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Art Therapy in Contemporary America

  Humans treat mental and physical ailments through artistic activities: making activities and receiving activities, dating back to the Stone Age. In fact, the witchcraft activities and artistic activities of ancient human beings were integrated, and witchcraft activities were the main way to help human beings overcome diseases and mental suffering at that time. In the West, documented art therapy has been seen in ancient Greece and biblical times. Scholars of ancient Greece and Pythagoras, as well as Aristotle, have discussed the “purifying” function of music, that is, the psychotherapeutic function of music. The Bible-Samuel called King Saul “devil-possessed” (a popular term for mental illness at the time). Based on the description, it can be speculated that King Saul was obviously paranoid and had symptoms of bipolar disorder. The only treatment used at that time was to let David, who is good at playing the piano, play for him. It can be seen that people already knew that music has the function of dispelling mental disorders. The records of art therapy in Western literature have not been interrupted since ancient times, but they have never formed a climate. Not only lacks solid theoretical support, but also lacks systematic and standardized operation technology.
  In the 1930s, the American psychiatrist Namberg clearly put forward the concept of “art therapy”. Under her promotion, art therapy gradually developed in the United States and quickly extended to various developed countries. However, so far, in this field, whether in terms of scale, quality, etc., the United States still leads the way. In 1960, the “Music Therapy Society” was established in the United States, and in 1961, the “American Journal of Art Therapy”, a professional theoretical journal, was established, which is still an authoritative journal in this field. In 1965, the American Dance Therapy Association was established. In 1969, the national professional organization “American Art Therapy Association” (AATA) was established, which is a milestone in the development of art therapy in the United States and the world. “AAA” is responsible for coordinating art therapy across the country and organizing annual academic seminars. Since the 1970s, the famous Art Institute of Chicago in the United States first opened a master’s course in art therapy and awarded the corresponding degree. Since then, many American universities have successively offered courses in this area, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, which are accredited and awarded by the American Art Therapy Accreditation Board (ATCB). Most states in the United States allow the qualification of a psychiatrist and a psychiatrist after obtaining art therapy certification, and can engage in art therapy work in hospitals and psychological clinics. There are currently more than 100 professional art therapy institutions in the United States.
  The main reason for the rapid development of American art therapy in contemporary times is the change of the mainstream model of disease, the change of the cognitive model of etiology and the change of the dominant model of treatment. Statistics from the United States show that at the beginning of the 20th century, among every 1,000 people who died each year, 28 died due to illness. The main diseases were physiological diseases not directly related to mental factors: pneumonia, tuberculosis, diphtheria, typhoid fever, dysentery, etc. With the development of conventional medicine, in 1972, 9 out of 1,000 people died of the disease. The main diseases are so-called “psychosomatic diseases” closely related to psychological factors: coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and so on. The cognitive mode of etiology has shifted from the “biological-physiological” mode to the “social-psychological-biological” mode. There are also emerging disciplines such as “psychosomatic medicine” and “psycho-neuroimmunology”. The treatment mode has also shifted from the treatment of “disease” to the treatment of “people”, and has begun to pay attention to the overhaul of personality and psychological intervention (in this regard, conventional medicine is often powerless, but art therapy is very useful).
  Moreover, the turning of the disease pattern is due to the progress of material culture, the change of human life style, the stronger consciousness of human existence and the improvement of the quality of individual needs. Arguably, this is part of the price humanity has paid for civilization. So, art therapy first developed in the more affluent America.
  The biggest trouble of art therapy is that its curative effect is difficult to accurately judge. However, through long-term exploration and experimentation, especially with the help of modern science and technology, such as computer technology, virtual scene technology, etc. Electrograms, nuclear magnetic resonance, immunoglobulin assays, etc., this situation has been greatly improved, that is, the technology has gradually matured. Among them, music therapy and painting therapy are the most widely used and most clearly curative.
  Music therapy techniques can be roughly divided into two categories: Receptive Music Therapy and Recreative Music Therapy. Reception refers to listening to music to achieve the purpose of treatment. The therapist uses different musical works and combinations of different musical works to treat different diseases, that is, formulate “music prescriptions” to treat the symptoms. For example, use Bach’s sonatas to treat digestive tract diseases; use Mozart’s works to treat endocrine disorders and so on. After listening, the therapist either guides the patient to conduct group discussions; or guides the patient to develop imagination, and discusses the meaning of the imaginary content with the patient, so as to achieve the purpose of treatment. In the 1970s, Dr. Berry from the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center created the system of “imagery and music guidance”, referred to as “GM” therapy. This technique divides the healing process into three parts: induction, experience, and recovery; it uses seven musical modes: positive affirmation, death and resurrection, analytical comfort, catharsis, collective resonance, unconscious experience, and reverie imagery to treat symptoms. GM is considered a more mature technique in music therapy and has been included in doctoral programs in art therapy.
