Reflections on the International Art Therapy Conference, London 2019
Ten art therapists (Australia, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, US) belonging to the Asian Art Therapy Network give their personal reflections on the International Art Therapy Practice Research Conference, which took place in London, 2019. In common is the importance given to collaboration, cooperation and developing a sense of community. The following texts are part of full paper published in CAET winter issue 5.2 (2019).
PhD, HCPC, BAAT-Registered Art Therapist
The Academic College of Society and the Arts and Bar Ilan University, Israel
We are living in a globalized world in which we operate on an international scale. A world in which interaction and relationships between people for business, knowledge, and information have become more and more linked and, despite our differences, we have much in common. Political, social, economic, and environmental globalization encourage us to communicate and collaborate on multiple levels. Together with this, however, we are witnessing a rise in isolationism. Trump in the United States and Brexit in the United Kingdom are two examples of a move away from this global cooperation toward a world in which there is identification with one’s own nation, often to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of the other. Of course, this move to and from nationalism to globalism and vice versa is not limited to these countries. The struggle for democracy in Hong Kong is currently flaring, with protestors fighting for their rights for a globalized democracy while at the same time acknowledging their national identity.
It is against this political backdrop that on July 11–13, 2019, the International Art Therapy Practice and Research Conference 2019 was held in London. The conference was organized by the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) and joined by the American Association of Art Therapy (AATA). Despite the historical flight from global cooperation, the collaboration between the two associations and the attendance by more than 400 delegates from 36 countries pointed toward a desire to broaden horizons, learn from each other, and extend our practice, rather than limit it. Art therapists gathered from across the globe; North America, Europe, South America, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand were all represented. They brought with them their passion for art therapy and a willingness and desire to cooperate.
This journal, Creative Arts in Education and Therapy (CAET) — Eastern and Western Perspective, focuses on the mutual relationship between the East and the West, while advocating this same global perspective. It supports a move away from our insular thinking in favor of increasing awareness and the acknowledgment of “shared human qualities that pervade the arts while encouraging and respecting the infinite differences of artists and their expressions” (McNiff, 2015). As a result of the significant number of art therapists from across Asia at the conference, an Asian Art Therapy Network was spearheaded by Tony Zhou, founder and executive editor of CAET. Zhou aimed to provide an opportunity for Asian art therapists attending this conference to support each other in their endeavors to grow the profession, specifically in countries in which it was in its infancy. The five art therapists reviewing this conference for CAET all have connections with Asia and joined the network.
As is evident from the conference, cross-cultural encounter is increasingly relevant to our profession as more and more art therapists are studying and/or working in countries other than their own. Levine (2018) explores the notion of cross-cultural encounter and asks what it means to encounter each other. He refers to Jean-Luc Nancy, who tried to understand encounter in terms of nearness by writing, “I like to think about the encounter between art therapist from all over the world in terms of ‘nearness’…in which two parties are neither the same nor different; rather we are near to each other, touching but not merging, taking and giving at the same time” (p. 85).
It is this nearness that we see expressed in the reflections on the international conference. This global gathering focused on this idea of “taking and giving at the same time” (Levine, 2018, p. 85) while acknowledging that it is our points of difference that lead to depth and interest. Indeed, this was expressed in the five reviews on the conference, which hold common thread—the joy of meeting, of encounter. Kelly speaks of the coming of age of a profession that evolved differently in the West compared to the East and in the United States (which is diverse in itself) to Europe and the willingness to “burst our bubbles” and look toward each other for inspiration. Kaimal speaks of “building international communities” so that we can discuss the challenges we have in common, be supported in our common struggles, and share in our understandings. Della Cagnoletta speaks about “expanding our dialogues” and broadening our perspective of what art therapy is. Alfonso is interested in networking toward “cross-cultural collaboration.” Lay, program leader of the master’s degree program at Lasalle College of Arts in Singapore, reflects on art therapists who return to their home countries and find themselves pioneers and at times isolated, seeking a balance between their Western training and adaptations to the local concepts and traditions of healing. The conference reminded us that despite the social trends and move away from internationalization among part of our world communities, art therapists still value encounters, and that no matter the culture to which we belong or country in which we live, art and art in healing remain relevant.
