Thursday, October 15, 2015

What Art Therapy is NOT!

Art therapy (AT) is  relatively new to Asia, as a matter of fact in Singapore it was first offered as a professional degree in 2005 and a decade later, thanks to the die hard breed that art therapists are, the discipline finally has established roots and is gaining momentum. In countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan art therapists can literally be counted on fingers and I am quite sure the statistics are not too different in other Asian countries as well.

In Singapore, Indonesia and Pakistan, the three countries where I have had the occasion to practice/present myself as an art therapist I have almost always faced the following reaction:

“Art therapist? Never heard of that! Do you take art classes?”

Initially I would inwardly cringe at this comment yet outwardly feign a nonchalance, then go on to explain what art therapy is NOT rather than what it is.

So for those of you who may not know what AT is, let me tell you what it is NOT:

·      AT is not an art class
·       You don’t need any skills in art making or drawing in order to benefit from AT. As a matter of fact some art therapists work with stroke patients and severely disabled individuals who are unable to hold art materials.

·       AT cannot, in fact, must not be conducted by an artist or an art teacher without formal training. All art therapists are at least Masters degree holders and by and large licensed by local or international boards.

·        Art therapists cannot look at drawings and make psychological evaluations or diagnosis. (I could sense the relief on some of my friend’s faces when I apprised them of this fact ;))

·        An art therapist cannot train a school teacher to conduct art therapy sessions through workshops. (Very important point. I have been asked often to do this and I have had no choice but to refuse point blank)

·         AT is a process oriented treatment, meaning that there is no quick fix. Especially when working with children with ASD or other special needs parents need to know that one can work towards a goal but a fixed timeline cannot be given as to the achievement of that goal.

·         Last but not least, a lot of psychodynamic stuff that goes on during the art therapy treatment cannot be quantified or proven scientifically. My fellow AT’s will know exactly what I am talking about and our detractors belonging to similar but not the same profession will be the ones cringing at this one ;))

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