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LEARN: Review of 'Healing Arts: The History of Art Therapy'

Review by Sarah Ahmed

Hogan, S. (2001). Healing arts: The history of art therapy. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hogan’s Healing Arts mainly focuses on the history of art therapy, from the end of the 18th century, through to the coining of the term in 1942, to the use of art therapy in the National Health Service (NHS) today. However, Hogan does not focus solely on the discipline itself; instead she also provides in-depth case histories of the major players and centres in the field, as well as exploring the changing views of mental health over the recent centuries. She draws on the work of Foucault, Freud and Jung to place art therapy not just in its historical context but also in its social context.


Healing Arts starts by clearly defining the different approaches to art therapy (including analytic art therapy and art psychotherapy), before moving on to discuss some of the current and historical issues in the field, such as the politics of art and mental health.

Chapter Two examines the creation of institutions for the treatment of the mentally unwell and the role that art therapy played in these. It focuses on how art therapy developed out of theories concerning the “moral treatment” of psychological conditions, and not simply out of Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis, as is generally thought. Hogan examines how the arts were not simply seen as interior design choices in such institutions, but how they began to become tools “in the acquisition of self-control, and as a means to the elevation of the spirit” (41).


Chapter Three examines the relationship between art therapy and psychoanalysis, especially in the context of the post-World War 1 treatment of shell-shock. Hogan examines how madness and artistic genius became conflated and the idea that “primitive art” was indicative of a troubled mind. Instead of looking at the work of Freud, Hogan explores how his ideas influenced the British school of psychoanalysis, examining the views of Melanie Klein and W.R.D Fairbairn, among others.


Chapter Four looks at the links between so-called modern art and art therapy, including the history of Surrealism and its links to psychoanalysis. It examines the rise in the trend of exhibitions of works produced during art therapy; the belief that all art is the product of the unconscious led to patient’s artwork being sold as examples of modern art.


Chapter Five looks at the development of art therapy in the mid twentieth century and the introduction of the first art therapists to the NHS, starting with the appointment of Bruce Godward to the York Retreat. Chapter Six looks at the work of Adrian Hill and the use of art therapy not just in psychiatric conditions but in the rehabilitation of patients with tuberculosis. The idea that art could be “a potential stimulus to counteract the mental and physical atrophy engendered by long convalescence” (136) is what led to art therapy being used outside of the mental health sphere.


The final chapters look at the modern pioneers of art therapy, including research done at the Maudsley and Netherne Hospitals, and the therapeutic community of Withymead. They include a history of psychiatry as a discipline, and explore the “clinical descriptive approach” of art in specific therapeutic interventions.


What are the key topics covered?


The book explores the history of art therapy, touching on the varying issues that arose in the development of the topic. These include power in the therapeutic relationship, “moral treatment”, psychoanalysis, primitive art and degeneration, art as diagnostic, art as therapeutic, surrealism and the history of psychiatry and mental health.


Which art forms are discussed?


Healing Arts focuses on the art produced by patients during therapy, mainly paintings and drawings.


What disciplines are involved?


Although the book is mainly a historical survey of art therapy from the late 1700's to the present day it also touches on psychoanalysis, the work of Foucault, social theory, theories of psychiatry and the history of mental health.


Who is it aimed at?


Susan Hogan says that the book is “of relevance to the arts community in general as well as to art therapists” (17). However given its broad scope it would also be useful for those interested in the history of mental health and psychiatry.


Thank you Sarah for writing such an insightful review. If you are interested in writing a book review for the blog please get in touch.

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