Throughout my time at university I had no idea what I wanted to explore in my dissertation, until the time came that I had to start my research. The first thought that came into my mind was ‘Art Therapy’.

The issue regarding wanting to write about art therapy was it meant a lot of research so that I could learn about the aspects involved in therapy. I started off by reading a number of books that I found in the university library, but also I ended up buying some of my own. I found it quite difficult to find the books I required because I didn’t know how to start and what direction to go in or even what I needed to know. The first book I found in the Library was The Handbook of Art Therapy. This was incredibly helpful to give me an idea of what I needed to learn more about. As well as this book I wanted to research psychologists such as Jung so that I could get a full grasp of the role of the art therapist.

During my early research into art therapy, I discovered an interesting fact about Outsider Art. I read about how the art work of mental patients led to a diagnosis of their mental states. Thus, the art work was used as a way of analysing the mind- a start of using art in terms of the person’s unconscious in a medical way. This was a particular interest to me because one of the first books I borrowed from the library in my first year was the book I borrowed again for further research; Outsider Art Raw Creation. It appeared that I had been gravitating towards art that has therapeutic links my whole time at university without being aware.

As part of my field projects, I studied ‘Art and the Conscious Mind’ and this affected my thought processes and ultimately my own practice. This project informed me about perceptions, how the physical world is seen in our mental world, and how complex our consciousness is. Within this project, I had a seminar about mindfulness which was interactive and enlightening. This seminar opened my eyes to realise how important being mindful is to our practice and how we make decisions, perceive and live. This whole project made me consider more areas of the art work I was creating; in my work I wanted to express the idea of consciousness and how there’s so much more to an art piece and to a person than meets the eye. Whilst creating work alongside this field project, I felt more awake to what I was creating and I was able to read into my work on a more personal level. This meant I was discovering parts of myself in my work that I didn’t realise I was expressing

This links me to art therapy. Art therapy teaches and encourages clients to become more mindful of their internal and external world, it uses creativity to inform the client about who they are and what they are unaware of about themselves. In art and our own creations, we can uncover more of ourselves than we originally thought.

Looking back at my proposal for my dissertation, I haven’t followed the plan I created. As I discovered more about the subject, I struggled to decide what direction to go in. There was so much information about psychology but I couldn’t find many books about Art and psychology (that wasn’t specifically aimed at a certain type of application). I think my main problem was I wasn’t 100% sure what I was looking for in the Library, and I didn’t fully understand what I was writing about until quite far into my dissertation.

Alongside the research and writing of this piece of work, I was also researching artists and doing my subject work. It was during this time that I found some more inspiration for my dissertation. I researched artists that use photography to express their stories and their lives; Jo Spence and Marion Milner. This gave me encouragement to let go of my confusion with the psychology involved in art therapy, and explore the experiences of the client in art therapy and ways that creativity is explored in the therapeutic session.

Following this new attitude of my dissertation, I got some of the previous books I had borrowed and re-read the information I couldn’t quite grasp before. After learning all the background knowledge, I understood the aspects of art therapy a lot better.

I tried to start an art journal to experience what I was learning about as well as using photography to express my inner thoughts. I have always been interested in artists that portray inner emotions in their work such as Tracey Emin, Louise Bourgeois.

There were times where my tutorials were helpful and times where I didn’t feel like I was getting the information I needed. My tutor helped by suggesting a few books at the beginning and questioning what I was planning to do, I also felt more confident after having a tutorial. However, there were times where my tutor explained he didn’t have the background knowledge in particular areas of art therapy. Overall, I found the experience of researching and writing my dissertation complicated but beneficial. I learnt a lot about my own practice and it has effected my future plans – I am keen to continue my research into art therapy.


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