EdD, ATR-BC, Associate Professor
Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions
Philadelphia, PA, USA
In the summer of 2017, I received an e-mail asking if I would be interested in attending an international art therapy conference, and if so, would I want to discuss it further with a small group of art therapists from the United States and the United Kingdom who were thinking about bringing together art therapists from all over the world for a global gathering conference. I remember I responded right away in the affirmative. The possibility of connecting art therapists from all over the world was very exciting and inspiring. It was unprecedented and could help us engage with each other as a global force, rather than as isolated pockets and efforts.
We began e-mail discussions, met at the American Art therapy Association annual meeting in Albuquerque, NM, in the fall of 2017, and a steering committee led by Dr. Val Huet, CEO of the British Association of Art Therapists, was formed. Together we listed names and contact information for art therapists we knew all over the world and reached out to them to gather ideas, themes, questions, and concerns. From these initial exchanges, a call for proposals was issued in Fall 2018 in collaboration with the conference management systems of the American Art Therapy Association. Initially, there were only a trickle of abstract submissions, but as the deadline drew closer, hundreds of submissions flooded in. It was exciting and promising. With over 200 sessions and presentations accepted, I remember registering on the very first day that the call opened in January 2019.
I grew up in India but have lived in the United States for the past 20 years. I realized that I was the only non-White person on the steering committee and spoke from my experiences of teaching in the United States as well as leading workshops and teaching art therapy in India. Even though I represented the United States for the meeting, all other steering committee members and I had deep roots outside of the United States, including from Algeria, Canada, India and Argentina. I often wondered about my role. Rather than my Indian identity, I think that my researcher and educator identities emerged stronger at the meeting. My Indian identity is often manifested in my willingness and interest to holding pluralistic perspectives, of being at home and yet being an outsider all over the world. I am not of India alone anymore; I am of the United States, of my collaborative research trajectory, of my global travels, and of my motherhood to my daughters and mentorship of my students (Kaimal, 2015). I felt able to bring all these selves to the steering committee and the conference itself.
The conference, in my view successfully combined practice innovations, master classes and creative explorations of media with presentations on research and theory. While I attended sessions of colleagues I knew from previous meetings and met new collaborators from Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, the Netherlands, and the Philippines, some of my most meaningful conversations happened in the corridors over coffee breaks. We unpacked the politics of journals and the implications of global networks. We hugged old and long-lost friends and colleagues and caught up further in the nearby pubs and coffee shops. We lamented the struggles and tensions of the territorial battles we fight with each other while we stay marginalized and misunderstood by most of the world.
Mimma Della Cagnoletta
PhD., M.P.S in Art Therapy and Creative Development, Certified Psychologist and Psychoanalyst, Director of Advanced Training in Art Therapy, Art Therapy Italiana, Italy
On July 10, 2019, a pre-conference meeting was organized by BAAT and hosted by Val Huet to provide networking and sharing of ideas and experiences to about 40 art therapists from all over the world. This creative conversation started several months before the actual day of the meeting, initiated by a long e-mail exchange about themes and topics that could be of interest for the pre-conference meeting. The discussion contained open questions and thoughts about what was needed in our profession, the specific development of art therapy in each country, the challenges we face, and the implications for further growth.
It explored three major themes: the first one, which identified the idea of a conference, was about research, which studies can prove the effectiveness and the meaningfulness of art therapy interventions; the second was a desire to explore how “many faces” does art therapy have around the world; the third, which may come as a consequence of enquiring about the various modalities we use in our work, was to discuss supervision. With these thoughts in mind, we arrived at the meeting. The setting of our encounter consisted of several round tables, where the participants started their discussions in small subgroups. On one side the subgroups emphasized unity and similarity of intents, while on the other the complexity and specificity of each country appeared during the description of the state of art therapy. In this context, how do we cooperate?
