Child Art Therapy
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An innovative guide to the practice of art therapy

Since 1978, Judith Aron Rubin's Child Art Therapy has become the classic text for conducting art therapy with children. Twenty-five years later, the book still stands as the reference for mental health professionals who incorporate art into their practice. Now, with the publication of this fully updated and revised Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition, which includes a DVD that illustrates art therapy techniques in actual therapy settings, this pioneering guide is available to train, inform, and inspire a new generation of art therapists and those seeking to introduce art therapy into their clinical practice.

The text illustrates how to:

  • Set the conditions for creative growth, assess progress, and set goals for therapy
  • Use art in individual, group, and family situations, including parent-child pairings, mothers' groups, and adolescent groups
  • Work with healthy children and those with disabilities
  • Guide parents through art and play
  • Talk about art work and encourage art production
  • Decode nonverbal messages contained in art and the art-making process
  • Use scribbles, drawings, stories, poems, masks, and other methods to facilitate expression
  • Understand why and how art therapy works

Along with the useful techniques and activities described, numerous case studies taken from Rubin's years of practice add a vital dimension to the text, exploring how art therapy works in the real world of children's experience. Original artwork from clients and the author illuminate the material throughout. Written by an internationally recognized art therapist, Child Art Therapy, Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition is a comprehensive guide for learning about, practicing, and refining child art therapy.


JUDITH ARON RUBIN, PHD, ATR-BC, is a licensed psychologist and faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She is a former president of the American Art Therapy Association, the author of five books, and the creator of five teaching films. She consults, lectures, and gives workshops across the country as well as abroad, and is preparing a series of art therapy teaching tapes for students and professionals.


Illustrations xi

DVD Contents xv

Acknowledgments xxxiii

Preface: 25th Anniversary Edition xxxix

Background xxxix

Changes in Art Therapy and Mental Health xl

Changes in Organization and Content of the Book xli

PART I The Context

1 Roots: Personal and Professional 3

Personal 3

Professional 6

Personal/Professional Passage 8

A Personal Experience of the Creative Process 9

Making Pictures Helps My Mourning Process 13

About This Book 14

2 A Framework for Freedom 19

Conditions for Creative Growth 29

3 Understanding Development in Art 34

Progression in Normal Artistic Development 34

Where a Child Is 46

General Issues in Development 48

4 A Picture of the Therapeutic Process 57

Testing 58

Trusting 61

Risking 62

Communicating 63

Facing 64

Understanding 66

Accepting 68

Coping 69

Separating 70

5 Some Ways to Facilitate Expression 73

A Starter (A Scribble) 73

A Theme 74

A Medium 77

A Dream 78

A Mask 81

A Target 83

A Tape Recorder 85

A Poem 88

A Story 89

A Picture-Taking Machine 90

Flashlights and Candles 90

Extending the Range 92

Conclusion 92

PART II The Individual

6 An Individual Art Evaluation 97

Background 97

Initiating the Interview 99

Getting Started 103

The Art Materials 106

The Space 110

Talking about the Artwork 113

Abstract Artwork 115

Some Things Are Easier to Say and to See in Art 117

Productivity 118

Recommendations 119

7 Decoding Symbolic Messages 121

To Write or Not to Write? 121

Verbal Communications 122

To Talk or Not to Talk? 122

Nonverbal Communications 123

Interaction with the Therapist 123

Response to the Task 124

Response to the Materials 124

The Working Process 125

Products: Form 126

Form and Process as Content 128

Products: Content 129

Common Themes 129

Self-Representations 131

Degree of Disguise 131

Attitude toward the Product 132

Making Sense 134

Reporting 135

8 Some Case Studies 137

Ellen: An Elective Mute 138

Dorothy: A Child with Schizophrenia 145

Randy: A Boy with Encopresis 150

Conclusion 152

9 Case Illustration: Understanding and Helping 153

Individual Art Evaluation 156

Group Art Therapy 158

Joint Mother-Child Art Sessions 160

Family Art Evaluation 161

Family Art Therapy 162

Joint Nonverbal Drawing 167

PART III The Family and the Group

10 A Family Art Evaluation 173

Format 174

Scribble Drawing 177

Family Representations 178

Family Mural 180

Free Products 182

Making Sense 182

Characteristics 183

Modifications 185

11 Family Art Therapy 188

Family Member Dyads 188

Conjoint Family Art Therapy 193

Occasional Conjoint Family Art Sessions 196

Multimodal Family Art Sessions 197

12 Art Therapy with Parents 200

Individual Art Therapy 200

Mother-Child Art Therapy Group 202

Short-Term Parent-Child Art Therapy Groups 214

Mothers’ Art Therapy Groups 215

Conclusion 217

13 Group Art Therapy 218

History and Development 218

Deciding What to Do 220

Activities in Art Therapy Groups 222

Groups and How They Grow 225

The Use of Structure in Unstructured Groups 228

Group Themes and Concerns 229

Creative Play with Food 230

Role-Taking in Interviews 231

Interviewing Each Other 231

Reviewing in a Group 233

Individual Growth in a Group: Don 233

Group Growth: New Members and Endings 234

Conclusion 236

14 Multimodality Group Therapy 237

Relationships among the Arts 237

The First Art–Drama Therapy Group: Latency-Age Boys 240

The Second Art–Drama Therapy Group: Adolescents 249

Role of the Leader 257

Conclusion 258

PART IV Art Therapy for Disabled Children

15 Art as Therapy for Children with Disabilities 263

The Universality of Creativity 263

Children with Schizophrenia in a Psychiatric Hospital 264

Children with Physical Disabilities in a Residential Institution 266

Deaf Children in a Day School 268

Children with Developmental Delays in a Preschool 271

Blind Children with Multiple Disabilities in a

Residential School 272

Changes over the Years since the First Edition 276

Special Considerations in Art for Children with Disabilities 277

Values of Art for Children with Disabilities 278

16 Art Therapy with Disabled Children and Their Parents 285

Similarities and Differences 285

Coming to Terms with Blindness 300

Outpatient Mothers’ Therapy Group: Sustenance and Support 307

PART V Art as Therapy for Everyone

17 Helping the Normal Child through Art 311

Therapeutic Values in Art Education 311

Dealing with Normal Stresses through Art 313

Loss of Parental Figures 326

Conclusion 328

18 Helping Parents through Art and Play 330

Art as Therapy for Normal Adults 330

Education in the Community 331

Family Art Workshop: Elementary School 332

Parent Art Workshop in a School 334

Mothers and Toddlers in a Church 334

Parent Play Groups 338

Sample Activities to Help Parents Understand

Developmental Phases 339

Possible Ways to Proceed 343

PART VI General Issues

19 What Child Art Therapy Is and Who Can Do It 347

Art Therapy and Art Education 348

Art Therapy and Play Therapy 350

Qualities of Good Child Art Therapists 351

20 Why and How the Art Therapist Helps 356

The Need and Capacity to Create 356

The Creative Process as a Learning Experience 357

The Art Therapist as a Real Person and Symbolic Other:

Transference 359

An Artist and a Therapist 363

The Art Therapist as a Change Agent 364

Extending Opportunities: Art Therapy Consultation 365

21 How the Art Therapist Learns through Research 368

Introduction and Issues 368

Objective Observation 369

Subjective Clinical Assessments 370

Grouping and Goal-Setting 370

Assessing Change in Blind Children I 371

Assessing Change in Blind Children II 373

A Phenomenological Investigation 375

Self-Assessments of Art Products 376

Measurement of Media Popularity 376

Group Drawings and Group Dynamics 377

Diagnostic Questions about Child Art 378

Variability in Children’s Art 380

Free Association in Art Imagery 381

Relationships between Creativity and Mental Health 382

Comparing Products from Art and Drama Interviews 383

Conclusion 384

A Cautionary Note 387

References 389

Index 407

About the DVD 419


“Judith Rubin is an original: A humble and wise art therapist who paved the way for the clinical credibility of art therapy. She was a pioneer, exploring art as therapy (which we now take for granted), at a time when this thought was innovative and original. She furthered the discussion of various ways to use art therapy and she has maintained a steady and invested interest in the development of the field. This book is a must-read for anyone who desires a strong and substantive foundation to the development and growth of the field of art therapy. Her latest efforts in chronicling art therapists around the world ‘doing’ the work as well as honoring the vast contributions of Fred Rogers, are a testimony to her ongoing wish to push art therapy forward.”— Eliana Gil, Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery & Education

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