Art Therapy and Social Action

Art Therapy and Social Action

Art Therapy and Social Action

Art Therapy and Social Action


Art Therapy and Social Action is an exciting and innovative exploration of how human service professionals can incorporate the techniques and approaches of art therapy in their work to address social problems, and examines the expanding role of art practitioner as social activist. Leading art therapists and other human service professionals show how creative methods can be used effectively to resolve conflicts, manage aggression, heal trauma and build communities. The contributors provide examples of innovative programs on a range of topics, including those designed to address gun crime, homelessness, racism and experiences of terrorism. This timely book provides new techniques and successful models for art therapists, counselors and mental health practitioners working directly with the challenges of modern society.



Why this book?

Some people are still waiting to be convinced that art and therapy go together. Certainly for them– and possibly for you who are reading this and who most likely accept art therapy as a viable modality – social action art therapy is something of a contradiction in terms. After all, art therapy endeavors to facilitate inner, individual change, and social action strives to make outer, collective change. But, before addressing what social action art therapy is or might be, the reasons for attempting to combine the two approaches should be addressed. In an attempt to present a holistic view, I'll start with some underlying personal motivations and build from there.

Throughout much of my life, I've felt the urge to bring together seemingly disparate entities. This probably began in childhood with my attempt to be the glue for a family that didn't quite fit together – with, as one can imagine, only limited success. As an adult, I've responded to this urge in ways both trivial and significant. When I took up cooking, I searched for recipes for dishes that combined unusual ingredients such as the “soup to nuts” cake that uses condensed tomato soup as a major component. When I sought my life's work, I looked for ways to combine my two loves: art and science. In the process of this last, I more or less “invented” the concept of art therapy and then discovered that others had gotten there before me (Kaplan 2000). Finally, in midlife, I became interested in promoting change – not just on an individual level but also on a societal one – and spent many years involved with the peace movement.

Thus began my efforts to apply art therapy to larger issues. And, as it happened, I found that others had preceded me there as well (e.g. Junge et al. 1993). Knowing that I was not alone in seeing the potential for art therapy to widen its scope encouraged me to take on this book project – a project that . . .

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