If cooperation is “an embodied craft which is conveyed by social rituals” (Sennet, 2012), we, as art therapists, should possess adequate skills for cooperation and collaboration. Not only do we constantly deal with embodiment while we use art media or through our experiential style of teaching and learning through doing, but we also use situations like conference, meetings, and intervisions as our rituals to connect.
During our meeting, we experienced the importance of dialogue and mutuality: Whenever “real dialogue involves an encounter between people or voices or ‘utterances’ that are outside of each other”(Wegerif, 2017), thinking becomes open ended and allows for distinct ideas to emerge, feeding from each other and ever evolving as time flows and knowledge becomes more profound.
As Sennet (2012) says,“The dialogic conversation…prospers through empathy, the sentiment of curiosity about who other people are in themselves.” It generates greater awareness of new possibilities, where knowledge comes from inside in a “expanded dialogical space” (Wegerif, 2017), that is not only determined by thoughts, but broadened by the relational experiences.
This was the atmosphere that permeated our meeting and defined the direction of our discussion on the topic of supervision: We promoted a view of supervision not as a “bird’s eye view” of an expert on a problematic case, but as an exchange of different points of view, a work of co-researchers reflecting on the same situation.
What if we use this image of co-researchers to define our common goals in our multicultural group? And which objective should we have?
It could be an ideal to promote and develop a “cultural ecology—the healthy interdependence of all people within society” (Chen’s interview with Hailing, 2018, page 19), but it could also be the underlying motive of all our enterprises, especially when the challenges are so high.
The community we have started to create needs to have a common objective, something that comes from bottom up, from our daily experience, how we feel to live in the world we live (Harvey, Zhou, Kelly, & Wittig, 2018), not to reach a symbiotic merge of our ideas and experiences, but to enlarge our vision and to connect within a more vast field, not limited by the (often unnatural) borders maps offer us.
PhD, MMH (Art Therapy), BEd (Hons), CertHlthProm, AThR, HCPC Registered Member of BAAT and BACP
University of South Wales UK
As the most recent past President, Chair, and Acting Executive Officer of the Australian, New Zealand, and Asian Creative Arts Therapies Association (ANZACATA), I attended the conference on the back of a life transition: returning to live back in my country of birth. I have lived and worked all over the world in places such as India, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, and America, but for over 20 years, I have made Australia my home. In light of the challenging times we live in, my recent personal changes, and after attending the conference, it got me thinking of how much we can live in a bubble. Minding our own lives, mixing with like-minded people with like-minded views. This can be an insular perspective if that is all we wish for. Sameness does not challenge; sameness can be comfortable and safe. But, in reality, life is dynamic and ever-changing, eventually forcing us to change and adapt. Sometimes, this is welcomed; sometimes, it is not. When it is not, often it is the grist of our work as therapists.
This conference warmly welcomed delegates from all over the world, reflecting a wonderful diversity that exemplifies McNiff’s view that the creative art therapies have more that unites than divides us. At the core of all of us attending is the value placed on human creativity, both in quality of life and in healing; that our practice as art therapists can harness this quality. Also, that there are other ways to communicate and show the healing nature of the arts therapies. By using innovative research, we can shine a different kind of research lens on our work and attempt to capture what is so special about this form of therapy.
I have been part of the arts therapy community in Australia for many years, seeing my professional organization grow and develop, not without significant challenges, to encompass wholeheartedly the diversity of practice, training, and research and to evolve into the dynamic and flexible organization it is today. I have reflected on the diversity of our own conferences and symposia in recent years in Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, and it is wonderful to see many familiar presenters from all over the world who have been keynote speakers, workshop facilitators, presenters, and attendees at our conferences in the past. Meeting friends and colleagues from these other places was the highlight of the conference for me.
