Carolyn Refsnes Kniazzeh
IN ITS DEVELOPMENT over the past four decades, the field of art therapy can be likened to a spectrum of colors, with each color representing a different facet of the discipline in its relationship to mental health and medical settings, to education, and to community programs. There are also spectra within spectra: for example, different philosophical and psychological orientations; various methods geared toward adults, adolescents, children, the elderly, the emotionally disturbed, mentally retarded, and physically handicapped; and applications with children with exceptional needs and learning disabilities in public and special schools.
Because the full spectrum of art therapy is too vast to be fully covered in one chapter, only dynamically oriented art therapy will be presented here (other approaches will be summarized in the conclusion). Dynamically oriented art therapy is the oldest movement in, and the source of many of the directions of, art therapy. It should be of interest to readers in psychiatry and related professions because it originated in both psychiatric and educational settings. It offers versatile methods that can be adapted to all ages and populations, to people with most types and degrees of disturbance and disability, and to a great variety of settings and purposes.
The essential feature of dynamically oriented art therapy is free art expression. The role of the art therapist and his methods are designed to cultivate individual expression in art and to turn this to therapeutic advantage through the healthy, ego-building experience inherent in the artistic process and through the communication, both nonverbal and verbal, that art inspires. One or both aspects of such therapy may be emphasized in work with groups or individuals.
Art therapy is at once a profound and practical form of treatment. It can be done in simple ways that are cost effective in many kinds of settings, both private and public. It provides opportunities for deep therapy or evaluation in one or few sessions, when other intensive therapies may be limited or not feasible, as is increasingly the case in many institutions. In settings that emphasize intensive treatments, art therapy contributes to evaluation and treatment in ways that enhance the work of all the staff.