Rising Revolution: Exploring the Value of a Feminist Approach to Art Therapy

by Theresa Swan

We learn who we are from our tears and scars. This thesis is a response to the question: What is the value and significance of integrating art therapy and a feminist approach in working with women who have experienced violence? This is a heuristic arts-based, post-thematic analysis of pre and post session art and journal writing while facilitating six weeks of art therapy with women who have experienced domestic violence. I explored my process of working with the feminist approach through art-making and journal writing and then explored the prevalent themes that resulted. Through my in-depth exploration, both internally and externally, I found that art therapy naturally encompasses a feminist approach. It is intrinsically empowering to make art. I found through my own process and that of working with women who have experienced abuse, that a feminist approach to art therapy is a valuable and effective way to counter the effects of violence and other forms of oppression. Working with a feminist approach could be readily applied to other oppressed grounds as well. This is deeply meaningful work, and has touched my heart beyond what the scope of this paper is able to communicate. It is my hope that this research will inspire the reader to the benefits of a feminist approach in art therapy, as the subject has yet to be broadly and deeply explored in our vocation. I also hope this research will highlight a unique and important journey that may act as a signpost for others who want to explore art therapy, work with culturally oppressed people, those who have been abused, as well as to work with a feminist approach.