Evaluation of an Art Therapy Programme for Clients with Difficult Life Situations

By Krcmáriková, Zuzana Tulák; Kovácová, Barbora | Review of Artistic Education, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Evaluation of an Art Therapy Programme for Clients with Difficult Life Situations


Krcmáriková, Zuzana Tulák, Kovácová, Barbora, Review of Artistic Education


1. Art therapy in Slovakia

In the circumstances of Slovakia, art therapy is a relatively young field in the framework of expressive therapies. In the context of this paper, art therapy is understood as healing through visual art302. From a historical point of view, art therapy has been included in the studies of Therapeutic Education at the Faculty of Education, Comenius University in Bratislava since 1967. After the beginning of normalization, the studies of therapeutic education were forcefully interrupted for twenty years. Only in the 1990's, with the rehabilitation of the field of therapeutic education, the possibility to study art therapy was reestablished. Roland Hanus was one of the art therapy representatives. The pioneer of contemporary history of art therapy in Slovakia, Jaroslava Sicková-Fabrici gave birth to the foundations of a complex perspective of art therapy (Basics of art therapy, 2002). In 2000, the organization Terra therapeutica and its centre were founded. Its main activities include organizing individual and group art therapy for children, youth and adults with various problems303. Currently, it is possible to study art therapy within the field of therapeutic education and also at the Institute of education in art therapy, in connection with the civic organization. In Slovakia, art therapy is contained also in the education of helping professionals (therapeutic education, special education, social education, social work or psychology) and artists as a part of supportive programmes within particular fields (psychosocial rehabilitation, social rehabilitation, crisis intervention and re-socialization).304 In 2012, Slovak Art Therapy Association was founded in Slovakia. Other than gathering art therapists (professionals who use art therapy in their practice and fulfil the art therapy education requirements), the goals of the association include professionalization of the field of art therapy.

2. Art therapy for clients with difficult life situations

The prevailing treatment of mental disorders is mostly biologically oriented. Most of the clients with a mental illness belong to the group of people with difficult life situations. Especially within the treatment and psychosocial rehabilitation of people with mental illnesses, art therapy and its use carries a long tradition in Slovakia. Based on research results from 2006, Grohol305 mentions that art therapy is used in treatment or psychosocial rehabilitation of people with mental disorders in 93.3% of these institutions. Working with clients with mental illnesses, André306 states that the treatment of a person with a mental disorder goes beyond the biological frame of a more or less lifelong treatment and therefore the usage of art therapy is another possibility of supporting the client. Fábry Lucká307 pointed out also the necessity of supporting the family of the client in their competences of helping and keeping resilience.

Working with a client with a mental disorder, art therapy creates space as a means of communication 308, as a means of reflecting problems, anger, depression, chaos, fear, and despair. Their materialisation into a product of art helps integrate these feelings as a part of themselves309. Through the art work, clients can be brought to understanding themselves, their inner processes and situations in which they reside. It helps to map, find a way, correct and solve life challenges. The tradition of art therapy itself is empowered by the research work and professional praxis of therapeutic educators. Art therapy is used, for example in work with people with addictions310, in treatment and rehabilitation of people with mental illnesses at specialized clinics - for example, Orosová, within her work, focused on patients with a borderline personality disorder311, at psychiatric departments of hospitals, at specialized hospitals, institutions of social services and day care centres312. Penzés et al.313 claim that by observing the reactions of the client, the (art) therapist gains insight into the mental health and feelings of the client during the art therapy intervention. …

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