Theoretical Advances of Art Therapy

TAoAT 2000 conference papers

Art and Psychotherapy: A less Uneasy Partnership? Exiled States of Mind, An Analytical Approach

Professor Joy SchaverienProfessor Joy Schaverien

Athina Villia Gosling from the West Midlands Association Of Psychotherapists (WMAP) gave a warm, personal introduction to Joy Schaverien, the final speaker of the day. Schaverien declare herself happy to pick up the gauntlet so energetically thrown down by Malcolm Learmonth in the opening paper of the conference. Schaverien pointed out the deliberate reference in her title to Irene Champernowne's 'Art and therapy: an uneasy partnership (1971).). Seeking to highlight how far we have come in gaining recognition for art therapy as an independent profession since this time. Referring in particular to the untiring work of Diane Waller and Joan Woddis in securing State Registration. However, she asserted her belief that it is too soon to rest on our laurels and the next logical step is the gaining of U.K.C.P. recognition.

Schaverien defined 'art therapy', 'art psychotherapy' and 'analytic art psychotherapy' as three separate modes of therapy. She referred to theoretical concepts she has previously coined such as 'scapegoat transference', 'diagrammatic image' and the 'embodied image', elaborating on their significance within the various modes. She presented a case example of a young woman with powerful suicidal impulses to illustrate her conception that at different stages in therapy the different modes can be active. She stressed that these categories are not 'prescriptions for practice' but are intended to help identify the limits of what can be realistically offered in different settings. She also highlighted the, still controversial, issue of the relevance of aesthetic perceptions in the therapist's reflection on clients art work. Schaverien noted that aesthetic consideration of the patients work was seen as irrelevant in Champernowne's day.

Today, however, there is increasing recognition of the importance of acknowledging aesthetic impact in exploring transference and counter transference issues. As an example of this she pointed out the importance of her reaction of revulsion to her patients highly accurate portrayal of a wound.

Schaverien unfortunately had to skip hastily through some of her paper due to the delayed start of the session. She ended with the assertion that 'art psychotherapy' is a form of psychotherapy and should be recognised as such by the U.K.C.P. She claimed that 'we fail in communicating our professionalism by not being members'.

In the discussion that followed, Malcolm Learmonth commented (somewhat gallantly given his earlier talk), on the debt art therapy owes to psychotherapy in the understanding of boundaries and relationships. David MacLagan said that the core aspect of art therapy, which distinguishes it from verbal psychotherapy, is the 'experience of making' and the complex encounter between unconscious and conscious aspects that this entails. Gerry McNeilly asserted that the perceived struggle between art and psychotherapy as the definitive aspects of art therapy is a falsehood and that in reality there is no clear demarcation line between the two. He suggested that Joy Schaverien is simply trying to be 'inclusive' in her outlook.

Christine Wood stressed the importance of demystifying the process of art therapy by calling it 'art psychotherapy'. Robin Tipple challenged this view, asking 'is making art the same as free association?' He said that it clearly was not and that the art therapy process should be considered in its own right. In a somewhat exasperated tone Joy Schaverien asked if art therapists are concerned with the U.K.C.P. issue, reflecting the lack of debate on an issue which is clearly close to her heart.

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Index of presenters

Malcolm Learmonth

Dr Paola Luzzatto

Sarah Bennet

Pauline Mottram

Joy Schaverien

Marian Liebmann