Drawing Out The Self


My Philosophical Perspective

(12 pages and 2 images)

In chapter 1, Irene Dewdney describes some of the experiences in her personal life that influenced the approach to art therapy detailed in this book. She pinpoints some key childhood memories that affected her work and ideas. Dewdney outlines the fundamental principles that have come to inform this particular approach to art therapy: all of us share a common human condition; people need to belong – to feel they are not alone with their difficulties; an art therapist must work with the client's reality; and that a primary goal in therapy is for the client to achieve self-acceptance.

Therapeutic Boundaries

The question of whether therapists should share personal history with their clients is one that arises occasionally in the context of my teaching, and in supervising art therapy students and practitioners.  Despite my beliefs on sharing the human condition, I feel strongly that the therapeutic space is for clients to work out their struggles.  If the therapist shares details of his or her personal history, the dynamics will change even though the therapist's intentions may be positive.

The difficulty with a therapist sharing personal details is that the client may question whose problem is being worked on.  Disclosure may be inappropriate or distracting for both client and therapist.  If the purpose for the therapist's disclosure is to support the client, I believe this can be done by the therapist making a comment that that all humans experience the same kinds of loss, disappointment, and so on.   If, for example, my client has described an experience such as abandonment, an experience that I have had too, then I can bring sensitivity and empathy to the interaction, without the disclosure of my own history.  My responses can reflect that there is an established shared reality, and that I am not immune from similar life situations.  In this way, the focus remains on my client, who is reassured that his or her experiences and feelings, though unique in many ways, are also similar to those experienced and felt by other people, and thus shared.

I have always believed that the quality of therapeutic support can only be as good as the therapist providing it.  Although throughout this text I focus on the Objective Approach that I developed, I realize that many other approaches could be used to obtain the same result.  That is, no matter what the approach, a good therapist will guide the process into a valuable experience for the client.  However, even with a good therapist, the client must be willing to do the work of therapy.  I found my own experience as a client in therapy to be both difficult work and, at the same time, endlessly interesting.  Therapy is a personal commitment involving effort, time, and financial resources.

But what are the qualities of a good therapist, and are they possible to teach?  These are provocative questions. In my opinion, a good therapist possesses the following qualities: intuition; insight; an innate love of people; a willingness to recognize a shared human base; an ability to reflect strength and sensitivity to the client; and strong communication and listening skills.

It has taken me years to learn about therapy.  Frequently, this learning has taken place by doing what I realized later was wrong.  We sometimes make mistakes, and being able to learn from them is a valuable quality to have.