Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 31– the thesis

Friday, June 5, 2015

Looking Back: 31– the thesis

     Here is a quote from ARTherapy that perfectly sums up the rationale for doing art therapy with children:

Children are naturally creative, and it is usually easier for them to draw a picture as opposed to answering questions directly. They may be reluctant or even hostile about discussing certain topics. Creating artwork is a non-threatening venue that allows kids to tackle tough issues in a creative way. Talking to the children about their drawings or paintings and helping them interpret the art can provide therapists with the opening they need to get at the heart of the problems affecting their young patients.

       After arming myself with green lights from the Worcester State Hospital Art Therapist and Eleanor McKuen, the classroom teacher, and doing some basic research among the literature on art therapy, I approached the department head at the college and proposed the topic for my Master's Thesis.

       First of all, I introduced the concept and the circumstances that generated my interest in it. I also explained the interest and enthusiasm of the Art Therapist and the classroom teacher and their willingness to advise me in the project. The professor, who would be responsible for supervising the thesis, then wanted to know what methodology I proposed to use to collect the research data and analyze it.

       I explained that I planned to attend an actual classroom for emotionally disturbed children, with the teacher's permission and participation, for a specified number of times so that the children could become accustomed to and comfortable with my presence in the room. The children thought of me as an “art teacher”. I did not give them any “art lessons” per se, but encouraged them to draw anything they liked using whatever medium (pencil, crayon, paint, scissors, glue, etc.) they liked. When a child finished a work to his/her satisfaction (most of the children with emotional issues were boys, by the way) I would encourage the child to “tell me about your picture” and I tape recorded the conversations. I would then bring the pictures and tape recordings to the art therapist and we would discuss them. Finally, once the project was completed I would organize and analyze the data, summarize my conclusions and write the thesis. The department head approved the topic for my thesis and I was awarded a Masters Degree in 1973.

the work of a happy child
       Art therapy isn't necessarily confined to children with severe emotional problems, but can be beneficial even in a normal classroom environment as long as the children feel comfortable enough to express their deepest feelings and not to repress their natural inhibitions—such, perhaps, as harboring negative feelings toward a parent.

the making of
"Mommy Dearest"
       During a project with a 6th Grade class in my own art class many years later I was startled to see a perfect example of the complete artistic expression of a boy's feelings towards his mother, who was what we call a “Kyoiku Mama” 教育ママ [Education Mom] who put a lot of pressure on him to get top grades and get into the best private junior high school. The picture, which I somewhat sardonically call "Mommy Dearest",  needs no explanation and I didn't discuss it with him. He was probably able to release a lot of repressed hostility towards his demanding mother in the process of creating the picture without actually striking her down with lightning or drowning her in a raging sea. He was a bright student and I believe he went on to a good school. 

"Mommy Dearest"

      I don't know if he ever showed her the picture of “Mommy Dearest”.

To be continued...

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