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Self-Mutilation and Art Therapy

Violent Creation
Regular price £27.99
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Diana Milia examines the effect of art therapy interventions with clients who harm their bodies. Her starting point is the definition of self-mutilation itself. In many cultures, self-mutilation is incorporated in sacrificial rituals as a means of healing the whole society. Body modifications such as scarification and tattooing are used in rites of purification, healing and maturity. Self-mutilation may also be incorporated in performance art.

Diana Milia draws out these aspects of self-mutilation, informing them with theories from psychoanalytical literature, to explain how art therapy can help patients who self-harm. She argues that using art as intervention supports the self-mutilating person's preference for ritualized symbolic action and their need to create transitional objects. She describes artmaking in terms of symbolic modification of the self-mutilating client's own body, with the ultimate goal of self-transformation. The creative process itself provides an arena for the discharge and mastery of aggressive impulses, and develops self-control, self-esteem, and symbolic capacities, all of which are crucial in the treatment of self-mutilating behaviors.

Demonstrating how these theories can be implemented in practice, Milia then describes examples from her clinical experience, and includes extended case studies. She analyzes art therapy sessions and the process and content of artwork. Her book is practical; it also extends our understanding of the concept of self-mutilation and how best it may be addressed.
  • Published: May 01 2000
  • Pages: 208
  • 226 x 152mm
  • ISBN: 9781853026836
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Press Reviews

  • ARTbibliographies Modern

    Discusses the use of art therapy with self-mutilating clients, with reference to the function of self-mutilation as a ritual act. In her introduction, the author describes awareness of self-mutilation in Western society and considers whether to view such an act with sympathy. Drawing on the ritual self-mutilation practices of other cultures, and on some performance practices in Western culture, she argues that individual acts of self-mutilation can be understood as part of a creative process intended to achieve a transformation of the self, which have counterparts in rituals of sacrifice. She outlines the theoretical basis for her work in this area, positioning self-mutilation as part of a process of self-healing through cycles of creation and destruction. She vies the task of the art therapist as to guide the client away from ritualistic self-mutilationtowards creative acts in which aesthetic expression becomes the medium for symbolic self-transformation.
  • British Journal of Occupational Therapy

    Well written and researched.The book is extremely informative about self harm and helps to increase understanding of the motives behind people harming themselves. A good book to dip into for anyone working with clients who harm themselves for its valuable insights into the behaviour.