Podcast: A New Era for Art Therapy Education in China

EP17 Podcast

A recent exhibition at the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) School of Design examines relationships with oneself from an art therapy perspective. Entitled “Art Therapy: Art as Self-Care”, the multimedia show is actually a summary of the session reports of some 20 undergraduate and postgraduate students for their art therapy class.

This is the first semester for CAFA to list art therapy as one of its last academic directions as part of the design school. Three classes are open to undergraduates and one to postgraduates.

Shi Yunyuan, the academic head of art therapy at the school, is delighted to see that some of her students have really changed after the 8 week class.

“Some have become more confident, understand and accept each other better,” she said, “just as the name of the class – Art as Self-Care – implies it, to find oneself, to change oneself, to heal oneself. and rebuild with art. “

Unlike music therapy that many may be familiar with in China, “art therapy as therapy based on visual expression is a newcomer to higher education institutions,” said Shi.

Graduating in 2020 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with a master’s degree in art therapy and counseling, Shi is now taking the lead in building the nascent discipline. She is also working on drafting a professional ethics for the practice of art therapy in China.

She thinks it’s time for more people to “see it, understand it, recognize its value and benefit from it.”

Courtesy of Shi Yunyuan

The multimedia exhibition “Art Therapy: Art as Self-Care” at the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts.

Podcast: A New Era for Art Therapy Education in China

Courtesy of Shi Yunyuan

Q: When did CAFA decide to include art therapy among its latest academic orientations, and why?

A: It all goes back to the educational reforms within the academy in 2015. Since then, the design school has set up around ten new types of disciplines, typically interdisciplinary. For example, art and technology, social design, creative design, systematic design, and smart cities.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has prompted us to reflect on the environment and our health and well-being. It is under such circumstances that our design school decided to have this iteration of disciplines, and to set up new academic directions such as design in eco-crisis and art therapy.

For now, art therapy related courses are offered to undergraduates and postgraduates. Meanwhile, we are starting to recruit postgraduate students specifically for the direction of art therapy to train some of the best exploration talents in this field.

We have hired art therapy experts from home and abroad to teach. They include experts from the Chinese Psychological Society and professors from SAIC. We are also working on exchange and cooperation programs with other colleges and institutes, as well as hospitals, to provide a diverse platform for students to further their education and practice.

Q: What is the academic position?

A: We would like to be the barometer to lead the development of art therapy in China. On the one hand, we will make full use of the advantage and resources of CAFA’s fine arts; on the other, it will be necessary to play on the strengths of our school, which are interdisciplinary studies.

It will be a long process of professional development (in China), including how to qualify an art therapist. It must move forward together, whether in theory, academics or the professions.

Q: What are the academic parameters?

A: The concept of art therapy is different from artistic expression. Even with basic art creation skills, that doesn’t mean you’re qualified for art therapy jobs. So at the graduate level, we would like to lay a solid foundation for undergraduates in their studies of psychology, including developmental psychology, general psychology, and personality psychology, to better prepare them for the future. studies after graduation.

For undergraduates, the curriculum is set based on the curricula. Various interdisciplinary teaching groups are formed according to different research themes. We believe this will provide students with a three-dimensional understanding and experience of art therapy, and thus prevent them from being limited to one perspective or theory, resulting in bias.

Q: What is the status quo for art therapy in China, and how do you think CAFA will bring about change?

A: Art therapy has gained a lot of attention in recent years, especially since the COVID-19 outbreak. People are starting to wonder what art therapy is, including some tech companies. Although the health and wellness industry has overtaken education as the main engine of economic development in China, I noticed that there was a lack of services and support for health care. psychological and well-being. There is not enough supply, which is why I think art therapy is getting so much attention. It is also a great opportunity.

At present, it is still a nascent field in China with a limited scale. Most of the valuable and influential journals and books do not have Chinese versions, leaving our students and the public with limited access to the field.

We hope that by developing the discipline, more people can see it, understand it, recognize its value and benefit from it.

Q: How did your three years of study in Chicago influence you?

A: The study of art therapy can greatly train a person’s mental strengths. It is not easy to get a master’s degree in art therapy in the United States. At SAIC, it is a three-year program that requires 900 hours of university study and 1,000 hours of professional practice, that is, internships. It’s physically exhausting, and there were times when I could only get by with willpower. But looking back, I’m thankful that I didn’t stop halfway.

One of my most impressive moments was when I was working at an institute for Asian refugees and immigrants. On the last day, the clients I served sang a song to me that they spent an entire month writing, practicing, and learning to play the guitar. I still have the musical score.

All of these pieces are the spiritual values ​​of this area.

Podcast: A New Era for Art Therapy Education in China

Courtesy of Shi Yunyuan

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