Hybrid Creatures: Mapping the emerging shape of art therapy education in Australia

Westwood, Jill. 2010. Hybrid Creatures: Mapping the emerging shape of art therapy education in Australia. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This PhD provides the first organized view of art therapy education in Australia. It focuses on the theories that are used in this specialized teaching and learning process. It evolved from the authors’ immersion in the field as a migrant art therapy educator to Australia from the UK and a desire to be reflexive on this experience. The research questions aimed to discover the field of art therapy education in Australia: to find out what theories and practices were taught; and where the theoretical influences were coming from, in order to develop understanding of this emerging field. Positioned as a piece of qualitative research a bricolage of methods were used to gather and analyse information from several sources (literature, institutional sources, and key participants, including the author) on the theories and practices of art therapy training programs in Australia. This also included investigating other places in the world shown to be influential (USA and UK). The bricolage approach (McLeod, 2006) included: phenomenology; hermeneutics; semi-structured interviews; practical evaluation (Patton, 1982, 1990/2002); autoethnography (Ellis & Bochner, 2000); heuristic (Moustakas, 1990); and visual methodologies (Kapitan, 2010). These were used to develop a body of knowledge in the form of institution/program profiles, educator profiles, country profiles and an autoethnographic contribution using visual processes. Epistemologically, the project is located in a paradigm of personal knowledge and subjectivity which emphasizes the importance of personal experience and interpretation. The findings contribute knowledge to support the development of art therapy education and the profession in Australia, towards the benefit, health and wellbeing of people in society.
The findings show a diverse and multi-layered field of hybrid views and innovative approaches held within seven programs in the public university and private sectors. It was found that theories and practices are closely linked and that theoretical views have evolved from the people who teach the programs, location, professional contexts (health, arts, education, social, community) and the prevailing views within these contexts, which are driven by greater economic, socio-political forces and neo-liberal agendas. The university programs generally teach a range of the major theories of psychotherapy underpinned with a psychodynamic or humanistic perspective. Movement towards a more integrative and eclectic approach was found. This was linked to being part of more general masters programs and economic forces. The private sector programs are more distinctly grounded in a particular theoretical perspective or philosophical view. Key words distilled from the profiles included: conflict, transpersonal, survival through art, pedagogy, epistemology, theory driven by context and mental health. Important issues for art therapy education were identified as: the position and emphasis on art; working with the therapy/education tension; the gender imbalance in the profession; Indigenous perspectives; intercultural issues and difference. The horizons of the field revealed the importance of developing the profile of the profession, reconciling differences towards a more inclusive view and the growth of research. A trend towards opportunities in the social, education and community areas was found, driven by the increasing presence of discourses on arts and wellness.
Key words: Art therapy education, theories, Australia, qualitative study, bricolage, hybrid creatures

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

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


31 December 2010

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

28 Feb 2012 13:57

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2022 22:04



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