We know the roots of art therapy have evolved differently in the West compared with the East. Europe’s history has taken a different theoretical pathway in relation to that of the United States and Canada. Bubbles existed then between theoretical perspectives and among modalities of music, dance, drama, and visual arts. Now, arts therapies are maturing as a profession, and significant contributions can be made by bursting bubbles and looking outward and East to see how the arts can contribute to the profession. The Eastern arts and cultures have something important to offer the West that is highly congruent to our core values of creativity and the different ways of communicating with each other.
One significant memory of the conference was of sitting in a small workshop group studying an image on a screen that was discussed by us all. As instructed by the presenter, we were asked to talk about the painting and pondered on it at length. Our group comprised of seven—each originating from other places, with different languages, histories, and perspectives. The discussion of the paintings elicited many perspectives. Respect, cooperation, and, indeed, delight and wonder at our different viewpoints were the features I remember.
Maria Regina A. Alfonso
PhD, ATR-BC, LCPAT
The BAAT 2019 International Conference offered an excellent platform for art therapists from around the globe to connect and to learn from each other. I gained valuable perspectives about the current ways in which art therapists practice and offer art therapy training in their specific contexts/countries. The conference offered opportunities to collaborate cross-culturally – particularly between countries where art therapy has been firmly established and those where it is just beginning to flourish.
The opportunity to network began even prior to the conference, at the meeting of international therapists on July 10, 2019. During the whole-day session, round-table discussions were organized to support collaborative learning about the opportunities and challenges in establishing art therapy in countries where the seeds of art therapy are being planted. All continents were represented – with art therapists hailing from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and the Middle East. Existing training programs in each country were presented and offered perspective on the varying stages at which programs are operating in the countries represented. There was an expressed desire for collaboration and an opportunity to share challenges in training development, education, advocacy, and practice. It was particularly interesting to learn how so many art therapists practice outside of their home countries, and the layered experiences these bring to the work. The rich exchanges offered us the chance to gain validation and clarity about their respective projects and approaches.
During the pre-conference meeting, as a practitioner working both in the Philippines and other third world nations, I identified particularly with art therapists from developing countries who expressed the common need in their contexts to create awareness among mental health practitioners and the general public, about the difference between art education, therapeutic art activities, and art therapy. A subject that resonated with me was the question of how to support untrained people who were already practicing as art therapists, for them to gain training. The ethical concerns that emerged from this gap in awareness and adequate art therapy training were briefly touched on but merit more attention. The need to uphold the standards of the profession and to honor the rigorous training of credentialed therapists is pressing, as the awareness of the practice of art therapy has increased with the global spotlight on mental health.
Ronald P. M. H. Lay
EdD (candidate), MA, AThR, ATR-BC, Progamme Leader, MA Art Therapy
LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore
Increasingly, art therapy is being developed, established, and practiced across global landscapes in ways that are just as diverse, rich, and layered as the cultures, contexts, and terrain that are found therein (Kelly, Levey, & Lay, 2017; Lay, 2018). Art therapists are a creative and adventurous lot, and so it is not surprising that many have temporarily traversed and/or even translocated to new regions of the world to introduce and anchor the discipline. This has served to ignite the imagination and interest of others to also take up training themselves so that they too can practice.
For those new art therapists who needed to go overseas for training, they often return home as pioneers and are quick to find themselves seemingly isolated with a range of challenges that may include nonacceptance by other professionals within the local mental health landscape, little to no access for funding and/or employment, no relevant credentialing board nor equivalent professional art therapy organization to advocate for their professional needs, including ongoing professional development; some even return to no formalized mental health infrastructure to support art therapy services (Lay, 2018). Understandably, their enthusiasm and energy may be diminished and even depleted. The BAAT/AATA conference was, hence, timely, critical, much needed, and very well received by global participants. The conference provided community, collegiality, and a common ground to collectively consider the discipline of art therapy as well as the future direction that it may take.
