GESTALT ART THERAPY CENTRE Training, Workshops, Therapy Sessions & Supervision in Brisbane Australia
Home » Workshops Agenda » 2011 PAINTING AND DRAWING IN THERAPY. 3th DECEMBER 2011

Workshops Agenda


The basic and central objective of drawings is essentially one of healing. Art therapy tools can be successfully applied to clients with physical, mental or emotional problems, diseases and disorders.

3th DECEMBER 2011


Basic Information:

The birth of art therapy goes back to the painter, Adrian Hill(London)* who suggested artistic work to his fellow inpatients, while he was treated in a tuberculosis (T.B.) sanatorium. That began his artistic work with patients, who were documented in 1945 in a book, under the title, Art Versus Illness. Around the same time as Hill, Margaret Naumburg*, a psychologist in the U.S.A., also began to use the term “art therapy” to describe her work. These pioneers begun using basic drawings as therapy around the end of the WWII.

Drawing is therapeutic because:

1) Drawing taps in the abstract memory. Drawing pictures about aspects of "what happened" prompts sensory memories of traumatic events and issues hidden in the unconscious.
2) Drawing actively engages children and adults in the process of repair and recovery. It provides the possibility to move from a passive to an active role in the treatment process.
3) Drawing provides a symbolic representation of the trauma or impact of other life experiences in a concrete, external format.
4) Drawing makes us a witness to the client’s trauma and other life damaging experiences.
5) Drawing increases client’s verbal reports about emotionally laden events.

6) Drawing assists in reduction of anxiety to traumatic memories through repeated visual re-exposure in a medium that is perceived and felt by the client to be safe.

*Adrian Hill In 1938, while convalescing from tuberculosis at the King Edward VII Sanatorium in Midhurst, he passed the time by drawing nearby objects from his hospital bed, and found the process helpful in aiding his own recovery. In 1939, "Occupational Therapy" was introduced to the sanatorium for the first time and Hill was invited to teach drawing and painting to other patients - first injured soldiers returning from the war, and then general civilian patients. Hill found that the practice of Art seemed to help to take the patient's mind off their illness or injuries and to release their mental distress.

*Margaret Naumburg was not a psychologist, but her work as an educator and as a therapist influenced twentieth century ideas about creativity and mental illness. Her work with children and with the mentally ill was widely studied by psychologists and psychiatrists. She was able to achieve all this despite her lack of training as a scientist.

Objectives of drawing:The basic and central objective of drawings is essentially one of healing. Art therapy tools can be successfully applied to clients with physical, mental or emotional problems, diseases and disorders. Any type of visual art and art medium can be employed within the therapeutic process; drawing and painting were one of the earliest mediums used in mental health treatments since the early 1940’s.

Who can benefit from this tool?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication. It is practised by qualified, registered Art Therapists who work with children, young people, adults and the elderly. Clients who can use drawings as therapy may have a wide range of difficulties, disabilities or diagnoses. These include, for example, emotional, behavioural or mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities, life-limiting conditions, brain-injury or neurological conditions and physical illness. Art therapy may be provided for groups, or for individuals, depending on clients’ needs.


Gestalt art therapy is a recent phenomenon where we apply the art medium to develop a capacity of awareness in the client for the purpose of working through the issues that are presented. It is different from the more analytical approaches in that it emphasises personal responsibility, and that focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation.

Practical experiments:

  • Make an open ended drawing. Ask the client how he or she feels using lines, shapes, and colours. Therapy regarding the pictures is generally based on the presence and absence of many elements, such as use of colour, blending, and placement of the images on the paper.

  • Draw a mandala from the card you have chosen with an oil pastel choosing a colour. The client is then asked to explain if there were any meanings, experiences, or related information related to the mandala they drew. This work is based on the beliefs of Joan Kellogg, who sees a recurring correlation between the images, pattern and shapes in the mandalas.

  • Draw a person under the rain. Then ask the client to identify with this person: "How old is the person in your drawing? What is he or she doing? Who is this person in your life? And so on. This is a projective assessment and the person, the weather, the umbrella in the drawing represent different aspects of the client and the way the client feels about him or herself.


All the materials will be available in the sessions.

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