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Susan Hogan on Revisiting Her Groundbreaking Work on Feminist Art Therapy

Berghahn recently published Revisiting Feminists Approaches to Art Therapy, edited by Susan Hogan. It is both an update and an expansion of the earlier work Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy, first published in 1994. Here, Hogan addresses her reasons for revisiting her seminal work and explains why the topic is just as relevant today.

“Why do we need a book about women’s issues?” I am often still asked. Feminism is the principle of advocating social, political, and other rights of women as equal to those of men. It is necessarily interested in the question of equality. Creating a deep understanding of women’s conditions and women’s experience is one rationale for a volume specifically addressing this subject.

Another raison d’être of all my work in the field of art therapy is to challenge the reductive, and potentially damaging use of psychological ideas in art therapy practice. My published work (Hogan 1997; Hogan 2003; Hogan 2006; Hogan 2007; Hogan 2008; Hogan 2011) represents a sustained challenge to the use of reductive psychology and is significant for bringing anthropological and sociological ideas to bear on the subject of art therapy. In particular, my essay Problems of Identity: Deconstructing Gender in Art Therapy (1997), which is reproduced in this volume, contains an illustration of the kind of reductive theorising that we should all be keen to resist.

Art Therapy must maintain a critical relationship to the discipline of psychology in order to avoid oppressing women with misogynistic discourses which are embedded in theories and practices (Hogan, 2006). Furthermore, we are morally complicit unless we attempt to transform them; hence, I advocate a ‘social art therapy’ which moves beyond a narrow focus on individual psychopathology.

There isn’t a ‘party line’ at play in the selection of these essays which represent a range of ways about thinking about feminism and art therapy. This volume contains some of the original essays from Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy (1997) which, in some cases, have been revised and updated. These essays have been complemented by newly commissioned material and new voices.

In Revisiting Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy the new work will be particularly concerned to address the implications of post-structural theory upon the practice of art as therapy, and this volume will build upon the advances made by Gender Issues in Art Therapy (2003) in exploring the implications of post-structuralist thinking upon theory and practice. This revised volume is interested to explore approaches which challenge the reductive use of psychology; it will interrogate the place of feminism within therapy, and will also discuss the role of woman-only groups.

Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy is now essential reading on most art therapy trainings worldwide, and it is gratifying to see how widely cited it is, and how further work exploring gender, ethnic and sexual identity has followed it, most notably Gender Issues in Art Therapy (2003). Revisiting Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy proposes to keep these issues to the fore.

I am really looking forward to hearing your comments about the book, engaging in debate, and answering questions in the comments section.

-Susan Hogan

Scenes from the launch of Revisiting Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy