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Fusion Art Therapy – Confused? by Hephzibah Kaplan

artThe early days of professional art therapy focussed on developing a theoretical base, usually after noticing the astonishing beneficial effects of art-making with clients. Since World War 1 when Adrian Hill coined the term Art Therapy, the profession has been growing, by and large mirroring parallel developments in psychotherapy, and introducing new orientations into the field. Thus we have classical art therapy, an approach founded on psychodynamic and psychoanalytic theory, style, and to some extent, practice. Behavioural-cognitive approaches in art therapy didn’t really take off first time round (Psychocybernetic art therapy) but have since re-emerged in the form of incorporating CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) into the art therapy conversation. In the 1960’s Janie Rhyne, Liesl Silverstone and others were looking at Gestalt and Person-centered approaches; in the 1990’s Bruce Moon, Pat Allen and others were incorporating Transpersonal approaches. The current literature now has offerings from all these approaches though trainees are advised to focus on a very thorough understanding of the psychodynamic process and modality which still predominates current art therapy practice.

An integrative approach tends to mean that the art therapist may draw on different orientations to underpin their work. Thus the works of Freud, Jung, Klein, Winnicott, Bowlby, to name a few, may contribute to the knowledge bank of the art therapist who may draw on all these theories, and use them as appropriate with each specific client. This has bearing when looking at the client’s past history, or their existential crisis of the present, or their anxieties and beliefs about the future.

An integrative arts approach in art therapy may include the use of Sandtray, creative visualisation, puppetry, dance, drama, music and movement which are allied to the creative therapies. Modern technology has made it easy to use electronic and digital equipment in sessions – not just to record the event but to use interactively as part of the creative process. Hence there are art therapists who have developed Phototherapy, may use film-making and even propose using i-pads in sessions. My own view on using technology in art therapy being that if the art-making process is too ‘clean’ something difficult may not be touched or accessed. Gross motor movements used in painting elicit different sorts of visual and visceral responses than fingers and thumbs doing the talking. However this may be an effective way to introduce creative thinking with the more intrepid clients.

I have also noticed a growth in what I see as fusion art therapy. While retaining true to the purposes and ethics of art therapy, and without losing the creative process, several art therapists have incorporated into their practices diverse disciplines that dovetail well with art psychotherapy. Laurie Rappaport wrote her book on Focussing-oriented art therapy, using Gendler’s focussing techniques and research. Other practitioners have incorporated Yoga and Art Therapy; Mindfulness and Art Therapy; Provocative Therapy and Art Therapy; Journaling and Art Therapy; as well as the pioneering Environmental Arts Therapy. We offer all these CPD workshops here at the centre by way of introducing different approaches that may be useful and are certainly interesting to know about and experience.

London Art Therapy Centre is inclusive in its orientation – encouraging the art-making above all – though some art therapists may introduce a fusion approach into the sessions as long as it is helpful to the client. Clearly this has to be allied with the art therapy process, rather than a useful adjunct. For example, nutritional guidance may be helpful but there is no obvious overlap between art therapy and nutrition, whereas a reflective or meditative practice can be introduced as pre- or post- art-making to deepen the process. When an art therapist introduces other disciplines into the work, and retains the boundaries, offers a protocol for practice, understands any shifts in the transference/counter-transference processes, then I think the fusion approach can be enriching rather than confusing.

Hephzibah Kaplan, March 2015


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