  The second category is also called “participatory music therapy”. That is to guide patients to sing, play and write music works to achieve the purpose of treatment. Generally, music works with different melody, rhythm and connotation are selected according to different diseases and different patients for the subject to sing and perform. Sometimes improvisational therapy is also used, in which the therapist guides the patient to play as he pleases to achieve therapeutic effects. In theory, this is a return to the original function of music. For some patients who have the basis of music creation, the therapist will give corresponding themes, such as “anger”, “guilt”, “peace”, etc., and let the patients improvise. Of course, these two types of technologies are often used together. In recent years, music therapy in the United States has made significant progress and remarkable curative effects in clinical application. In encephalopathy, the performance is more prominent. Such as the application of music feedback therapy to treat gait abnormalities caused by stroke hemiplegia, control the frequency of complex epilepsy, and improve the behavioral patterns of senile dementia. The application in infants and children is also eye-catching. For example, using “resonance music” to normalize the activity of the autonomic nervous system of premature infants and increase the blood oxygen saturation concentration. Even, it has obvious curative effect in reducing the degree of skin itching in patients with psoriasis and neurodermatitis. In addition, the development of music therapy technology is also reflected in the invention of a series of musical instruments specially used for music therapy, such as the “qin bed”, the body of which is like a bed, so that the therapist can lie on it. , and directly feel the beautiful vibration through the body’s touch to enhance the therapeutic effect.
  Drawing therapy is difficult to compete with music therapy in terms of physical diseases, but it has specific functions in terms of psychological diseases. Because most of human’s psychological activities are visual, and various traumatic psychological disorders are often suppressed to the unconscious, forming “complexes”, which are difficult to express in ordinary language; using the symbolic language of painting, it is difficult to express Excellent expression, catharsis and integration to achieve therapeutic effect. Drawing therapy is especially suitable for patients who cannot speak or do not want to speak, such as deafness, mental retardation, brain damage, autism, resistance to language, etc. The main ones that are suitable for painting therapy and have significant curative effects are: eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), substance abuse (drug addiction, alcoholism), schizophrenic personality disorder, abnormal sexual behavior, etc. Especially for children who are emotionally intense and difficult to control, drawing therapy has great advantages over other treatments.
  Painting therapy generally adopts two methods: “spontaneous painting” and thematic painting under the guidance of a doctor. The former has high diagnostic value in particular, and can be seen as an evolution from the “Rorschach inkblot test” commonly used in psychiatric diagnosis in the 1920s and 1930s. It has been documented that for skilled physicians, drawing is more accurate than “CT” or “psychometric scales” in diagnosing mental disorders. The patient, on the other hand, can examine the self through painting, correct the distorted self, improve the skills of social communication, enhance the identity, and grow spiritually.
  Other mature art therapies include “psychodrama”, sculpture therapy, story therapy, etc., all of which have their own specialties. At present, the most promising art therapy is “film and television” therapy – the use of contemporary advanced video art to create a variety of highly realistic situations to achieve specific therapeutic effects. For example, great progress has been made in helping patients overcome various phobias. Art therapy has also gradually adopted “group therapy” from the early “one-on-one”, that is, the establishment of an “art therapy group” to achieve the effect of resonance. The treatment environment has gradually developed from a neutral and undisturbed place in the early stage, such as a hospital and a clinic, into a family and a daily life environment for treatment.
  In early 1992, the first International Congress of Art and Medicine was held in New York. As stated in the declaration of the conference: “Art medicine has entered a new stage of historical significance.” It can be said that art therapy is becoming more and more systematic and perfect in terms of technology, but the theoretical basis is still relatively weak. Conventional medicine is based on the more practical disciplines of physiology and biochemistry, while the main theoretical foundations of art medicine are art and psychology. Therefore, in this field, there is a lot of literature on operational technology, but less literature on theoretical discussion of it. It is generally believed that art can become an effective technology for the treatment of psychological and physical diseases, mainly because it can help people spiritually transcend survival dilemmas, meet affinity needs, and reconcile with the world and “not-self” at the unconscious level; Optimize the personality structure and gain a sense of meaning and value in life. The most direct and observable curative effect is to improve emotional state, and use “suspend” and “displacement” to channel various disordered psychological and physiological energies caused by negative information. Therefore, in the limited existence of the individual, the positive development of potential is promoted, so that the individual can maintain psychological and physical health. Of course, art therapy still has a long way to go before it becomes a universal medical technology.

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