Art Therapy: A Classic Film by UK Pioneers

Diane Waller, PhD, OBE, MA (RCA), DPhil, Dip Psych, FRSA
Tessa Dalley, MA
John Beacham (now deceased)

This film was produced and edited by staff members at Goldsmiths, University of London, primarily Diane Waller, Tessa Dalley, and John Beacham.

The aim was to complement early UK publications on Art Therapy in the 1980s, and to respond to the many questions from interested members of the public, potential students and employers as to what actually happens in art therapy sessions.  All ethical codes were followed, meaning that we could film at a large hospital in London that catered to adults with special needs (at that time referred to as ‘mentally handicapped’).  However, for one of the sessions we used role-play, incorporating many of the challenges that an art therapist may find with a ‘reluctant’ client; and an actor read out the words written by an actual patient when describing his pictures which revealed the unconscious anger he had been harbouring for many years.  The group session was a real time session with trainee art therapy students demonstrating a ‘theme-centred’ approach which at that time was often used as part of their experiential learning process.  The film ends by noting that there is ‘still much work to be done’ and indeed there was, as art therapy was not yet well established as a profession in the UK despite being very valued in those centres where an art therapist was employed.  It is worth noting that it was not until 1997 that an Act of Parliament was passed bringing Art Therapy (along with Drama and Music Therapy) into the family of Statutory Registered professions and protecting the titles of Art Therapist and Art Psychotherapist.

Total Running Time: 50 minutes, 53 seconds



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