Many art therapy conferences are international in scope; however, the inaugural BAAT/AATA conference can be considered global as it purposefully ensured the inclusion, input, and active engagement of practitioners, researchers, academics, and participants from around the world. It was heartening to meet a good number of art therapists and students, many of whom traveled quite extensively to attend and greet global peers and acquaintances and, to my pleasant surprise, a peer from my own cohort, and to mingle with the various writers and researchers who so diligently ground the profession. It was a very special honor indeed to not only present a community arts project at this conference with one of my graduates, but to additionally see so many of our international alumni in the conference catalogue and to be a part of an art therapy homecoming of sorts.
Singapore’s strong presence at this conference is a testament to the significant competence, confidence, and contributions that are being made in this part of the world. In my current position as Programme Leader of a postgraduate art therapy training programme in Singapore, I have been honored and privileged to train new generations of art therapists in Southeast Asia (and abroad) in contexts that are relevant and meaningful to this region, to provide informed consultation and input into developing art therapy practices, trainings, and professional art(s) therapy organizations in this part of the world, and to witness the profound work that is being developed, pioneered, and practiced by Asia-based and Asia-trained art therapists.
PhD, PEAT, head of the post graduate expressive arts therapy program by Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, first president of Association of Expressive arts therapy (Russia), visiting professor of EGS( Switzerland).
Participating in the International Art therapy Practice and Research Conference in London and representing Russia was a great honor for me.
Russia is between East and West geographically and we observe with equal interest the tendencies of western and eastern arts therapy. Art therapy Association exists In Russia since 1997 and the professional field of art therapy and arts therapy are developing gradually. The number of conferences and educational programs dedicated to art therapy has increased, as well as the numbers of specialists who use art in their work. There is also a growing interest in the wider public in the healing power of arts. The other brunches of arts therapy are developing too, such as dance-movement therapy, expressive arts therapy. For example, by my initiative in 2016 the Association of expressive arts therapy was founded in Russia. On the conference was presented report about development art-therapy in Russia.
In spite of the growing need in a changing contemporary Russian, art and arts therapy as a profession does not yet exist. Russia is a post-soviet society, in the transition period., still is moving from being a hard ideological society to the more humanistic one. In this climate, art has an important role to play in facilitating creativity and expression. During the conference in London I presented a report on Art-based research of post-soviet trauma.
This Conference was a great possibility to see a wider perspective of developing arts therapy in the world, during the Conference we was able to learn from each other and inspire each other I would like to express my gratitude to BAAT Conference organizers for organizing the space for global dialog, meeting, and communication in the field of arts therapy and to all participants of this vibrant community all over the world. I think that the next step for the global development of our global community will be creating of one International Arts therapy Association that can embrace different approaches in arts therapy and different countries.
Founder Chairperson of The Art Therapy Association of India, PhD candidate
As the first formally trained Art Therapist to be working in India, and the Founder Chair of The Art Therapy Association of India (TATAI) formed this year, it was my privilege to present Shilpanjali, on developing the first home-grown arts therapy master’s level curriculum framework in India at the BAAT/AATA practice/research conference. Apart from me we had another representative/attendee from India, Sruthi Sriram who trained at Lasalle, and returned to work in India and is the Founder Treasurer of TATAI.
I felt blessed to meet my mentor, Dr, Diane Waller (OBE) who was the guest of honour at the conference. Diane had inspired me to complete my post-graduate training in Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths, on a Commonwealth scholarship before I returned to India to start work in 1999. I was also thrilled to attend the first day on training, conducted by one of my tutors at Goldsmiths, Dr. Val Huet, and the present CEO of BAAT. I was also encouraged by connections made with the global art therapists’ community, particularly by the developments in South East Asia and when approached by some Indian students who would be returning to India after the completion of their training.
India is in a state of transition, particularly in the emergent field of creative arts therapies. With no formal trainings available in India, the handful of current Indian art therapists and other creative arts therapists have had to look westwards to acquire professional training. This is somewhat problematic when trained practitioners return home to transplant their learnings in a new culture, particularly in terms of acculturation and adaptability. Moreover the lacunae in formal training and a critical mass of trained practitioners has resulted in numerous ethical concerns, both in the perpetuation of Western hegemony and the mushrooming of short-term courses which lack the rigour or credibility required to position the discipline professionally within the mental health eco-system in India.
