A Conversational Model of art therapy

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This paper illustrates a ‘Conversational Model’ of art therapy. The Conversational Model was jointly created by Robert Hobson and Russell Meares. It is a developmental theory unique in its clinical application. The focus of the paper is two sessions that altered the course of therapy. In these sessions, variations on Donald Winnicott's “squiggle-game” and Hobson's “party game” were used to engage an isolative, reluctant incarcerated patient. The interventions illustrate the basic tenets of the Conversational Model. The theoretical process – from disruption to repair – is visually recorded in the artwork. The central argument of the paper is that interactive art therapy interventions can be effective, when used appropriately. By engaging the patient in a ‘visual’ conversation, he/she may develop an emotional vocabulary, a prerequisite for a psychotherapeutic conversation. The paper begins with a brief historical overview of the interface between art and psychoanalysis, the context out of which ‘art therapy’ – a distinct body of theory – evolved. Theory interweaves with clinical material in a narrative style.

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