Art Interviews by Child Psychiatrists

These two films document several noted child psychiatrists’ use of art in their work with children. The films demonstrate work with a number of children, illustrating the nature of their interaction, how they develop a relationship, and their use of interpretation. All of the doctors emphasize the importance of creativity and the value of individual expression.

The first film consists of excerpts from “Listening to Children,” a PbS documentary. Robert Coles, MD listens to children while observing them in their homes and at school, as he travels around the country interviewing children from a very wide variety of environments. Dr. Coles sees children’s art as messages and metaphors of children’s unspoken feelings.  One aspect stressed in the film is the influence of the family and their situation on the child’s psychological and development.

The second film, “Stevie’s Light Bulb,” is subtitled “Graphic Art in Child Psychiatry” and was made at the Hawthorn Center in Michigan. Ralph Rabinovitch MD, notes that children communicate their fantasies through play, stories, words, dreams and art. This section of the film looks at the fantasy life of disturbed children through their art.  The art is used as a means of diagnosis and provides a creative outlet for self-expression.

Examples are provided by brief vignettes and actual excerpts from therapy sessions with a variety of children in treatment. Some are conducted by Dr. Rabinovitch and some Rabinovitch by Dr. Sara Dubo. Dr. Rabinovich discusses how over-interpretation can take the joy out of art making, and that it is important not to impose our own personal interpretation on a child’s art work. He suggests that clinicians develop a frame of reference when working with children and their art regarding the following elements: form, affect, content, defenses, and symbolism.

Total Running Time: 1 hour, 14 minutes, 36 seconds



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