The experience of art therapists who work in private practice when retaining clients' artworks after therapy termination*

Motti Salomon, Shai Levinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explored how art therapists experience the retention of clients' artworks after therapy termination. Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with art therapists working in private practice and were subsequently analyzed according to Charmaz's grounded theory approach. Three main categories emerged: 1. "The motivation to retain artworks": how this relates to the needs of both clients and art therapists; 2. "How long should the artworks be retained?": the challenges involved in deciding whether to continue retaining the artworks or not. 3. "Disposal of artwork": the process of disposal and its complexities. The findings reveal that art therapists who retain artworks after therapy termination are in a unique situation: The artworks evoke past therapy and personal experiences, motivating the art therapists to retain them as a way to preserve these experiences. Typically, only certain life situations or the burden of the accumulating artworks spur art therapists to dispose of them. The disposal is difficult, sometimes even impossible. In contrast to previous research concerning other cases of separation (i.e., mourners or psychotherapists) no separation process was described by the participants following therapy termination and artwork retention. Further studies should explore the possibility that retaining artworks can facilitate a suspension of separation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101684
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Art therapists
  • Artwork disposal
  • Artwork retention
  • Qualitative research
  • Separation process
  • Therapy termination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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