Body Based & Embodied Methods in Art Therapy

Mia de Bethune, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT, ISP, SEP

Presented by:
Mia de Bethune, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT, ISP, SEP

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This paper will present the results of a non-experimental quantitative pilot study that used a survey with a convenience sample of U.S.-based art therapists to determine their knowledge, interest in, and use of body-based or embodied methods in art therapy. Participants (N = 106) were between 22 and 79 years of age (M = 42.85, SD = 13.43), and identified as 77% White, 10% Asian, 5% Multiracial, and 3% Latinx (with Black, Indigenous, and Middle Eastern identities all under 2%). Data were analyzed through a lens of critical and embodied pedagogy for descriptive statistics and correlations. Analyses indicated more than half had knowledge of body-based methods and engaged in them for their own wellness, but were less likely to use them in clinical practice or teaching. A review of the literature explores the history of art therapy as less embodied than other creative arts therapies (Belkofer & Nolan, 2016; DeWitte et al., 2021), and yet defines the need for embodied training among art therapists due to increased understanding of trauma (Czamanski-Cohen & Weihs; 2016; Gantt & Tripp, 2016), as well as the need to support a wide intersection of clients with varied bodily experiences. Systemic racism (Menakem, 2017; Strings, 2019), homophobia, transphobia (Caldwell & Johnson, 2019; herising, 2005), and traumatic exposure due to war, mass migration, environmental threats, and the pandemic are just some of the factors leading to chronic stress, disease (O’Rourke, 2022; Penn, 2001), and increased 3 rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation (Plemmons et al., 2018). The role of bodybased methods in effective trauma treatment will be outlined (Czamanski-Cohen & Weihs, 2016; Gantt & Tripp, 2016; van der Kolk, 2014) as will the role of embodiment in allied fields such as education with embodied pedagogy (Chappell et al., 2019) and cognitive psychology with embodied cognition (Ianì, 2021). Methods, where art therapy and body-based methods have already been combined will be described such as Mindfulness-based Art Therapy (Jalambadani et al., 2019), Guided Drawing (Elbrecht, 2018), Somatic Art Therapy (Hamel, 2021), and Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy (Rappaport, 2009). Recent research exploring neurophysiological aspects of the combination of body-based methods and art therapy will be outlined (Czamanski-Cohen & Weihs, 2016; Hass-Cohen et al., 2018). Words such as embodiment (O’Connor, 2017) and interoception

(Pink et al., 2021) will be defined and outlined as well as foundational theories such as the Expressive Therapies Continuum (Lusebrink & Hinz, 2016) and Polyvagal Theory (Porges, 2011). Descriptive statistics will define the sample of art therapists who completed the survey. Significant correlations between body-based methods/embodiment and various theoretical orientations such as psychoanalytic, trauma-focused, and social justice will be outlined. Correlations between art therapy practice/art therapy education and body-based/embodied methods will be outlined as well.

Mia de Bethune, MA, ATR-BC, LCAT, ISP/SEP is an artist, psychotherapist, and art therapy educator located in Westchester County New York. She has been adjunct faculty and Internship Coordinator for the NYU Art Therapy Program for 13 years and is certified as a Child and Adolescent Specialist by the Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. She also worked for six years in pediatric palliative care for Hospice and Palliative Care of Westchester. She maintains a private practice in NY where she sees adolescents, children, and adults in her art studio. She has been on staff at The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services’ Mann Center and The Children’s Village, both residential treatment and foster care facilities for at-risk youth. She is often guest faculty at the School of Visual Arts MPS Art Therapy Program, as well as at NYU, and has presented nationally and internationally on various topics from foster care to the therapeutic use of fiber arts. Her more recent focus has been somatic psychology and embodied forms of art therapy. She is a certified Somatic Experiencing and Integral Somatic Psychology practitioner and works as a training assistant in both modalities. She is also trained in Inner Relationship Focusing as well as various arts-based body methods. She became a Ph.D. candidate this year at the Lesley University Expressive Arts Therapy Doctoral Program and will soon begin qualitative research on body-based art therapy methods. She is also a member of the Upstream Gallery in Hastings-on Hudson, NY where she shows work that is a mixture of painting, weaving, and sculpture.

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