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Jul 2015 by PCI College

Bite-Sized Book Review by Pauline Macey: Art as Medicine, Creating a therapy of Imagination by Shaun McNiff

Pauline Macey PCI College lecturer Reviews “Art as Medicine, Creating a therapy of Imagination” by Shaun McNiff

This book confirms Shaun McNiff’s reputation as a leading figure in Art Therapy and a pioneer in the development and fast-growing field of Expressive Arts Therapy. It is impossible to do it justice in terms of depth and breadth of content in a short review so I will attempt to provide a snap shot of its core messages and briefly outline some of McNiff’s key findings and concerns.

One of the most engaging aspects from the outset is the way in which the author weaves his own journey as an artist and art therapist into the main themes he sets out to explore. This level of honesty and authenticity in sharing his own influential experiences provides rich context for his theoretical reflections and keeps the reader involved in the development of the main themes of the book. He reflects on how much he learned from his early clients and how his devotion to abstract expressionism as an artist himself, was challenged and soon experienced as contrived, compared to the more powerful, primitive forms of artistic expression some of his clients were able to access. Now he often paints alongside his students and clients, as a means of breaking down barriers and creating a more authentic space where the interplay between art, psychology and psychotherapy can happen with more fluidity. While most of the content explores psychological theories and their influences on art therapy, the predominant message throughout this important book is that “the arts are the channels through which the soul speaks” p43. McNiff explores and reflects on approaches and methods that either support or limit this core message. Over twenty years of working with art therapy students and various art therapy settings, has taught him a lot about the Jungian principle of knowing from the inside, the sanctity of the image and the role of dialogue versus interpretation.

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in exploring the evolution of Art therapy, its transcendent potential and contribution to other psychotherapeutic approaches.

Pauline Macey, July 2015


PCI College Lecturer



Pauline will facilitate a 30 hour CPD Certificate in Art Therapy in PCI College Dublin City Centre, beginning on 16th October. There are limited places available but you can see full details and book your place online now



What our Students Say

"Lecturer was very approachable and able to apply theoretical work to all forms of therapy".
2012-2013 Student - Postgraduate Certificate in Child and Adolescent Counselling & Psychotherapy

What our Students Say

“Excellent facilitation. Interesting content. Good mix of theory with practical experience and demonstration was very valuable”

Institute of Guidance Counsellors, Cork - Tailor-Made Training
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