similarities in the end product of individuals through various disciplines, the benefits of implementing art therapy will be revealed.
Background Art Therapy (All in bold will be defined in Appendix A) began its history in the 1930s in America because of the efforts of Margaret Naumburg. In thirty years it developed into seven courses taught in five institutions by four art therapists including Ms. Naumburg. By 1971 four programs offered master’s degrees in art therapy. These degrees were offered in universities, a medical college and a college known for its fine arts studies.
Single courses in art therapy were offered across the country in academic institutions as supplemental education. The historical background of art therapy began very slowly with seemingly nothing happening and then it developed with great speed (Agell, 1980).
In the early development of art therapy professionals used it as case work for treating children with behavioral problems in residencies and special schools, hospitalized patients and private clients. “Art therapists who, convinced of the special qualities inherent in art, persuaded others – artists, teachers, and clinicians – that art expression provided an enduring, moving, and sometimes exquisite message of human experience” (Agell, 1980, p. 9).
During the pioneering days, many therapists had been doing art therapy but didn’t know what to call the process or results of something special that was happening in their work.
Elinor Utman founded the American Journal of Art Therapy in 1961. This publication provided information regarding the therapeutic use of art in professions. It also enabled art therapists who had formerly been isolated to be unified. This ultimately led to the founding of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) in 1969 that gave therapists a structure for promoting their field of work, and its ultimate priority was to support the training development of art therapists.
Two documents, Guidelines for ArtTherapy Training and Guidelines were created to provide the fundamental standards for training and the educational level required for certification of art therapy. It was determined that professional certification should be with a Master’s degree with recommended didactic and practicum experience (Agell, 1980).
Art therapy has developed into four categories: recreational, occupation, general therapeutic and actual art therapy. These types of therapy are typically used with a variety of patients; the most intensive application of the therapy was used on institutionalized tubercular patients. Handicrafts and major arts were used to aid in the depression caused by elongated institutionalization.
Physically handicapped patients were trained how to use other limbs or a different set of learning functions. Neurologically impaired patients such as those with cerebral palsy, mongoloid or the blind experienced the benefit of release or development of a satisfactory degree of intellectual functioning through the creative act of art.
Those with mental and psychologically deviant conditions experienced art therapy as a therapeutic process and sometimes as a curative process. Art therapy was used for the occupational benefit as well as for enjoyment.
“With the retarded and pathological child we have begun to realize the great help that can be gained from art psychotherapy in the youngest age group (Harms, 1975, p. 242). Research in progress shows that we ought first to distinguish between intellectual and perceptive learning. An impaired child will comprehend a branch of green leaves or a flower much more readily if it is not only explained to him but if he also has drawn it with crayons. The creative method of comprehending is not only much simpler but also reaches deeper into the apperceptive nature of the young child” (Harms, 1975, p.242).
Development of Art therapy is used for people with health issues. Anna, age twelve, is a patient who came to treatment after having suffered many traumatic experiences due to a heart defect. She endured five major cardiac surgeries and had many problems that compounded her condition other than the physical difficulties. Having been sexually abused by a family member she exhibited difficulty coping with her feelings about the issues in her life causing stomach aches and a lack in friendships.
Anna’s treatment included art therapy and resulted in better management of her anxiety and depression. A part of her treatment was to create a collage to draw out the subconscious feelings she had reached regarding her life issues. The focus of treatment and healing was her serious medical condition along with abuses. Anna’s depiction of herself in the collage was a figure with a large head and small body shown in the center of the paper. She had cut out magazine and placed the “good” describing herself on the right of her head and to the left, the “bad”.
It was determined that she could not see both sides as a part of the whole head indicating she viewed herself as divided. It was only through art instead of traditional verbal therapy that this depiction of self was revealed. Though she was initially unaware of the divided view of herself through art therapy she reached a measure of healing resulting in healthier coping skills. This was confirmed by the change of images in her art, proving the benefit of art in treatment as well as recovery (Lees, 2003-2005).
Victims of violent physical abuse also benefit from art therapy in that they are able to express in images horrible experiences that are either no longer conscious or are too painful to verbalize. As a sexual abuse survivor Susan exhibited a common theme of confusion of feelings and devaluation of self that is often only revealed through art. Art therapy reveals through images the impact the violence of sexual abuse creates.
The first drawing of Susan reflected her pain with a single tear on an expressionless face. Her torment was silent, but through continued use of art she was able to express her suppressed emotions and the feelings that overwhelmed her. Progressive pictures depicted images of her feelings of loneliness and helplessness. Art allowed Susan to step outside herself and view what her feelings look like. This was a step used for her to learn how to own her true feelings. Through art she was able to see herself as a grown woman with an inner child.
The colors in her art turned from black and colorless to vibrant and vivid. Emotions of anger appeared after the fifth drawing and as art drawings continued through treatment deeper emotions were depicted in the images and color selection. Through art therapy Susan was able to work through the steps of healing which brought hope of a new life without the pain from past experiences (Lees, 2003-2005).
