It is sad but true that art therapy is still not widely accepted as a healing modality. At one hand, there is the misconception that one has to be a good artist to do art therapy. On the other hand, there is the underlying belief that the art therapist will be able to see all the client's shortcomings in the art and point them out.
When I started my private practice over ten years ago, a friend, who sort of believed that art therapy was analysis, asked me to show her and some others how it worked and she would be the guinea pig. That was brave, considering what she believed. She was a good artist but did not have a picture she herself had painted on hand, so she came with someone else's picture she loved. I asked questions like what she saw, what she liked or disliked and where the energy was for her. The answers were very telling about who she was as a person. She sat, unbelieving, saying that I hadn't analyzed her at all, but that she had found her own answers by looking at the picture and how it spoke to her--that's art therapy.
I truly believe that art is a gentle way of doing therapy. Even if I see something in the picture which the client is missing, I might ask some questions around it, but I won't point it out. If the client doesn't see it, he or she isn't ready to see it. If it is important, the missed image will come back in art making later on.
As an art therapist, I work at three levels (Carpendale, 2006)
1. The concrete - what did the client draw?
2. Metaphor - for what might the image be a metaphor? (e.g. rain as tears, etc.)
3. Self-reflective - is the client shedding tears over something
If the last level seems too threatening for the client, we go back to the concrete and what we actually see. We have an inner knowing and the truth will come out when the time is right.
Carpendale, Monica. (2006) Kutenai Art Therapy Institute Studio Manual. 2nd draft.
My name is Felicitas. I am a professional art therapist with a private practice in Saskatoon, SK. Canada.. I love what I do and I am always eager to share the experience of healing through art with others.