Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Contemporary Art Therapy with Adolescents

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Contemporary Art Therapy with Adolescents

Article excerpt

SHIRLEY RILEY: Contemporary Art Therapy with Adolescents. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London & Philadelphia, PA, 1999, 285 pp., $26.95, ISBN 1-85302-63.

"Teenagers are willing to draw and create art as freely as they resist talking to an adult. How to engage this talent for creativity and channel it into therapy is the skill of the trained art therapist" (p. 37).

Riley, in her comprehensive book, attempts to describe how this is done. Riley's book is a compendium of information, presented largely through excerpts from case studies. The book is marred by typographic errors and misspelling. Rather than an overall view of "adolescents" in general, this book refers to those teens seen in mental health clinics. A pastiche of articles and interviews with other art therapists makes for a bumpy read. Although the book does not flow smoothly, it is worth reading more than once, as reference and catalyst for rethinking old ideas.

The glue holding the book together is Riley's passion and intuitive skill, plus her obvious pleasure and enjoyment in working with adolescents. Her thesis that youths, in particular those seen in mental health clinics, cannot be treated apart from their environment, makes a strong case for her belief in the efficacy of pragmatic therapies.

Social constructionists and narrative theories provide the theoretical underpinnings for Riley's work as a clinician, with art therapy as prime modality.

Riley supports the idea that separation/individuation away from the family must give way to individuation while maintaining connection with the family.

The client, while working in an art therapy modality, being "held" in a nonjudgmental, therapeutic frame, with dear boundaries and appropriate limit setting, is provided a safe place for dialogue, or not. …

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