Group Interactive Art Therapy: Its Use in Training and Treatment

By Diane Waller | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6

Using themes or projects within an interactive model

So far I have discussed groups in which themes tend to arise spontaneously out of discussion among group members. There are times, though, when I have decided to present the group with a theme, or perhaps project is a better description, right at the beginning. This is usually when conducting time-limited workshops in which the participants need to understand about the potentiality of art therapy for themselves. On these occasions I have obviously stepped away from the group analytic end of the interactive spectrum. On the other hand, having presented the group with the idea for the project, it is up to the individual members and the group how they interpret it and how they subsequently use the material.

I have used the following open-ended projects with trainee art therapists, other professionals wanting an introduction to the process of interactive art therapy, patient groups—mainly of functioning out-patients with problems such as drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, depression and phobias. I have found them useful ways either to begin or to continue a time-limited workshop. They can be developed by each group according to its preoccupations at the time and to the level of the participants’ abilities. All the projects give ample opportunity for exploration of simple visual media—which in the case of non-art trained participants can be extremely useful for confidence building.


This is a project which is useful to introduce at the beginning of a new group. It encourages members to focus on how they present themselves to the outside world and how they feel ‘inside’. It requires them to reflect on how much (if at all) they hide or disguise their feelings (or ‘real selves’) in the interests of conforming to others’ expectations (or expectations of their own). The project makes use of ordinary cardboard boxes as a starting-point and requires a range of easy-to-use materials. There is something quite reassuring about a cardboard box. There is nothing intrinsically precious about it. It can be obtained from any store or supermarket. This fact is quite


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