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Wilson, L. (1983). The Arts in Therapy: By Bob Fleshaman and Jerry L. Fryrear. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981. 234 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 52:305-308.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:305-308

The Arts in Therapy: By Bob Fleshaman and Jerry L. Fryrear. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981. 234 pp.

Review by:
Laurie Wilson

This book attempts to provide an introduction to the subject of the arts therapies and their place in the field of mental health. It offers a general discussion of the topic followed by more detailed chapters on the specific modalities of psychodrama, music, and the visual, movement, language, media, creative-expressive, and mixed media arts. Unfortunately, the authors have put together a simplistic and in many instances an inaccurate overview.

Fleshman and Fryrear see the arts therapies as falling within one of three main schools of psychological thought—the "intrapsychic," "behavioristic," and "humanistic" schools. It is the last which they see as currently dominating the arts therapies and as most applicable to them. They dismiss the behavioristic school as insignificant for the arts therapies because in it art is only used as a reward. They claim that art is employed primarily as a diagnostic tool within the "intrapsychic framework," although it has also been used adjunctively within this framework for its cathartic effects and as a window into the unconscious. When they present the humanistic approach to the arts therapies, their claims grow much grander, and they elevate the creative process to a "model for mental health—the art of living" (p. 35). Apparently ignorant of the significance of ego psychology and object relations theory for the arts therapies, they claim that the truly therapeutic potential of art is understood only by the humanists.

Although the authors profess to be objective, their humanistic bias pervades the text in every aspect. When they use terms or discuss concepts derived from psychoanalysis, their misapprehension of it as a body of knowledge is very evident. This is not forgivable in a book on this subject, since some of the major theoretical writings and clinical approaches in the arts therapies are grounded on psychoanalytic understanding.


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