At the Center of EARTH is ART – Art Therapy and Ecopsychology
Earlier this month, “GG”, one of our bloggers posted about using recycled objects in her art therapy practice and in art making. She got me thinking about my work as an artist and art therapist as well as what may be out there in terms of natural art or environmentally based therapies. I came across the term ecopsychology and I was intrigued. The information provided about this term is limited and unclear at times. My interpretation is that ecopsychology is always evolving, much like nature. “At its core, ecopsychology suggests that there is a synergistic relation between planetary and personal well being; that the needs of the one are relevant to the other. ” – ecopsychology.org. I believe that applied ecopsychology is much like art therapy in that art therapist’s also believe that the synergy between art making and cognitive process transcends more traditional psychology practices and is a key part of self exploration and healing. I believe that we as humans have an intrinsic desire to create and that it is only our cultural and societal pressures that prevent or inhibit such expression. Theodore Roszak stated , “Art is our oldest and richest form of environmental awareness. The earliest artistic expressions we know (the great Paleolithic cave paintings and Neolithic ceremonial sites) are celebrations of natural wonder. Long before science, art and religion were viewed as separate realms, these works constellated the keenest knowledge our ancestors possessed of the heavens and the Earth”.
In 2001 an online publication called “Gatherings” posted a special issue on Art Therapy and Applied Ecopsychology. Dr Theresa Sweeney, PhD, EdD begins her article with ” At the center of EARTH is ART”. Dr. Sweeney’s article is a wonderful literary review and provides a clear picture of the history and theory behind Ecopsychology. She states ” Ecopsychology is based upon this belief that a culturally induced, unconscious, mental separation of people from the health sustaining, nonverbal wisdom of the natural world within and around ourselves underlies the environmental problems we face and many of the emotional disorders from which we suffer. In the aftermath of the industrial, technical and communication revolutions, we have lost touch with much of nature’s ancient wordless wisdom inherent within ourselves, but we don’t know we miss it because our innovations convince us that we can live without it”. Dr. Sweeny goes on to discuss how neuropsychology fits into the picture, referencing the brain and the split that occurs preventing us from true bilateral integrations. She states that people today spend about 95% of their lives out of sensory contact with nature. I believe the same is true for contact with the arts or creative expression, our society has convinced us that we don’t or shouldn’t need it. ” Art, Nature, the human body and the human psyche are so intimately related that it is impossible to think of one without being reminded of the other” McLuhan 1994. Dr. Sweeney’s article is inspiring and provokes in depth thinking about my practice and my own artistic journey. ” The need for creative self-expression and a love for nature are two of man’s inherent drives. A therapy which incorporates both can provide the motivation and enthusiasm for healing often lacking in other therapeutic situations.
For Dr. Sweeny’s Full Article and another on EcoPsychology and Art by Amy Lenzo visit: http://www.ecopsychology.org/journal/gatherings6/html/Overview/overview_art_therapy.html
McLuhan, T. C. 1994 The Way of the Earth New York: Touchstone.