A third use of art therapy is with people who have challenges living in the normal realm of life. Children with autism benefit from art therapy by the opportunity to express and communicate with the world through images since they often cannot verbally. Sung, a Korean five year old girl, was filmed with a 35 mm camera to determine the benefit of art in autistic children. In her first session she became familiarized with the supplies used in art – sketchbook and a box of bright wax craypas.
Her first drawings were banana-like arcs with heavy lines or large solid dots also containing rectangular patches. Other forms come and go in her depictions. Eventually she became “mesmerized by activity which fills her entire visual field and is absorbed by the deepening color and her rapidly moving hand seen from scant inches away” (Kellman, 2004, p.13). Sung’s art developed into additional shapes and a common images of heads with big solid eye dots and facial features. As time went on her pictures became more detailed including bodies with clothes and thinner lines. Paints and origami were introduced which developed dexterity.
She was able to develop keen vision with spatial capacities as well as the control of fine motor skills. Her art revealed that autistic children frequently “focus on the geometric structure of a visual scene and on the forms and structures of objects themselves in their drawings” (Kellman, 2004, p.16). Sung was developing her available skills through art.
Art therapy has developed into an essential and beneficial form of treatment and therapy. The above three scenarios prove the variety of uses in the expressive language of art. People with physical, mental or emotional difficulties are able to heal or develop with the use of art expression. The extent of healing/development can be measured through the progression of detail in the images. The scope of treatment is determined by the extent or type of art medium necessary. From its beginning in the 1930s, art therapy has developed and become recognized as an authentic therapy to assist people through a variety of disciplines.
The objective of this paper is to explain how to become a successful art therapist by showing examples of treatments and giving the guidelines of the educational process. Integrating several disciplines forms a holistic, comprehensive understanding of how to accomplish this profession by using the Comprehensive Perspectives Model (Repko, 2005). Psychology not only benefits the therapist but is also the core reason patients turn to art therapy.
Having a background in psychology will give an understanding of the brain and gives insights of how to cope and treat the issue. Art consists of the therapeutic process of learning to show emotion by using drawing pencils, paints and clay for sculpturing. Any individual can benefit from art alone because it subconsciously uses all the senses.
Education is what ties the two above disciplines together. Psychology and art alone are very different but with having the proper process in both, together they form a creative solution for those not only in need of therapy, but for all.
References Psychology
Evans, R.,

Museum of Fine Arts in Houston | Reflection

Cultural Response
This cultural response essay will discuss my trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. I will be describing my favorite works of art, compare two pieces of art by Do Ho Suh, and then describe my experience at the museum.
The first part of the museum that I visited was the Audrey Jones Beck building on level 1. The exhibit was the Antiquities and American Art 1800-1970. I saw art given by Ima Hogg, Jackson Pollock, Severin Roesen, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Christian Edward Bottcher. I have visited the Hogg Plantation and being able to see the furniture and art that was given by Mrs. Hogg from her home was very interesting. The first piece of art that caught my attention was in section 107 of this level. It was called the “Victorian Bouquet” by the artist Severin Roesen in circa 1850-1855. Roesen was an American artist but was born in Germany in 1815. The media of the artwork is oil on canvas. The “Victorian Bouquet” features a wide variety of exquisite flowers and fruit. It revives the 17th century Dutch tradition of still-life portraits and paintings. The painting celebrates wealth, life, and aesthetic and physical comfort. It contains roses, poppies, morning glories, peonies, tulips, forget-me-nots, carnations, lilies, irises, peaches, raspberries, pomegranates, and a glass of wine among other things. Roesen provides a feast for the senses. What I love most about this work is how vivid, realistic, and beautiful he made the flowers and contents of the picture. The bright and rich colors chosen in contrast to the black background really create a beautiful scene.
The second artwork that I was impressed with was created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, who created the Tiffany lamps. This piece was in the same building but in section 109. He was an American artist and developed Tiffany Studios in 1900. The name of the piece is “A Wooden Landscape in Three Panels” created around 1905. The medium is glass, copper-foil, and lead. “A Wooden Landscape” is far more complex than any stained glass windows I have seen, which are usually put together like a puzzle. Usually they are layered together in multiple pieces with glass, one on top of the other. This is just like a painter layered his paint of a canvas. Tiffany used subtle choices of color in this artwork which changes with the variations of light that it has been exposed to. Like a living landscape, this artwork changes in appearance responding to the light surrounding it. The thing that caught my attention about this artwork was the size. Its overall size is 7.2 x 11 feet. Another thing that I liked about this artwork was that it was stained glass. I love stained glass windows and how Tiffany did this was gorgeous. My dad has collected Tiffany lamps and so when I saw this artwork I recognized the styling and technique quickly.
