The role of art materials in the transferential relationship: Art psychotherapists' perspective

Adi Hilbuch, Sharon Snir, Dafna Regev, Hod Orkibi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to psychoanalytic thinking, artistic expression provides access to unconscious materials. This study extends the literature by examining the role of art materials, art making, and the resulting artistic product in the transferential relationship. Ten senior art psychotherapists took part in semi-structured interviewers that were analyzed according to Grounded Theory principles. Two major themes emerged from the data. The first theme suggests that during the art making process, transference emerges in the way clients handle the art materials provided by the psychotherapist, and in the corresponding client-psychotherapist interaction. The second theme suggests that the resulting artistic product not only serves as a visual expression of inner-world representations but also as a container of transferential content. These findings reflect the unique therapeutic space created by the presence of art materials, which encourage intra- and interpersonal transferential relationships. Within this creative space, the art psychotherapist can participate actively in the reconstruction of the client's early object relations, or may covertly function as a background witness who facilitates the client's own self-exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Art materials
  • Art therapy
  • Transference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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