Art Therapy and the Therapy of Art
The psychological mechanisms from which artistic creation proceeds are, it
seems to me, such that we should either classify them once and for all in the
domain of the pathological, and consider the artist in every case as a
psychopath, or else widen our conception of what is healthy and normal, and
push its limit so far back that the whole of madness can find a place therein.
Most of what I have written so far about the psychological aspects of aesthetics deals with works of art that have not been specifically addressed to any therapeutic situation. Such a situation is one in which works of art are viewed from a particular psychological perspective which is narrower, deeper and more specialised than what I have so far included under the heading of ‘psychological’. In classical psychoanalysis this involved the enlisting of already created works as evidence for its new theories about unconscious processes. In most cases this evidence was historical, and the artist in question was dead, so that the application of psychotherapeutic concepts to their work was a largely theoretical enterprise. In art therapy, artworks are created specifically for a therapeutic context in which these processes are of more actual importance. In Freud’s writings about art its psychoaesthetic qualities are invoked as a support for psychoanalytic theory; in art therapy these qualities are attended to in order to understand and help the patient. Nevertheless, it could be argued that in both instances there are factors that give a special focus and perspective to the understanding of art. Some of these are internal, in that they are part of the professional slant of psychotherapy: for example, models of the dynamics of unconscious processes and of the nature of the therapeutic relationship. Others are external, for example, to do with expectations of healing or the demands of mental health service provision.