Art Therapy vs Art AS Therapy

In the recent Spring 2012 edition of Raw Vision, there is an article by Randy M. Vick which discusses the possible difference between what we might consider Art Therapy and what we might consider Art AS Therapy. Vick writes on the subject:

“I have seen community studios run by both art therapists and artists, and have observed some important differences as well as clearly shared values and approaches. Almost without exception, I have been politely yet firmly told by the artist facilitators that what was being done was not art therapy.”[1]

Similarly, in previous issues of Raw Vision, Sue Steward has been seen writing about the history of ‘progressive studios and workshops’.

This is the beginning of what is quite a complex subject. Often it is assumed that the work that is created in these ‘progressive studios and workshops’ is the result of art therapy; but, generally, this is not the case.

Running parallel to Dubuffet’s collection and coining of the term Art Brut was a new discipline – art therapy; which is, if we can define it, a focus on the interpretation of ‘unconscious material.’ There is, it seems, a continuum that begins with art therapy and ends with art as therapy. At the one end of the continuum, art therapy “employs an exploratory give-and-take between client and therapist with the goal of achieving psychological insight and beneficial change,” and at the other end sits art as therapy; “which places the benefit in the process of making and de-emphasises verbal exploration of the psychological meaning of the product.” [2]

Those who use these ‘progressive studios’, which are often run by pracitising artists, are often “not driven by the need to share or to communicate, but rather to make tangible unspoken worlds with their own inherent logistics.”[3] Mind’s website (on the page which discusses art therapy), touches briefly upon the difference between the two ends of the continuum:

“Creative arts may of course be very helpful, and for some people, the very fact that their creativity is art in its own right, rather than therapy, is one of the most important things that give it value.”[4]

The artists who often work in these  ‘progressive studio’ environments aresometimes those we might define as ‘outsider’ – (again, see my post on the vagueness of this term!), and often exhibiting their work is an extension of this importance of creating and creation to their wellbeing. It is the creating of the artwork that provides the therapy, not the interpretation of it.

[1] Raw Vision Spring 2012, p 24

[2] Raw Vision Spring 2012, p 25

[3] Engage Magazine 23, p 24

[4] Mind website: http://www.mind.org.uk

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2 thoughts on “Art Therapy vs Art AS Therapy

  1. Randy Vick says:

    Just stumbled across this blog and while I agree with the general points you make on my article “Found in Translation” (Raw Vision, Spring 2012, pp. 24-27), you have misattributed a quote. These are my words, not Steward’s:

    “I have seen community studios run by both art therapists and artists, and have observed some important differences as well as clearly shared values and approaches. Almost without exception, I have been politely yet firmly told by the artist facilitators that what was being done was not art therapy.”

    Wishing you continued success with your studies and this project.

    Randy Vick

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