IPT Book Reviews

Title: Art Therapy with Sexual Abuse Survivors
Author: Stephanie L. Brooke
Publisher: Charles C Thomas, Publisher, 1997

Charles C Thomas
2600 South First Street
Springfield, IL 62794-9265
(217) 789-8980
$42.95 (c); $26.95 (p)

Art is as old as humanity and archeological scholars puzzle about the meaning of ancient cave drawings, pottery shards, statues, and structures of various sorts. This 174-page book continues archeological puzzlement over art productions, but seeks to discover the meaning of art done by children and adults who have some claim to have been sexually abused. Art is said to consist of hidden images stored in the unconscious, processed by revisiting an experience, and reflected upon cognitively. Trauma is then synthesized, and, when it no longer hurts to remember, an image may be produced. Symbolic interpretation of the image may then be made.

The symbolic interpretation of images is advanced as assessment and several procedures are briefly described. It is clearly acknowledged that there are little or no empirical data supporting the reliability and validity of these procedures called tests. Nevertheless, the succeeding chapters offer examples of symbolic interpretations, including a table giving the emotional meaning of colors chosen for an image. No empirical support for any of this is provided other than a few statements that many agree or that there is a consensus among art therapists as to the meaning to be given to some symbol or characteristic.

Chapter 5 is a discussion of the ability of an art therapist to provide expert witness in a courtroom. Many courts may not accept the expertise of an art therapist so it is suggested that a physician be involved as a back up or support for the art therapist. The remainder of the book is devoted to illustrations of doing art therapy in individual, group, and family settings. The book ends with appendices consisting of three interviews with art therapists and a summary of questions for expert witnesses under the Daubert decision.

The book is useful only for those who are willing to accept the value of art therapy without any evidence as to its utility or efficacy. Professionals involved in responding to sexual abuse of children may find the book helpful to understand what some others may claim and offer as evidence for accepting an allegation as true. It is succinct, brief, and brings together in one place the concepts art therapists rely upon. Unfortunately, these concepts are without empirical support.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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