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Art Therapy and Creative Coping Techniques for Older Adults

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Title: Art Therapy and Creative Coping Techniques for Older Adults

Author: Susan I Buchalter

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley 2011

Reviewer: Su Southworth, research nurse at Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital

What was it like?

A short introduction explains the way the book is intended to be used: that is as a collection of ideas with which the therapist should become familiar in order to increase the choice when working with a group of clients.

Despite the author’s protestations, this is essentially a recipe book of activities grouped under various headings. There are a large number of art activities included and descriptions are given of previous participants’ work often with an account of the symbolism of their pieces.


What were the highlights? 

The vast number of activities makes this a valuable resource and a starting point for those planning their own activities. There is a useful index that allows the readers to search by emotion, materials or subject. Each of the activities is well planned in terms of physical resources.

Strengths & weaknesses

This book could clearly be a valuable resource, however, the tone of both the preface and introduction is problematic. Resource and activity choice appear to be therapist driven and based on perceived practicality rather than client choice. Older people are referred to in a somewhat over generalised way and indeed, in places the tone feels rather patronising. The basis of any therapeutic relationship also feels doubtful when possible factors that may influence the ability of older people to participate are referred to as ”problems”. This start could negatively influence potential readers, which would be a shame given the potential value of the book.

Who should read it?

As stated, the number of activities is huge but the discussion of the possible outcomes is limited. This, therefore, is not a guide to art therapy but, seen as a book of suggested activities to be used with older people, could be a useful addition to a therapist’s bookcase. The activities may also provide suggestions for non-art therapists to plan some art-based activities with older people.

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