The Third portrait I found was in the same building as the other two but in section 113. The artist who created the work was Christian Edward Bottcher. Bottcher was a German artist who lived from 1818 to 1889. The name of the artwork was “Summer Night on the Rhine” which was created in 1862. The medium of the work was oil paint on canvas. It contained medieval castles, picturesque towns, friends gathered under a beautiful tree, and a vineyard sloping down the side of a hill. The Rhine valley is an extremely romantic scene which was captured perfectly in this artwork where there is an exciting, charming, and nostalgic get-together. Laughter and happiness spill from the canvas and it makes you want to be a part of the celebration. The moonlight sets the perfect shadowing and colors to reflect the mood of the painting. What I found to be charming about this scene is how all 15 or so men are trying to court the women and are giving them flowers. It is almost like an extremely large match-maker party. Another fun thing about this picture is where the party is taking place. You can quickly tell that they are all from the upper class because of their dress and the castle that they are beside, but the party is under a big tree with a table underneath. A chandelier is tied to a limb of a tree with rope. This is a very exquisite oil painting and I sat and wondered at its detail for a very long while.
In the Caroline Wiess Law building, 2nd floor, gallery 200, I found the works of Do Ho Suh, a Korean artist living in America. The first piece I found was called “Fallen Star 1/5” which is 131 x 145 x 120 inches. It was created in 2008-2009 and is made up of ABS (plastic), basswood, beech, ceramic, enamel paint, glass, honeycomb board, lacquer paint, latex paint, LED lights, pinewood, plywood, resin, spruce, styrene, polycarbonate sheets and polyvinyl chloride sheets. The second piece of art created by Suh is called “Home within a Home” which was created in 2009. The dimensions of this piece are 131 x 145 x300 inches. It was created with resin. Do Ho Suh began using nylon and silk to create full size representations of his childhood home in Korea and his first American Apartment, a historical building in Providence, Rhode Island. The translucent quality of these materials creates the blurred line between the past and present, inside and outside. “Fallen Star 1/5” is an autobiographical representation of Suh’s journey from Korea to the U.S. The artwork shows us a traditional Korean scholar’s house that has crashed into the building that housed his first American apartment. Each object in the house has been hand made by Suh. He made the house and its contents as realistic as possible to create the effect of being lived in and something the viewer can relate to. “Home within a Home” is a continuation of the piece “Fallen Star”. In the earlier work, the two buildings were very much separate entities but in “Home within a Home”, the Korean house and the apartment building have become a part of the same entity, growing and forming together as one. Suh’s artwork is not trying to convey the idea of a violent collision between cultures, but rather about how they coexist together. He said maybe “If you start to move things around, maybe the Korean house loses its identity, sort of blends in with the American style-or the other way around. I would love to build a house like this because it raises very interesting questions. Are you in a Korean house or an American house? That’s a constant question to myself” (MFAH description of artwork). Both pieces of art symbolize the destroyed Old Korea coming together with the merging New Korea and America. Both pieces of art are easy to compare because of their connection that was created by the artist. Both represent the story and journey of Do Ho Suh. They both show what “home” means to him and how he puts importance on his culture. The only big difference between the pieces is the materials used and the fact that “Fallen Star” they are two different houses, and in “Home within a Home” they are put together and morphing into one house. My favorite out of the two is “Fallen Star 1/5” because of how realistic it was. It took him 2 years to create this masterpiece and it is so amazing. I love how each room is made to look lived in and creates this warm, at home atmosphere. On the outside of the building he uses an old style of architecture that I love and it was put together very intricately. There was a woman who was giving a tour to a middle school group and she described the artwork to them by comparing it to The Wizard of Oz. She did this because of how the Korean home is crashed into the apartment building. I thought this was humorous and helped the children relate more to the painting, “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” The one thing I found interesting about “Home within a Home” was the material used, resin. Just gazing at the piece, you could see right through it and could see every detail of the staircases, hallways, windows, and the roof of the Korean house while still being very detailed on the outside. Both pieces by Do Ho Suh were very interesting and thought provoking. I would recommend any of my class mates to go see them both as soon as possible.
My experience at the Museum was very enjoyable and I hope to go there again very soon. I drove there with my mom which created a good bonding time and made the experience even better for me. When we first entered Houston I was actually confused about which building the Museum was a part of and we ended up in the parking garage of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, oops! Once we figured out where we actually needed to be, the right museum, we walked into the first room and were warmly greeted by the two women up front. I had a small, fun conversation with them both and they were extremely interested in my assignment and asked me about it and what I planned to do. Once they looked over my assignment sheet they informed me that my entrance into the museum would be free of charge. That was extremely nice of them to put that much importance into learning and reward students that way! As my mom and I wandered aimlessly around the building taking in all there was to see, all of the employees greeted us and smiled. I noticed quickly that all of them were from different countries, mostly Asia and one man was even from Africa. While my mom and I walked around, we get turned around and confused as to where we were and every single employee we asked to help us was extremely kind. I have already recommended many of my friends to go visit this museum. The pieces of art I saw were amazing and I love that an establishment like this is as close to me as Houston. This trip was a great experience but unfortunately I did not have the time to stay and see all of the pieces and so I hope to go again very soon.