Art Therapy Large Group (ATLG): Politics and Possibilities

Jones, Kevin. 2019. 'Art Therapy Large Group (ATLG): Politics and Possibilities'. In: Taking Part. South Bank Centre. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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The paper argues that the ATLG contributes to an understanding of what it is that enables and inhibits people in their democratic participation as citizens and active subjects within society and is therefore relevant to the work of arts organizations engaging in the community. I draw upon the large verbal group literature (De Mare, Piper, Thompson (1991) and Schneider and Weinberg (2003) and the art psychotherapy literature on the ATLG (Jones and Skaife (2009a), Skaife and Jones (2009b) which suggests that the interrelationships and feelings that arise when people gather together in large groups resemble those interrelationships and feelings that arise when people gather together in the institutions and social groups that form larger society. Developing this idea, I argue that the ATLG can help us understand both what ‘tears us apart’ as well as what allows us to’ take part’ within civil society; that the framework of the ATLG brings into focus all that is ‘uncivil’ in social relationships as well as the potentials that might lead toward a ‘civil’ society.

To introduce the ATLG experience, a brief example taken fom the opening stages of an ATLG is described. Three points are made to illustrate how the ATLG is relevant to arts organizations working with diverse communities and in the development and sustenance of a ‘civil’ society: first, how the creation of a particular large group culture helps in learning about the relationships between the individual, the collective and society; second, how this learning can help build a sense of individual empowerment and collective agency when working within education and health care organizations in the public and third sector; finally, how the ATLG brings into focus the effect of global and social forces such as ecological and economic crisis, forces which are experienced in relation to class, gender and race and which influence the capacity of individuals and collectives to work together within civil society.

I conclude that within the frame of the ATLG, art, reflection and dialogue can lead to a move from ‘discomfort to inquiry’ and empower artists to work individually and collectively in that imaginative and creative risk taking that can lead to the humanization of society and social transformation.


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Hopper, E. (2003) Incohesion: Aggregation / Massification. The Fourth Basic Assumption: The Unconscious life of groups and group like social systems. In: Lipgar, R.M. & Pines, M. (eds) (2003) Building on Bion: Roots. London. Jessica Kingsley.

Jones, K., Skaife, S. Under the Cobblestones: Politics and Possibilities of the Art Therapy Large Group. In: Politics and Psychotherapy International. Wiley Inter-science 2009 (a). 7 (1) pp18 – 27.

Korza, P., Shaffer, B. (eds) (2005) Art, Dialogue, Action, Activism. Washington and New York. Americans for the Arts (AFTA).

Skaife, S., Jones, K. The Art Therapy Large Group as a Teaching Method for The Institutional and Political Aspects of. Professional Training. Journal of Learning and Health in Social Care. Blackwell 2009 (b). 8, 3, pp200 – 209

Trotsky, L. (1986) My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. London. Penguin.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Art, Psychotherapy, Large Group, Civil Society, Community Arts

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS) > Unit for Psychotherapeutic Studies


29 October 2019UNSPECIFIED

Event Location:

South Bank Centre

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Mar 2016 21:33

Last Modified:

04 Aug 2017 09:45


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