Lynn Kapitan’s landscape of Art Therapy practice: A field of possibilities.


Today we are pleased to share in a conversation between Paula Dowley and her supervisor Kate Richards, about their shared experience of Lynn Kapitan’s presentation. It seems that the presentation was timely for both graduating students and experienced art therapists alike.

Eminent Art Therapist Dr Lynn Kapitan had traversed the globe from the United States to meet with a local Melbourne-based audience of students and graduates of art therapy. For many of us, this was upon the grounds of our familiar arts therapy ‘nest’ at La Trobe University, where our professional roots were nurtured. Dr Kapitan proposed a metaphor of the landscape of arts therapy practice, for our individual and collective contemplation. How do we evolve as Art Therapists, in relation to time and place, and through interactions with those who help us to learn, both in training phases and through the many stages of our professional lives?

As a student on the cusp of graduating, and a practicing Arts Therapist of six years, Dr Kapitan’s musings were well timed for us both. Tracking the path of her own evolving practice, Dr Kapitan spoke about her beginnings with psychodynamic theory, art studio processes, social action advocacy, learning from multi-disciplinary colleagues and within culturally diverse contexts. Contemplating her diverse trajectory, and our own, she encouraged us to question the usefulness of traditional binary notions of ‘art as therapy’ and art psychotherapy.

By acknowledging the value of flexible practice, which is adaptive to context and individual needs, these binaries might be better understood as interrelated parts of a richly woven landscape. Dr Kapitan emphasized the importance of placing ourselves within art therapy’s landscape of practice, mapping our own journey through it and building connections with the global arts for healing movement.  In a contemporary global context where access to arts therapy education risks being inaccessible to some, due to locality and financial status, there is much to gain through recognising our similarities, rather than the differences. It is art rather than art therapy that is universal, and it is our experiences with art that bring us to be Arts Therapists essentially.

When we open our practice, and understand our professional skills as an offering, which can be malleably sculpted by the people we meet and the places we travel, our potential to be helpful may increase exponentially. Dr Kapitan widened our view of art therapy, and in doing so; she gave the graduating class and practicing art therapists alike, hope and a vision for a diverse and flourishing future landscape of art therapy practice.

by Paula Dowley (Second year Master of Art Therapy) & Kate Richards (Art Therapist)

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