Can Viewing Art Provide Emotional Insight & Catalyze Healing?

Take a look at this article by Dr. Jeremy Spiegel that considers whether viewing artwork in a gallery setting may lay the groundwork towards self-understanding.

I originally posted this on the Liz Beck Designs facebook page on 07/11, and recieved this question from Cathy Malchiodi:

“Gosh Liz, what do you really think about this?”

My response:

“You know, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately talking about art therapy in the context of going to a museum and viewing artwork, but usually for the Alzheimer’s/dementia population. I’m not familiar with research done on the effectiveness of treating a mental illness through the viewing of art. If you know of any, Cathy, I’d love to read it!

In any case, when I read Dr. Spiegel’s post, I couldn’t help but think how collage images are used in art therapy sessions. The images are created by someone other than the person choosing to use them in a collage; the images are chosen because they resonate in some way with the client and are a source of exploration throughout the therapeutic session. In this way, I can see how going to a gallery and focusing on pieces of artwork that stand out to the client could open up fruitful discussion and self-examination.

The method used to explore the images and the ego strength of the client would be key. For example, I wouldn’t bring a client who has a tendency to dissociate or have intense and difficult to contain emotional reactions to a public environment to view triggering images. I also wouldn’t want to have a discussion about a particular piece in the middle of the gallery, for other people to hear. Perhaps the art viewing would work best by having a client write down his or her impressions and experiences to later be explored in a private therapy session. I would also want to bring a picture of the artwork to the therapy session to help bring the client back to the original viewing experience.”

What are your thoughts?

One Reply to “Can Viewing Art Provide Emotional Insight & Catalyze Healing?”

  1. Hi, Liz,

    Although I think my experience was something more spiritual than what you are discussing here, I am interested in art as a healing therapy. While watching the aftermath of 9/11, my hand was compelled to draw images unseen in my head. I later published the art that resulted in a book, The Channeling of September 11, 2001. I do think this had something to do with channeling or answered prayers. But the influence it has had on me has made me very aware of art therapy as a tool for healing as well.

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