Anthroposophic Art therapies were developed in the 1920s as part of anthroposophic medicine. The physician Dr Ita Wegman (1876 – 1943) and the philosopher Dr Rudolf Steiner founded this new approach to medicine. Here medicine and therapies work together in a so called “whole system approach’. It is a complementary health system that integrates conventional medicine and science with a holistic perspective. It understands the human being as an interplay of physical body and vital forces, psyche and spirit. The life forces enliven and integrate every part of the body. The spirit is expressed in the individuality of each person and is equally reflected in their unique health.
Dr Rudolf Steiner (1861 -1925)
Dr Ita Wegman (1876 – 1943)
In Anthroposophic medicine, disease is not seen as a defect that needs to be repaired, but rather as an opportunity for new and further personal development. Health difficulties of any kind, be it mental or physical are seen as a disharmony of body, mind and spirit. This shift can also be seen in creative processes, thus artistic activity can help transform and rebalance.
Creative artistic activities can help to stimulate self-healing forces and resilience by developing new strengths. Visual arts, music, speech and singing are all applied therapeutically. The various artistic modalities have shown to bring and hold different properties and benefits.
No previous knowledge or experience is required. In a safe and contained space, the client is encouraged and supported to explore and express their emotions, feelings, needs and life situations artistically. Client and therapist consider these creative expressions together. The artistic processes can also be used as a tool to identify tendencies. Through working with these tendencies, a new equilibrium can be reached. The role of the therapist is to accompany and guide the client through their creative journey. The therapist may suggest specific exercises with the aim to benefit the client in improving their health situation.
The therapeutic arts can foster deep inner experiences that can help to shift and nurture individual development. The client may then become more open to discover new perspectives and to find a greater meaning in life. Personal answers can be found in an unintentional, and sometimes playful, way and existing questions have the chance to be reframed.
The concept is to work therapeutically on an entirely artistic level. Art is understood to be an intrinsic human ability and need which has the creative potential of activating self-healing forces. It is a resource-oriented approach. Long-term observations have shown that even after years following treatment health continued to improve.
Anthroposophic art therapies are applied with people of all ages and aspects of health: acute as well as chronic and progressive conditions, psychosomatic illnesses, mental health, developmental and neurological conditions, behavioural disorders, learning and physical disabilities, stress-management, addiction, rehabilitation, prison and secure hospital settings and custody services, as well as crisis-intervention and emergency-aid, life-limiting conditions and end of life care. Individual as well as group settings are applied in all areas of health, social care and educational settings.
The different domains
Anthroposophic visual art therapy was first developed by the medical doctor and artist
Dr Margarethe Hauschka (1896-1980) in collaboration with Dr Ita Wegman.
Around a similar time, within the atmosphere of change that prevailed at the beginning of the last century, pioneering musicians were looking for new ways to engage with music, singing and speech. Especially Valborg Werbeck-Svärdström (1879-1972), Anny von Lange (1887-1959) and Maria Schüppel (1923 – 2011) who explored the intimate relationship between the human being and music for therapeutic application based on the holistic understanding of Anthroposophy.
A new form of artistic and therapeutic speech formation was also developed at the beginning of the twentieth century by the actress Marie Steiner-von Sivers (1867 – 1948) together with her husband Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925). The opera singer Martha Hemsoth (1887 – 1936) developed therapeutic speech further in close cooperation with Dr Ita Wegman.
All anthroposophic art therapies are fundamentally art-based and person centred. The therapeutic framework has much in common with the humanistic and psychodynamic approach as the therapeutic relationship is central in fostering development and growth.
Today scientifically based evidence of effectiveness together with the formation of theory and accredited training guarantee the quality-assured professional activity of anthroposophic art therapies. These integrative diagnostic and therapeutic concepts are now practised in over 60 countries world-wide.
Currently Anthroposophic therapeutic arts can be found under different professional titles:
Anthroposophic Therapeutic Arts practitioner
Art Therapists registered with the Health & Care Professions Council, HCPC specialised on anthroposophic art therapy
Transpersonal Arts Counsellor registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, BACP
Practitioners can be found through our directory
The role of different art materials
Materials used in visual therapeutic arts can be many. Its choice and use develop out of the therapeutic relationship. The possibilities are limitless as creativity itself. Assemblage, collage, conceptual art, photography and much more are used as well as conventional techniques and materials as shown below. Each material and technique themselves hold an inherent potential and has its own effect on us. Here we present some materials that are used particularly often. They provide different possibilities for the creative process.
By working with different painting media, here using watercolour as an example, we can experience processes of change particularly well; in the flowing of colours, mixing and blending, we can trace the most varied nuances and contrasts. Colours move us instantly, they give expression to our moods and feelings; through colour we can be touched in the depth of our soul. "Colour is the soul of nature and the entire cosmos" (Rudolf Steiner)
Light and darkness: by working with pastels we can immerse ourselves particularly well in our relationship to it and experience a sense of wonder. It can help in dealing with fear and anxiety for instance.
When drawing we experience the dynamics of the lines. Here we feel different gestures in vertical, rising, falling or horizontal lines. We can observe, express, communicate and understand structures, order and chaos. In the emerging movements of the lines we experience ourselves creatively and go on a journey of discovery. We can condense lines into planes, move and transform and tell our stories.
We experience our body, our sense of touch most directly in contact with the moist, soft texture of the clay. Working with clay activates our sense of touch, we experience ourselves and the space around us, lightness and heaviness and gravity in the malleability of the material and the resulting movement. This can have a relaxing as well as invigorating and strengthening effect.
Working in and with nature
By connecting with nature we can experience a profoundly healing gesture. Here we connect with the same forces that are inherent in us. This can help with anxiety, restlessness, stress and burnout. It can help us to regain a balance within ourselves, to name just a few applications.