This article was written today, 21st July 2008, for the Newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, and sent (with the black and white picture) to the editorial team, c/o
Peggy Elliott,
20 Mowbray Gardens,
West Bridgford,
Nottingham NG2 6JN

Draw your Soul

Art Therapy uses the artistic ability of the patient, who paints, draws, models statues, prints pictures on fabric and paper. Art Therapy was known in old cultures. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was very much used in French and English centres for handicapped people.

Rudolf Steiner was a great spiritual scientist. He enlarged the methodical technique of art therapy. The basis of art therapy is healing treatment with creativity. This influences the basic illness where the artist is working with a patient who has leprosy, multiple sclerosis, nervous breakdown and mobility problems. During the creative work, the patient experiences the smell of the material, the light, the colours, the modelling of the material, and the motive of creation. The basic source of creation is inside the patient and in the approach of the art therapist to the patient. It requires a lot of concentration by both. In 1993/4 I had a unique chance to work on art therapy in the Sue Ryder Home in Ely in Cambridgeshire. This home is called “Green Palace”. In the past it was the bishop’s palace. The patients were mostly ill with Huntington’s illness, multiple sclerosis, mobility problems and dying of cancer. Most of them used wheelchairs. Some had been living there for years while others for only a short term. Apart from art therapy, they had other activities, for example painting eggs, making sweets, decorating hats and so on. Students, townspeople and relatives came to see them and took them for walks, to market and for lunch in their homes. The doctor, a GP, came to see them once a week. I asked him for an appointment. We talked about my work and the health condition of the patients. He saw the results of the patients’ art works. With nice manners and wearing a smart red tie, he talked about my work and the work of the patients. He said it could be very helpful. He also said that creativity by patients could positively influence their health.

The working day in art therapy had a regular schedule. Day after day, I met my patients at 9a.m. Depending on their health, we made appointments for their art therapy. The art therapy stopped at 4pm. During this period patients made self portraits using classical techniques – watercolour, gouache, oil, pencil, pen and ink, and oil and chalk pastel. They painted the nature around them – trees, lawns etc., as well as still life with objects they loved. They made copies of important painters from history. Most of them preferred English paintings, not those from abroad. (I have found the same nationalistic attitude in India, France, Czech Republic, Peru and in the U.S.A.) Some patients particularly enjoyed embroidery, making Gobelin tapestries. Others liked sculpting self-portraits. After the art therapy, patients became very quiet and had longer concentration in their ordinary life. I tried to work with each patient continually with an individual approach. It was complicated by the health condition of each patient.

Nearly all the methods I used I got from the books and magazines of Rudolf Steiner, but some came from my time at the University of Applied Arts in Prague and from some professors and colleagues. The motivation of art therapy with patients is to bring happiness to their lives.

Libuse Mikova-Mika,
121 Westfields,
St. Albans AL3 4JR,
01727 864257

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