Naumburg is widely credited with being the first psychotherapist to use art therapy, and she believed the modality could be used both to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. She directly influenced the introduction of a graduate level program at New York University in 1969. The program remains one of the most highly accredited art therapy programs in the world. Naumburg's book Dynamically Oriented Art Therapy was published in 1966. Dynamically oriented art therapy uses a psychodynamic approach, influenced by Sigmund Freud. The practice emphasizes the role of the unconscious; Naumburg believed that art could enable unconscious feelings to come to the fore, just as psychoanalysis had been traditionally used to address the unconscious. Naumburg frequently used art to help clients both envision and resolve interpersonal conflicts, and argued that the client, rather than the therapist, should interpret the meaning of art. (2)
Edith Kramer (1916-2014)
Kramer was born in Vienna in 1916, arriving in the US as a political refugee in 1938. Before her immigration she studied art with Friedl Dicker who was associated with the Bauhaus. Kramer followed Dicker to Prague, working with Dicker to help children whose parents were political refugees. (5)
In her own words:
The emphasis ...is on the idea of art as therapy rather than on psychotherapy which uses art as a tool. My therapeutic medium is as old as mankind. Since human society has existed the arts have helped man to reconcile the eternal conflict between the individual's instinctual urges and the demands of society. Thus, all art is therapeutic in the broadest sense of the word. The artist who applies modern psychology in the field of art has to adapt his methods to the medium so that the therapeutic value of art is heightened by the introduction of therapeutic thinking, not destroyed or weakened by the introduction of concepts and methods that might be incompatible with the inner laws of artistic creation. (4)
In 1958, Kramer’s seminal work, Art Therapy in a Children’s Community, was published; in 1971, Art as Therapy with Children was published and became standard reading in art therapy graduate degree programs for many decades. (5)
So, where does that leave all those adult colouring books that claim to be art therapy?!?
...history shows that creatively gifted individuals can, and sometimes do, self-destruct. Milia (2000) cautions that any arts activity can become a healing force only when facilitated by a skilled therapist. Creative expression, in and of itself, is not necessarily salubrious. Without proper containment and direction, it can be ineffective or even dangerous (Masterson 1990). Gerity (1999, p.76) writes that the task of the therapist is to "create a potential space, and indestructible holding environment... where the [client] can work safely, creatively, imaginatively, and constructively". (Clark, 2017)
While it can be healthy and life enriching to make art, it is not art therapy without the support and guidance of your art therapist and/or counsellor.
2. http://www.goodtherapy.org; image also from same site.
3. Kramer image from http://edithkramer.com/wp02_fs.html