The phenomenological approach to art therapy

Joseph Guttmann, Dafna Regev

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The present paper discusses the phenomenological approach to art-therapy and suggests an operational terminology for its main theoretical concepts. First we present the general assumptions that underline art therapy. Definitions, leading approaches, and the therapeutic effect of artwork are considered. Next we indicate the need for relevant and particular theories of art therapy. Phenomenological theory is examined as a case in point because of its popularity among art therapists. Despite its philosophical appeal, however, we find phenomenological theory lacking the operational terminology that is essential to form a coherent and distinct school of therapy. In the present paper, we extract from phenomenological theory operational principles, which can be followed and applied by art therapists. In this analysis, we take into consideration Betensky's pioneer attempt to create the bridge between phenomenological theory as applied in verbal psychotherapy and art therapy. We end by discussing the urgent need to operationalize other verbal psychotherapeutic theories so they are relevant for art-therapy practice and may help create greater similarities among art therapists of the same school of psychotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-162
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Contemporary Psychotherapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Art therapy
  • Phenomenological approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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