POLYPHONYJournal of the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists

Exploring the Semi-Structured Art Therapy Assessment Tool: A Video Case Study

Published on Jun 18, 2023 by Michelle Dunne

This video presents a comprehensive exploration of the Semi-Structured Art Therapy Assessment Tool, a novel approach in the field of art therapy. The speaker, Michelle Dunne, an experienced art therapist, shares her journey of developing this tool, inspired by her training in the StorySTEM assessment profile, a technique at the Anna Freud Centre in London. The StorySTEM assessment profile, which uses narratives to understand a child's world, sparked the idea of using image-making to uncover the narratives of her clients.

The video showcases the application of the Semi-Structured Art Therapy Assessment Tool through case studies. The primary example involves a 16-year-old girl named Sinead (the client's chosen pseudonym), a non-accompanied minor from Nigeria who had been sexually abused. Through the tool's various directives, such as drawing a lifeline, a family portrait, and feelings, Sinead was able to express her traumatic experiences, fears, and emotions. Michelle emphasises the importance of witnessing the client's story and recognising their resilience, while also identifying their coping mechanisms.

Michelle also discusses the tool's flexibility, allowing for both directive and non-directive work. She shares how Sinead was able to transition from directive tasks to non-directive image creation, demonstrating her growing comfort in expressing herself through art.

The video concludes with a discussion on the debates within art therapy regarding directive versus non-directive approaches. Michelle advocates for the Semi-Structured Art Therapy Assessment Tool as a valuable resource that can facilitate the transition from directive to non-directive work, thereby empowering clients to express their narratives more freely.

The Semi-Structured Art Therapy Assessment Tool offers creative arts therapist an innovative approach to understanding their clients' worlds and enhancing their therapeutic practice. It presents a fresh perspective on client assessment, providing a unique window into the client's experiences and emotions.

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