Art Therapy: A Phenomenological Analysis

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Register to read the introduction…In philosophy it is used to focus on the individual’s conscious, perceptual and intellectual processes, excluding preconceptions and the idea of external consequences (Gregory, 1987). Phenomenology is a philosophical method aimed at getting at the truth - it aims to achieve clarity of insight and thought while including the subject. It makes a distinction between appearance and essence. It is a very appropriate philosophical method to apply to the theory and practice of art therapy. (Carpendale, 2003) Merleau-Ponty, the French philosopher, writes that philosophy is “not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being.” (Merleau-Ponty, 1969)
Betensky (1995) wrote "phenomenology offers an answer to a long needed unbiased approach to art therapy in all its spheres: theory, training, and professional practice.” She articulates the importance of 'seeing ' and suggests that this is art therapy 's most important contribution to general therapy and even to phenomenology itself, because art therapy pays attention to the authentic experience in two ways. First of all there is the direct experience of creating art and second of all there is the direct experience of looking at the art. The second direct experience requires some help to learn how to look in order to see all that can be seen in their art expression (Betensky,
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Merleau-Ponty tells us that, “the real has to be described, not constructed or formed” (1969, p. 17).
Phenomenological art therapy as explicated by Betensky (1995) is a clearly formulated art therapy approach that attempts to understand the phenomena of the artwork and the creative process from within itself through "intentional observation" and reflection.
The three main features of the phenomenological method are 1) the attention to the description of the perceived phenomena; 2) focus on capturing the essence; and 3) the essence is found by intuiting and not by deduction or induction. The 5 key concepts of phenomenology concepts outlined by Merleau–Ponty in the introduction of Phenomenology of Religion (Bettis 1969) can be applied to art therapy (Carpendale, 2002). These concepts are: description, reduction, essence, intentionality and

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