Art Therapy… When words are not enough!

The name “art therapy” itself points to two main directions, or rather, two poles of one continuum, in the existing practice and theory. Art-oriented therapists (art as therapy) emphasize the process of creating a work of art as the main one for therapeutic progress (E. Kramer et al.). The creative, artistic process is supported and encouraged, and the art therapist acts as its catalyst. The emphasis is on the self-healing power of art and creativity. Therapeutically-oriented (art psychotherapy) therapists often explain that concern with artistic goals should be minimized in favor of specialized forms of psychotherapy (M. Naumburg, etc.). The symbolic content of the artwork is examined in the context of the relationship between the therapist and the patient / client, the issues of transfer and counter transference are being considered. Currently, many art therapists move freely throughout the continuum between these two poles, not only in working with different clients, but even during one individual session. In our country, due to the lack of availability of professional art education for art therapists, many experts adhere to a therapeutically oriented and prescriptive approach, therefore in these theses emphasis will be placed on an attempt to understand the role and place of art and creativity in art therapy.

Perception of images by art therapists

For art-oriented therapists, a fundamental opinion is that expressed by E. Gray (Gray E.), E. Weinrib (E. Weinrib). The authors consider it very important for art therapists to think about the primacy of anonymous, healing, symbolic processes taking place in the psyche – those processes that do not have a specific focus, cannot be interpreted and do not allow any intervention by the psychotherapist. E. Weinrib (E. Weinrib) adds that “the refusal to recognize the self-healing ability of the psyche often leads to the use of this form of art therapy, which involves a high degree of directivity and excessive use of the technician”. L. Gantt considers a number of features of the perception of images by art therapists. She notes that art therapists, unlike those who have no relation to art therapy, are less critical even to simple images, stating that these images are neither beautiful, nor ugly, nor good, nor bad, but always meaningful. . Exploring how art therapists perceive various works of art, according to the author, it is possible to make very interesting observations, allowing, in particular, to judge the impact of art-therapeutic education on our perception.

According to L. Steinhard, the art therapist is trying to understand the different lines, shapes, colors, sizes and location of the elements of the image, their interaction with each other and what feelings they can be associated with. The artistic form itself carries in itself a certain content, although the author could have intended to express something completely different in the drawing. L. Steinhard notes that an art therapist who has a long experience of independent creative work understands all the complex experiences that accompany the process of creating artistic images, therefore the client feels supported by the therapist during his creative searches, and this is reflected in the nature of their images

Ability to artistic creativity as one of the fundamental characteristics of a person

E. Dissaneayek (Dissanayake E.) argues that the ability to artistic creativity is one of the fundamental characteristics of man. She views artistic creativity as a form of human behavior that developed along with its historical evolution and allowed it to survive. E. Dissaneayek (Dissanayake E.) indicates the need for a person to “give special status” to those items that are most valuable to him, as well as to those activities that are filled for a person with a deep personal meaning. The creation of artistic products is associated with the designation of the border between the ordinary and the extraordinary. Giving the subject a “special status” increases its importance and contributes to a longer retention in the person’s memory.

The beginnings of creativity have isolated a reasonable man from the animal world. The figure appeared at least 35,000 BC, even before the emergence of articulated speech. N. N. Nikolaenko argues that the ability to draw (in a broad sense – constructive ability) is genetically associated with such activities as gesticulation, facial expressions, pantomimic, sense of rhythm. The main thing in the ability to draw is the visual guidance of the hand movement, the formation of the visual image of the necessary actions. The author argues that the ability to draw is associated with the temporal-parietal occipital regions of the right hemisphere, and the development of such a right-hemispheric function, like a drawing, is historically the earliest and relatively ancient human acquisition. According to the author, with the help of drawing a person releases his own visual memory from the constant oppression of intense figurative experiences. By creating iconic signs, a person is separated from the environment. It is not only about the release of individual memory, but also about the transfer of images in the collective mind. The author argues that the role of art was particularly significant in the era of mythopoetic consciousness, when there was no writing, or it has not yet received universal distribution.

According to L. Steinhard, given that artistic creativity serves the task of human survival, it must be recognized that the modern division of labor and artistic creativity can have serious consequences for most people. Those people who do not consider themselves artists and lack special artistic talents do not have the opportunity to engage in creative work that would allow them to convey their problems and experiences. The need nevertheless to find the means of emotional expression, the author believes, forces a person to attend concerts of famous performers or study the history of art, instead of engaging in creative work.

The concept of creativity as a mechanism for adaptation and coping strategies

Creativity, as the most important mechanism of adaptation, in a broader context can be considered as a necessary personal quality, allowing a person to adapt to rapidly changing social conditions and to orient in an ever-expanding information field.

SV Maksimova proposed the concept of creativity as the unity of non-adaptive and adaptive activity. This allowed us to define the concept of “creative potential”; methodologically and experimentally distinguish the potential creativity from the real one; select a group of people with high, but not realizable creative potential, who previously qualified as uncreative; to study the conditions and mechanisms of creative implementation. According to the author, as a result of non-adaptive activity, a spontaneous discretion of a new opportunity occurs – the appearance of a new image, ideas, problems, goals, etc. As a result of adaptive – the realization of a goal, the realization of an idea, the expression of an image, etc., which are a creative product. The field of visible possibilities, which is formed in the process of non-adaptive activity, is called by the author “creative potential”, which can either be realized in creative products or not. Realization of creative potential leads to the development of a person’s creative aspiration – the emergence of its new forms: striving for novelty, striving for discretion and resolving contradictions, striving for creation for self-knowledge and striving for creation for self-translation. The lack of realization of creative potential has a destructive impact on the personality.

The use of creativity and art methods I. M. Nikolskaya and R. M. Granovskaya are considered as coping strategies. As a result of the research conducted by the authors, it turned out that the interaction of the person with the products of human creativity: books, music, films, paintings, architectural structures, other cultural and art objects, as well as creative self-expression (“I play on piano “,” draw “,” sing “). In adults, the use of art methods is the most frequent way of coping. In children, the arsenal of art methods is much smaller and more primitive than in adults: younger schoolchildren read little, rarely go to the theater, and, perhaps, they have never been at the exhibition. Despite this, the “draw, write, read” strategy ranks second in terms of its effectiveness, and the “watch TV, listen to music” strategy comes second in terms of the frequency of its use by children. When using methods of art therapy or in the case of interaction with the products of human creativity, mechanisms of sublimation and catharsis are involved.

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