the Spirit of Art Therapy 3


the Spirit of Art Therapy 4



Classroom scene at Pratt



Professor Arthur Robbins (Ed.D.) was the long-time boss of Pratt's art therapy department (formally, the Department of Creative Arts Therapy), although the head of the department was a woman. with Prof. Robbins at the top, all the faculty members had a family-like connection.


The class lead by Prof. Robbins for two successible years was a most important and indispensable one. We had many other classes such as 'group art therapy', 'family art therapy', 'developmental psychology', and more, with many experienced art therapists.


The psychological stance of the Pratt's art therapy as a whole made much on  the object relations theory based on psychoanalysis, but people with different theoretical backgrounds, such as Gestalt therapy and Jungian psychology, coexisted without conflict. .


In addition, there are several other courses such as 'material experience'  or 'art assessment', which are clearly defined as art therapy graduate credits accredited by the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). 


The number of students participating in the class varies depending on the class, but roughly speaking it's around twenty.



There were also some international students.


I haven't looked up the exact ages of the participants, but a quick look suggests that the average age is in the early 30s.


The case of undergraduate students going straight to graduate school, which is common in Japanese graduate schools, was rarely seen here. Some of the students were already working in any kind of clinical setting.


The best result for me was the report I submitted to Prof. Robbins every semester.


It was based on my experience during my internship, and Professor Robbins seemed to like it, and he was encouraged by the comments he wrote on top of his reports every time he returned home. Prof. Robbins' class was compulsory throughout the two years and was the core of art therapy.


Another class that impressed me was Family Art Therapy by Elaine Rapp, number two. She is a sculptor and a Gestalt art therapist at the same time, and the collaborative painting work she introduced in her classes was very powerful.


Once, she had to miss her class, and her friend David Gonzalez, a music therapist at NYU, took her place in her class. The music therapy by his lead who came with percussion was very powerful and I still can't forget it.


Another essential class to become an art therapist is the "developmental psychology" class.


Judy (Ed.D) was in charge of that.


Before each class in the first semester and the second semester (semester), I was handed a thick photocopy material about the size of a telephone book. In addition, there were about 10 other requested documents.


This class is the theoretical core of my study of art therapy.


One incompatibility was department head Leslie Abram's group art therapy.


There, each student was assigned the lead of group art therapy for various target people, and the target people were recruited from the class and role-played.



What I was assigned was group art therapy for AIDS patients, which was feared as a deadly disease at the time. I don't remember the details, but it seems that they drew a candle, emitted light from it, placed it in front of them, felt themselves, and formed a circle to meditate. I have a memory.


Leslie's comments were harsh.


"This is not a group"


"Are these people going to die in groups?"


After the class, my classmate Anne (who could see auras) approached me and praised me, "Norio! You did a great job!!"



This experience sparked my commitment to group art therapy.


Encounter with Art Therapy


I enrolled in the Creative Arts Therapy Department (Graduate School) of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in 1985 to study art therapy.


The Pratt Institute's Department of Art Therapy was founded in 1970, along with five programs starting around the same time: New York University, George Washington University, Emerson College, and Hanemann Institute. They made a major current of art therapy in the United States.


The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) was established in 1969, and the first conference was held in 1970 - the following year. Since then, the spread of art therapy has been enormous, and during the seven years from 1971 to 1978, 14 specialized courses in art therapy at the graduate level and 21 courses at the undergraduate level were established with great momentum.


I once asked Judy Rubin, an American art therapy tycoon, what happened there. Her answer was shrugging her shoulders and saying, "A miracle has happened."


Brooklyn, where the platform is located, was once the image of a high-class residential area that was also chosen as the setting for Hollywood movies, but by the time I stayed, most of the inhabitants were bitterly poor, and the security in the town was very bad at that time. Even when I was in school, there was an incident in which a female student on her way home from a part-time job in Manhattan at night got mugged and shot dead with a pistol when she resisted. the man, who was later arrested and turned out to be drugging at the time.


I myself have been mugged three times during my student days. Once on the way home from shopping at the supermarket, I was chased by a group of about 10 black kids and surrounded in front of the dormitory entrance.


Another episode was a young black man got into the dormitory by following me tight and demanded money by pointing the muzzle of of the gun at me.

At that time, it was said many junior high school children had pistols.


Causally, when I later worked at the Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, I was exposed to many people who were living in such a difficult environment in those days and had been admitted to the psychiatric ward. I met those people close through art therapy. 


By the way, do you have any experience of being pointed the muzzle of the gun?

I do have an experience.

When the mugger pointed the gun at me, my eye cast was fixed on the muzzle of the gun.

To me, it's hole was pitch dark, or, in other word, sheer black which was so deep as to reach the bottom of the underworld connecting to the hell.


I got a vivid archetypal image of the color black through this experience.

Later on, however, I was to learn another side of the meaning of black.