Dr. Helene Burt is Executive Director of the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. She earned her Doctorate of Arts in Art Therapy from New York University in 1999. She has worked as an art therapist and family therapist for over 25 years in Calgary, New York City and Toronto. She is the editor of the Canadian Art Therapy Journal and the Past President of the Canadian Art Therapy Association.

Here, Dr. Burt answers some questions about her new book, Art Therapy and Postmodernism: Creative Healing Through a Prism.

How did you get into the field of art therapy, and how did the book come about?

Art therapy was a natural melding of my interests in art and human psychology. Before I’d ever heard of Art Therapy I was studying art and art history and painting my dreams. I was very interested in Carl Jung’s writings and started reading Freud. After I graduated with a BFA in Art History I found myself searching for a direction in life and Art Therapy was suggested to me. This was in 1984 and Art Therapy was a profession that was not well known in Canada at the time. When I heard about it I had and “Ahaa!” moment and I haven’t looked back since.

I have been interested in what we know as postmodernism since the 1980’s mostly through my work as an art therapist and family therapist. Feminism, systems theory and later narrative therapy all increased my interest in postmodernism. Little has been written about the field of art therapy and postmodernism and I felt that I could contribute.

What is meant by ‘postmodernism’ in the context of art therapy, and why is it important to consider research and practice from this perspective?

In a nutshell, postmodernism in the context of art therapy is the acknowledgement and integration of multiple perspectives as this pertains to art therapy clinical practice, research and training. In doing so we recognize that there is no one truth that can be apprehended and applied to our work but rather many different truths and ways of seeing. This in turn impacts how we practice and what we research and teach on many levels. We have to start asking ourselves questions like, “How is my therapeutic relationship with this client impacted by my beliefs and values?” and examining our research and teaching practices to discover what we may be unconsciously be promoting or leaving out. With this comes change.

What is timely about this book?

This book comes at a time when world events indicate our need to see from the perspective of the other or others. If we cannot do this we cannot work together to protect the Earth from further damage. Authors from different communities and cultures come together in this book to help us all stretch our ways of seeing and practicing. Art therapists are in a unique position to use our life-giving creative energies to create positive change in the world.

The book covers a vast range of client groups. Why was it important for chapters to be culturally diverse?

In keeping with the multiple perspectives stance of postmodernism, the more we can share with each other about other ways of seeing the more effective we can be in our practice, research and training.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

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