As art therapy has increased in popularity during the twentieth century, a growing number of counsellors have begun encouraging clients to do more than just talk about their feelings. Temporarily abandoning clumsy verbalizations, patients are leaving their couches in droves and heading for the art studios to sculpt, mould, paint, draw, and collage their innermost emotions and conflicts (Gladding 1998, 25-40). Art therapists believe that the artistic process brings to surface feelings and emotions in the same way that free association does, incorporating benefits of both talk therapy and dream analysis, but accomplishing more than either one does alone (Case & Dalley 1992, 22-37; Ganim 1999, 16-32).
However, most of the focus in art therapy is on the creation of an image or a representation of reality. Ostensibly missing from the discussion are the therapeutic benefits of nonrepresentational visual art. Preimage elements of art, such as line, form, and colour, can be used by clients themselves in their own healing (Rhinehart & Engelhorn 1982, 55-63). Much, in fact, is known about colour and the effects it has on people, but this knowledge has seldom been applied in any depth to art therapy. This paper discusses how art therapy might be of value to people.
Art therapy can be of importance to people because Art therapy sets itself apart as a means of therapy by utilizing the creative process of art and having a low barrier to entry (anyone can be creative in some form or another). Art therapy can also be especially beneficial to children as younger people are usually less capable and less comfortable expressing themselves via words.
The use of colour in creative expression can add a valuable dimension to traditional art therapy, for two reasons (Levy 1984, 58-62). First, colour has been proven to have a profound impact on the mind and body. Second, it lends itself easily to nonrepresentational art, which can fill in some of the therapeutic gaps left by representational art. The intention of this article is to demonstrate how knowledge about art and colour can be combined to enhance traditional art therapy. After brief descriptions of the fields of art therapy and colour psychology, the essence of both is used to propose a new therapeutic function of colour, in a nonrepresentational form of expressive therapy.
The practice of art therapy, born of the psychoanalytic theories of Naumberg (1973) and Kramer (1973), is based on the idea that the deepest emotions exist within the unconscious mind in the form of images, not words. This concept paves the way for a very intensive and effective form of counselling and a premise for the use of colour and nonrepresentational art in therapy.
Ganim (1999), in Art and Healing, offered a theory about left brain/right brain phenomena that explains why the unconscious is expressed through images and how this pertains to mental health. The left brain, which communicates verbally, is analytical and critical, able only to tell us what we think we ...