S4 - Experiences of Time in Art Therapy

Abstract for TAoAT 2002 by Patrick Loftus

This paper grew out of work with a client who appeared spellbound. During therapy we came to understand the spellbound aspects of her psyche as an expression of her identification with an event that had harmed her but which had no representation in her internal world - because what had happened had also erased the point of view she needed to be able to name her experience. To be spellbound is to inhabit a timeless world. Over the course of therapy we also learned how the timelessness of her traumatic identification was at the core of her feelings of emptiness and unreality.

In this paper I draw on clinical material to explore different uses of time in art therapy. I begin by describing some forms of timelessness that our clients may create in therapy out of their unconscious devotion to experiences that have wounded them. I then contrast these traumatically derive temporalities with the capacity to relate to the present, and thus to an imaginatively enlivened past and future, that may develop in therapy through the sponsorship of the aesthetic object. I touch on some of the physical properties of the image that contribute to this process. I conclude by linking these different uses of time to ideas about the process of change in art therapy. I suggest that the art object, because of its temporal qualities, may come to be used by our clients as a means of experiencing what has until then existed as gaps or concretisms in their experience of self.

Biography of Patrick Loftus

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