The etymology of the Sanskrit coinage Shilpanjali is situated at the confluence of two words shilpa meaning art/s and anjali meaning offering. Historically speaking the arts have always been integrated and inter-disciplinary in India (Vatsayan, 2008). Drawn out of a research study and innovative methodology, the focus was to create the first decolonizing model of curriculum development for Masters level training through a consensus based Delphi research study, one that was of the people, by the people and for the people in India.
Like the many flowers in a garland of sacred offering, research was focused on collectively bringing together creative arts therapy practitioners from the diverse disciplines of dance/movement, art, drama and music from the different corners of India. All experts in their own right with years of experience and contribution to Indian soil, these practitioners voiced their myriad perspectives on arts therapies education and practice to envision what a home grown curriculum would look like in India. The assimilative power of the arts was evident in social action research on the ground. Therefore it is within this fold that I would like to position the creation of a culturally relevant curriculum for the first Masters level training program in art/s therapy which is taking birth in India.
The research study with practitioners unearthed certain key findings presented from diverse points of view of the different disciplines from a pan India perspective. Practitioners shed light on their own processes of acculturation and their need to incorporate indigenous processes to make their work culturally relevant in India. They also articulated the ethical concerns practitioners are faced with in the absence of any formal education, professional training or regulatory bodies and the need for setting up of ethical standards and guidelines both within the evolutionary domains of practice and training in India. This evidence based research study points to the need for an indigenous curriculum rooted in the Indian soil and the symbiotic relationship it shares with the culture it seeks to both derive from and serve in order to create a sustainable model of training for implementation at the university level in India.
In terms of impact, this seminal cultural model (Chakrbarti, 2018a, 2018b) demonstrates the potential to transform the landscape by professionalizing arts therapy training in India in terms of identity formation, positioning the profession within the mental-health eco-system in India and support practitioners to benchmark themselves at par with Indian and global standards. This curriculum development has implications for the larger field and shows the way forward for creative arts therapies training to gain credibility and recognition in order to fulfill the vision towards formal education, one that will lead to the professionalizing of these fields for future generations of practitioners to come in India and one that will inspire perspectives on global training, to go beyond culture and nationhood.
Bee T Teoh
It has been quite some time after we all met in a big hall. We are a group with very diverse backgrounds and cultures, flying from every corner of the globe to this same destination, to meet and network with many other arts therapists. We are all share the same passion for arts therapy. Whether it’s creative arts or making art, we all find a place to voice our joys and excitements, as well as concerns and at times frustration particularly on the slow progress in the recognition and accreditation of our profession – a key issue voiced by our fellow colleagues from many developing countries. It might be disheartened and it could be very taxing along the process of pioneering the program of getting government to recognise the contribution of arts therapies in mental health of the society. Nonetheless, these challenges have never stopped us, broken our spirit to promote and to speak out for art therapy. We will persist in this meaningful journey.
In the blink of an eye, I have been walking on this path for almost 15 years; everything just seemed like yesterday. But I have never regretted my choice of becoming an art therapist. I love art and making art brings me joys; create something from nothing on the canvas. I find profound joy in the creativity process. I find my voice on the canvas. In real life, I am quiet and a bit introvert though I appeared to be an outspoken and courageous person to other. However, deep inside my soul, I prefer a quiet space where I can dance my hands with the brushes of different colours on a blank canvas. I find peace and tranquility in this process: nothing can be replaced.
I had never thought of being an art therapist at the beginning of my career in mental health therapy. When I saw my friend using art to assess a client, I was not interested at all in reading and interpreting the client’s artwork. Till I first picked up the coloured pencils and began to draw something on the paper, my entire perception changed. There was a surge of energy, running through my body and mind; I know this is the home for my soul, where the art is.
