My Thoughts on Gender in Art Therapy

From what I’ve encountered on my journey for this project, I’ve seen a mixture of people with a range of opinions and stories to tell about their experiences in the art therapy world, be it through teaching or through having done art therapy in the past.

In terms of the teaching world especially, I have seen far more women in this role than men. Why is this?

There is no problem with this- it has simply come about as an observation on my travels. If anything this is actually a good thing as there is this idea that women have a more caring and even mothering demeanour that definitely helps when it comes to making sure a client is relaxed and able to talk about how they feel. On the other hand, this could easily be seen as me, as a man, stereotyping the female demographic in terms of practicing psychology.

The book ‘Gender Issues in Art Therapy’, edited by Susan Hogan, talks in deeper context the range of ideas relating to other issues of gender stereotyping, homophobia and men/women-only groups among other subjects.

A lot of the time, the major reason someone may come to art therapy or other forms of therapy in general, will be for a range of mental health issues from depression to perhaps even mental issues regarding a violent past. So in regards to that, there could even be a client who has a history of violence against women because of a mental problem, but could still be seen by a female art therapist. A lot of therapists in this position will show a lot of strength and character in helping someone who a lot of other people would rather not have to deal with, and there should be particular attention shown towards therapists who give the time to listen and aid those that could quite dangerous to talk to and deal with. This could also be seen another way, with for example a male on male therapy session, (the same goes for female on female), wherein a homophobic client talks to a gay therapist and a lot of the time they deal with this in the most adult, responsible way possible, and therapists should be given a lot more respect for the work they do when dealing with situations such as these.

In terms of actual patients coming in, I could see why maybe the male demographic may be less interested in art therapy as they get older. The reason could be that there is this idea of the male stiff upper lip, in which men feel more pressured in today’s society and in the past more so, to appear ‘masculine’ and not express their emotions the way they should. They may want to not appear as if they need therapy and particularly more art based therapies, because of this. There is still a huge male mental health issue, which is especially concerning when thinking of the high rates of male suicides in past years. Therapy should be something that anyone of any gender should seek it out and never be embarrassed or afraid to go for it, should they so need it.

These are only a few of my thoughts on the idea of gender in art therapy, how it could affect the way it is taught and the way that people perceive gender differences in therapy practices.

Read ‘Gender Issues in Art Therapy’ here to find out more.

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