On March 17th of this year, art therapists lost a dedicated art therapist, teacher, visionary, social activist, and author when Frances Kaplan passed away. It is important to realize that she left behind a particular document for art therapists who are presently finding themselves working in the field of social action. Frances Kaplan thought that many might see art therapy and social action as a contradiction in terms. "After all, art therapy endeavors to facilitate internal, individual change and social action strive to make outer, collective difference" she wrote. However as one reads further, Frances Kaplan recognized art therapy and social action worlds as connected and that both societies needed to be identified by the therapist. It is essential to continually apply this concept to the art therapist's current social and therapeutic situation.
Frances Kaplan and her team of writers were published in 2007. During this time it might have been hard for these writers to imagine that in ten years art therapists would be organizing against the American Art Therapy Association. As the Trump-Pence administration took office, the American Art Therapy Association left their democratic process behind and decided to align the profession of art therapy with Karen Pence (wife of Vice-president Mike Pence). Historically, the Pence team (husband and wife) have put human rights in jeopardy with their values. Without any say in the matter, art therapists with their clients found themselves in a dangerous outer world with Karen Pence as a spokesperson. The art therapist's external world of collective change, Francis Kaplan described in her book, was jeopardized. AATA's decision to "embrace" Karen Pence was not a decision based on positive cultural change for clients or therapists.
Many art therapists were hearing other art therapists' objections through social media. Art therapists began to express their opposition to AATA's dangerous and radical decision. Art therapists wrote and petitioned the AATA Board of Directors. These art therapists were using their legal rights to voice their opinions by trying to protect themselves and their clients' inner and outer worlds.
Presently, AATA maintains their alliance with Karen Pence. As we look at the dynamics of the art therapy social dilemma, we see a microcosm of inner and outer worlds that reflect the macrocosm of our nation. In both the microcosm and the macrocosm we have leaders that refuse to change by listening to their members. The book, Art Therapy and Social Action, explains the importance of change in chapter 3 written by. Maxine Borowsky Junge. Ms. Junge wrote," a good therapist is a social activist who recognizes the family and the other people and factors that impinge on the client's world as a culture and attempts to change the culture as well."
Connie Gretsch Art therapist-Activist, M.ed, ,M.A, ATR-BC