Art therapists concentrate the healing power of art

Why do humans make art?

Many artists don't really know why they do what they do, but some understand better than most the unseen forces at work in human creativity.

They are the therapeutic healers who work through the creative power of the arts to heal deep lacerations to the human psyche inflicted by trauma, better known as Art Therapists.

While they constitute a relatively new profession, Art Therapists are increasingly recognised in Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK for their interventionist capabilities in dealing with social and psychological illness.

They work across diverse levels and institutions in the community from schools, prisons, aged care and homeless facilities, to psychiatric wards, hospitals and hospices to heal and rehabilitate people traumatised by social, mental or psychic injuries – through the deeply liberating power of art.

Today (Friday August 8) at La Trobe University's Melbourne City campus up to 50 practitioners of this still emerging discipline will meet to workshop their creative insights – under the supervision of the international doyen of their kind, Associate Professor Andrea (Andy) Gilroy, Associate Professor of Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmith's College, University of London.

It will be the biggest gathering of practising art therapists ever assembled in one place in Melbourne – in recognition of the reputation of their mentor, who is recognised internationally as a leading figure and educator in the art therapy field.

Dr Gilroy is visiting Australia to give lectures and workshops at the three Australian universities currently graduating Master's level Art Therapists – La Trobe University in Melbourne, the University of Western Sydney, and the University of Queensland.

After lecturing to Graduate Diploma and Master of Art Therapy students at La Trobe's Bundoora campus yesterday August 7), Dr Gilroy will lead Victorian practitioners today in discussions and workshops exploring ways of thinking visually about their research.

Explaining the principles behind art therapy, Dr Gilroy said:

"Art therapy is a relatively new, effective and rather radical intervention that is gradually gaining recognition in the health, social, educational and criminal justice systems in Australia. The process enables people to focus on expression, communication and self-discovery through making images in the context of a therapeutic relationship with an art therapist."

Art therapy education had been operating in Australia since the early 1990s, providing education and training at Master's level, Dr Gilroy said. With Awards now established in the health systems of New South Wales and Western Australia, the profession was gradually gaining the recognition it deserved.

Dr Gilroy is available for interviews. Biography below.


Picture opportunity

Professor Gilroy leads up to 50 practising art therapists workshopping their art-based healing practices. 2pm to 2.30 pm, Friday August 8, Lecture Theatre G 04, La Trobe University City Campus, 215 Franklin Street, Melbourne.


Associate Professor Andrea (Andy) Gilroy

Associate Professor Andrea Gilroy is Associate Professor of Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths' College, University of London, where she has worked for more than twenty years. She is one of the key figures in international art therapy and has been involved with the development of art therapy in Australia through her work as an educator and researcher at the University of Western Sydney. She is an experienced educator and researcher whose research interests include the interface between theories and practices of visual art/visual culture and art therapy and the development of art therapy's evidence base. Her article 'On occasionally being able to paint' in the International Journal of Art Therapy, Volume 9, Issue 2 April 2004 , examined the importance of maintaining our personal artwork alongside therapy practice, widely accepted as a valuable part of a balanced approach to art therapy.

Another recent article 'Taking a long look at Art: Reflections on the context of production and consumption of art in Art Therapy' examines the way she looked at and responded to the frescoes in Italy and London. She says the art made in art therapy is profoundly influenced by its social context and the environment of its production, and conditioned by the social and professional contexts in which we look and are looked at. Her books include 'Art Therapy, Research and Evidence-based Practice', and 'Art and Music: Therapy and Research.' She co-authored 'The Changing Shape of Art Therapy: New Developments in Theory and Practice,' 'Pictures at an Exhibition: Selected Essays on Art and Art Therapy,' and 'Art Therapy: A Handbook' (Psychotherapy Handbooks Series)

In her most recent publication 'Art Therapy, Research and Evidence-Based Practice' (2006, Sage Publications) she challenged the idea that quantitative research should be the dominant paradigm for research in the arts therapies. She acknowledged that in an age of dwindling resources, evaluating the efficacy of practice is important in order to give the best possible care to patients. This book makes a major contribution to the field of art therapy by reviewing, in an accessible and informed manner, the issues around the development of research-informed practice. The author offers an overview of different traditions of inquiry that will be of value to practitioners as well as those actually involved in carrying out research. (Art Therapy around the world is under increasing pressure to become more "evidence-based". As a result, practitioners now need to get to grips with what constitutes "evidence", how to apply research in appropriate ways and also how to contribute to the body of evidence through their own research and other related activities.

Interview requests

Associate Professor Lawrie Moloney
Head, Department of Counselling and Psychological Health
School of Public Health
La Trobe University, Bundoora
T: 03 9479 2578
M: 0448 383 003

Further information

Adrienne Jones

Senior Media and Communications Officer