Walking on the path, I always believe in take the first step forward and the path will appear. It seems nostalgic; however, this is how art therapy being started in Malaysia. After graduated from La Trobe University, it took me some time to decide on whether to stay in Australia to work on something I don’t passion about or to go back to Malaysia and to work on something that I am passionate about. I did anticipate the hardship; however, I have never thought that it could be so extremely difficult. I should have known Murphy’s theory much earlier, so that when I predict 100% of hardship, I should have doubled it up. Another belief is what didn’t kill you make you stronger. I know nothing about business when I started a company. That was the most challenging learning curve in my life. I am still managing the curve because there are still so many aspects of business that I need to get myself familiar with, particularly the financial figures and numbers. They have never been my best friends. I am grateful that, along the way, there are people who offer their kind assistance and sound management suggestions on establishing and running an art therapy social enterprise.
While I was managing the enterprise, I started to train people who are interested in art therapy. Thinking and writing about it, it still makes me felling paranoid. Making the decision of providing art therapy training is not out of compulsion or showing off, it is more about “someone has to do something”. Every new venture begins with someone who are brave enough to take risk and the professional responsibility. I have taken these challenges forward and started to introduce art therapy in school system, corporations and government departments. After 10 years of establishing this enterprise, when I reflect on my journey, I am reaping the harvest of all my efforts. I am very proud of what I have done. Today, many people in Malaysia know about art therapy. I am also more skillful in explaining what art therapy is to the general public. We are breaking through the community barriers by having more schools inviting us to have art therapy with their students. After so many years of doubting whether I am doing the right thing, finally, I found a position for my students which is preventive art therapy workers where they can serve in the community without public questioning their qualification or their professionalism. As mentioned by Paula Kahlo, if your wish is so strong, the whole universal will come and serve you. I always believe that if we are helping people and they gain benefits out of the art therapy process, it hurts no one even the programme is not accredited. Having to say that, I am still hoping and working on it, that our programme and art therapy will receive the long-deserved recognition. Our programme will be properly accredited, and an excellent professional body being established in many developing countries. Nevertheless, there are many people who have gained some experience in art therapy through workshops or training programmes we organised. They are now continuing their study in art therapy in many other countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, US and UK. Hopefully, we will have an “art therapy family” in Malaysia very soon.
Last but not the least, over 10 years of talking, teaching and practising art therapy, I have gained a deeper insight into the weaker sides as well as the strengths of this therapeutic approach. I am grateful along the path. I have met so many inspirational mentors, supervisors and pioneers in this field who have been a light in the darkness for me. They always give me hope and direction to achieve my dream. The path is stretching to the horizon, and I am strolling on. No matter what hat does we wear, we are still a human that needs to live our life to its fullest – with a splash of paint over the sky.
I work as an art therapist in the psychiatry department of the University Clinic Ulm in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. I am responsible for two wards: mood disorder and personality disturbance. After I graduated from my German Studies, with focus on Hermann Hesse and C. J. Jung, in Japan, I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in clinic art therapy in Berlin and Bremen.
Currently, eight universities in Germany offer study programs for art therapy, and it is also possible to get state-approved B.A. and M.A. In Germany, there are diverse working fields for art therapy. Art therapists work in psychiatric clinics, psychosomatic clinics, hospices and child clinics for seriously ill people (i.e., patients with cancer), retirement homes, welfare institutions for persons with addictions and the homeless, and rehabilitation clinics.
In July 2019, I participated in the BAAT conference. I was stunned that there were so many lively presentations about art therapy not only from the host countries, the United Kingdom and the United States, but also from various Asian countries. It was very exciting to see and hear about the development of the profession across the globe, including in Asia.
My work is in a foreign country, I experience the tendencies of each country and their clinical impact. The unique features of each behavior are formed by history and culture of country. It is my hope that, by spreading art therapy through the world, we can learn to adapt our practices to the different needs and cultures, as opposed to using generic models. Conferences like this are good opportunity to share and discuss ideas with one another.