What is the scope of practice of creative arts therapies?

One of the struggles of being a creative arts therapist is helping others understand what that means.

To aid in that process, I have created a Venn diagram to show how multiple different fields and approaches have developed in an attempt to understand the arts, and their potential therapeutic benefits.

Even this is simplistic in many ways, and also does not touch on all the ways that the arts can be used in community organizing, or places like special education.

This is just to show that it’s COMPLICATED.

From the outside, it might be hard – or even impossible – to tell which process is at work in a given moment or project, without a lot of training and experience.

If you have any lingering questions, or want to better understand how creative arts therapies could help you, you can contact me for additional consultation. I am always happy to educate!

Artivism: The intersection of art + activism.

Artivism, as I understand it, operates from the intersection of the “expanded fields” (a term coined by critic and contemporary art theorist Rosalind Krauss in relation to sculpture, and is a concept widely explored in contemporary art) of art and activism to create scenarios that advance social criticism. Working from this intersection allows for the creation of “liminal scenarios, events when life and art, the ethical condition and aesthetic creation, cross paths,” in order to put forward other forms of political activity. Artivist actions began to be popular in the late 90s, though they have obvious precedents throughout the history of social and artistic movements, including the situationism interwoven with the revolutionary movements of May 1968, “zapatismo” in Mexico, the uprising of 2006 in Oaxaca, and the Occupy movements in Madrid and Wall Street in 2011. The forms artivism takes change according to its historical context, and its use of technology and media. But in general, artivism harnesses the critical imagination to design events and strategies that provoke new questions and new meaning in pursuit of more respectful ways of being. (https://beautifulrising.org/tool/artivism)

Applied Theatre: the use of theatre processes and products for interactive community projects to bring people together and build bridges, as well as to protest oppression and fight for social justice through the awareness created by the art form.

Applied Drama is a term that has gained popularity towards the end of the 20th century to describe drama practice in an educational, community or therapeutic context. Judith Ackroyd confirms the inclusion of both of these elements in a 2000 essay entitled “Applied Theatre: Problems and Possibilities” which states, “I have identified two features which I believe to be central to our understanding of applied theatre; an intention to generate change (of awareness, attitude, behaviour, etc), and the participation of the audience.”

Arts Education: teaches students the skills required create art and engage in a career as a professional artist, as well as offering information about aesthetics and history of the development of the arts. Creative processes are engaged in with the goal of providing an educational experience and creating relevant professional skills. Any therapeutic benefit is generally seen as secondary.

Arts in Health: using the power of the arts to enhance health and well-being in diverse institutional and community contexts. The Arts are used as a creative or expressive outlet, a distraction, and/or a tool for stress management.

In the late twentieth century, most Arts in Health programs were designed as collaborations between professional caregivers, arts administrators, arts consultants, and artists to bring works of original art into the hospital to enhance and humanize the healthcare environment. A growing number of medical centers have an arts coordinator or director who manages a variety of arts experiences such as visiting artists, artists-in-residence, arts programming developed in partnership with community arts agencies, arts collections, and rotating arts exhibits. A major focus of their work is using the arts to enhance the working environment and reduce the impact of stress on professional caregivers. Arts in Health is the term used to encompass these other arts programs and initiatives, both in healthcare settings (Arts in Healthcare) and in public health (Arts in Community Health). (https://thenoah.net/)

Arts in Psychotherapy: the therapeutic relationship itself and the theoretical frame of psychotherapy are used to create the container of the content. Intervention or evaluation of arts or creative processes is verbal in nature, and used to strengthen psychotherapeutic interventions.

“In verbal therapy, the medium is words–therapists listen to people talk in order to make assessments and formulate interventions,” says Anne Fisher, PhD, a psychologist and registered dance therapist in Washington, D.C. “In dance therapy, movement is the medium for assessment and intervention.” (https://www.apa.org/monitor/feb05/express)

Creative Arts Therapies: human service professionals who use arts-based interventions and creative processes for the purpose of ameliorating disability and illness and optimizing health and wellness (https://www.nccata.org/aboutnccata)

Creative arts therapies share a commitment to the “expressive action that engages emotions in a direct and physical way; an ability to generate creative energy as a healing force for mind, body, and spirit; and a belief that the creative imagination can find its way through out most perplexing and complex problems and conflicts” (McNiff, 2005) (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/creative-therapies)

Most creative arts therapists have extensive backgrounds in the arts that they use, as well as in therapy, says art therapist Debra Linesch, PhD, chair of the marital and family therapy department at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, which offers specialized training in art therapy. “Most of the students who come to us have a substantive background as artists,” she says, “so they’re embedding their training in that background.” Likewise, psychologists who are also licensed or registered arts therapists generally have a background in the arts: Fisher was a ballet dancer for years, and then completed a psychology degree in college. Given that most psychologists don’t have this extensive background in the arts, Linesch says, it’s important to distinguish between an arts therapist and a psychologist who uses some art in his or her practice. “To be committed to the arts is different than being a social worker or psychologist who uses some art.”  (https://www.apa.org/monitor/feb05/express)

https://www.trauma-informedpractice.com/resources/creative-arts-in-counseling/ also outlines some differences between Creative Arts Therapies and “Creative Arts in Counseling”

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