S 9 - 'Homework works - achieving autonomy and recovering self-respect. Art therapy in an assertive outreach team'

Abstract for TAoAT 2002 by Karen Huckvale

This paper outlines challenges and innovations arising from developing art therapy within assertive outreach.  It offers the beginnings of a model for art therapy interventions as part of an integrated team approach. How does an art therapist 'join' a team with a complex history, who are apprehensive about art therapy, especially with high risk clients? How does a therapist work with clients who have severe and enduring difficulties, are often high-risk 'career patients' and difficult to engage?

Practical strategies for joining the team, integrating art therapy into care planning and engaging with clients are suggested and illustrated. These strategies often make non-directive work possible, but initially are delivered through a particular approach to 'homework'. Homework in itself, by setting achievable goals, working with client interests and developing skills encourages the personal responsibility and motivation necessary for more conventional therapeutic engagement. It is also a transparent process facilitating interventions as part of an integrated team approach.

One official definition maintains that art therapy, "is the use of art materials.in the presence of an art therapist." It is argued that the triadic nature of art therapy is better served by perceiving the therapist as facilitator of an autonomous process belonging ultimately to the client. Paradoxically this autonomy can sometimes be best developed in an initially more directive approach which is informed by distance learning, paradox and aesthetics.

The approach helps clients recover autonomy and self-respect while achieving a 'front line' credibility for art therapy itself.

Key ideas:

  • assertive outreach
  • integrated team working
  • paradox
  • homework.

Client group: 

Adult mental health, severe and enduring mental health problems, difficult to engage, high-risk clients. Diagnoses include borderline personality, anorexia, obsessive compulsive, bi-polar and psychosis.

Biography of Karen Huckvale

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