Imagery & Visual Expression: Beyond Words
A great inspiration for many art therapists is Freud’s frustration with words. In discussing dreams, he noted: “We experienced it predominantly in visual images … part of the difficulty of giving an account of dreams is due to our having to translate these images into words. ‘I could draw it,’ a dreamer often says to us, ‘but I don’t know how to say it’” (Freud, 1916-1917, p. 90). Words are our main form of communication, but some ideas are difficult and even impossible to put into words. Often, we need time to reflect, to ponder, to meditate … before we’re able to vocalise our thoughts.
Imagery represents an alternative medium for both expression and communication. After experiences are externalised in images, it becomes easier to talk about them as we describe the artwork or explain the art-making process. The idea that sharing the meaning of images may lead to a better way of understanding a client’s presenting problem and may even foster change might be for some, a compelling argument.
Art Therapy: Imagery & Visual Expression
Many definitions have been offered since art therapy emerged in the middle of the last century. However, one of the main difficulties in defining it is due to its unique relationship between art and psychotherapy, which has a potential for both conflict and healing.
A different emphasis can be given either to the process of the art making or to psychotherapy. On the one hand, some art therapists practice primarily according to the principle that the process itself is the main healing effect. On the other hand, others focus on the therapeutic relationship and the exploration of the meaning of the artwork. Most contemporary art therapists, however, believe that both forms belong together. Hand in hand, they influence and enrich each other. In fact, depending on each individual client and their specific problem, the emphasis might well change from one focus to the other.
Robert GrayDirector and Senior Lecturer at CECAT
Registered Art Therapist and Psychologist
MA A. Th., AThR; B. Soc. Sc. (Psych.) (Hons.), MAPS.; BA. Theol. (Hons), MA Theol.
A highly regarded art therapy lecturer from Germany, Robert Gray has become a much sought-after art therapy lecturer and practising art therapist in Australia. His unique approach spanning psychodynamic, humanistic, spiritual and cognitive behavioural frameworks has distinguished him as a thought leader who is frequently invited to present at conferences in Australia and abroad.
Trained overseas and multilingual, German-born Robert shares the benefits of his international affiliations and access to cutting-edge research published in various languages with his students and readers. Robert is a professional member of the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).