What is Art Therapy?

What is Art Therapy?
Contemporary Art Therapy:
The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health
 Stucky and Nobel (2010) conducted research on the relationship between
art-based interventions improving health status mentally and physically.
 Research on the literature of creative expressions, for the field of art
therapy, has been able to point out the need for creativity to promote
 According to Stucky and Nobel (2010) the advantages, benefits, and
effectiveness of art therapy focus on the many health benefits of art
therapy. For example, music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement
based therapy, and creative writing therapy have all been supported to
promote a more positive wellbeing.
 Using arts in the healing process does not contradict the medical view, it
complements it. It is important to conduct future research on creating
congruence between the biomedical view and a person’s creative, artistic
process (Stuck & Nobel, 2010).
Art Therapy Pioneer: Mala Betensky
 Judith Rubin has commented that Mala Betensky has made a
significant influence in the field of art therapy. She has given creative
tools to use in a clinical and research setting. She has introduced to the
field of art therapy elements of symbolic expression in art, line, shapes
and color and how they can be viewed form a phenomenological
perspective. Betensky has her Ph.D. and ATR, formally acting as an
professor and currently having a private practice. Betensky is
continuing to contribute to research and literature in art therapy (as
cited in Betensky, 1995).
Mala Betensky’s Clinical Example &
What is Art Therapy?
 In a clinical setting Mala used the phenomenological art therapy approach and
her client was able to invoke deep emotions and memories. Within this case the
client drew a small figure walking under a large triangular shape. The client was
able to have a realization of her need for separateness from her father’s anger
and rigidness. This contributed to her undermining her own self worth. By
using Betensky’s approach, deep realizations can occur through art therapy
(Bentensky, 1995).
 Mala Betensky sees the advantages of art therapy most profoundly displayed by
the art work of the children of the Terezin Concentration Camp. These children
were under what could be the ultimate stress. They painted, drew, and cut out
their most inner feelings. With each picture the child’s inner emotions are
depicted by the structures of their art expressions. Betensky states that no
matter the limit in materials or the amount of stress, a person’s able to exhibit
self- expression and creativity. Art therapy is the means to achieving these
inner most emotions that may other wise never had a chance to come out. By
using a phenomenological approach one is able to see this expression without
the use of dialogue by using the art of seeing, visualizing, and the concept of
structure and its dynamics (Bentensky, 1995).
Phenomenological Art Therapy
 Phenomenology is the study of things objects and their
structures by how they appear in ones instantaneous
experience. Betensky sees the phenomenological theory as
a focus on visually expressive self projections with art
materials for people that need to find themselves.
Therefore, art therapy is uniquely the perfect way to
incorporate philosophy and method (Bentensky, 1995). The
method of Phenomenological art therapy is best described
by example…
1st Stage: Pre- Art Play with Materials
2nd stage: The process of Art Work (creating a phenomenon)
* Picking the most comforting material
3rd Stage: Phenomenological Intuiting (Symbolic Expression
of Shape) * Taking a step back to experience the art work
4th Stage: What Do You See?
*showing what you found in yourself through your art work
What is Art Therapy?
 I believe art therapy is the mixture of self-expression
through art with the use of process, content and
product of creativity. By using Mala Betensky’s
phenomenological approach art therapy can open up
a person’s positive self-worth with the use of art
materials. Research has shown that art therapy can
be the answer of creating a more well-rounded form
of healing, integrating the overall wellness of a
person’s process. Ultimately, I believe art therapy of
today and of the pioneers in the past give a voice to
those that may not have one.
Southern California Art Therapy Association (SoCalATA)
Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, AATA
1202 Allanson Road
Mundelein, IL 60060
(847) 949-6064
Email: [email protected]
Free Arts for Abused Children
Betensky, M. (1995). What do you see? Phenomenology of Therapeutic Art Expression.
London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.
Stuckey, H., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health:
a review of current literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254-263.

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