Existential and Expressive Arts Therapy Essay

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Existential and Expressive Arts Therapy Saré Gebhardt GEXTH 5102.01 Karen Estrella November 30, 2008 Sometime in the late eighties, Shaun McNiff, Sr. Kathleen Burke and I sat in a small pub in Cleveland, Ohio. It was after midnight when conversation turned to my writing project, this book. Sr. Kathleen asked, “What’s the title going to be?” “Well,” I replied, “the working title is Existential Art Therapy.” Shaun sighed. “Bruce, don’t be redundant. All art is existential.” …I have thought often of Shaun’s admonition. He is right, all art is existential. Perhaps that is why the concepts…have held up as the world of health care has revolutionized, i.e., all art has to do with the basic human experience of life as it is.…show more content…
Expressive Arts Therapy within the Existential Framework Not much has been written about the use of expressive arts in existential practice. “Pat Allen, one of the founders of the open studio approach to art therapy… decided to experiment with having people make art alongside each other and be of service to each other during the process, hence the Open Studio Approach” (Story, 2007). This approach is based upon three elements; intention, attention and witness (Story, 2007). Story continues to explain what a session would look like, “an Open Studio ‘session’ begins with art making…participants are encouraged to focus their intention towards what they would like to understand, change or accept about themselves” (2007). This is the start of the participant developing self-awareness. “Following this, is a time for each person in the group to sit before their art… (participants) are encouraged to pay attention to their bodily sensations, judgments and reactions” (Story, 2007). The concept of dialoging with the art is often used at this stage. Allen then had individuals write for a length of time about what they had experienced during their time sitting with the art. As the studio participants gather as a group, individuals may share their writing if they wish. The other participants are there to witness, to place no judgments and do not interrupt during this time. This open studio idea was labeled as an “art therapy” process.
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