Anthroposophic Art therapies were developed in the 1920s as part of anthroposophic medicine. The physician Dr Ita Wegman (1876 – 1943) and the philosopher Dr Rudolf Steiner founded this new approach to medicine. Here medicine and therapies work together in a so called “whole system approach’. It is a complementary health system that integrates conventional medicine and science with a holistic perspective. It understands the human being as an interplay of physical body and vital forces, psyche and spirit. The life forces enliven and integrate every part of the body. The spirit is expressed in the individuality of each person and is equally reflected in their unique health.
Anthroposophic Medicine is an integrative multimodal treatment system (IVAA International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations, Anthroposophic medicine UK). It is an extension of conventional medicine broadened to incorporate a holistic approach to health and illness.
Anthroposophic Medicine is available in 80 countries worldwide. In mainland Europe, and in particular in Switzerland and Germany, it is provided in large hospitals in addition to clinics. Anthroposophic Medicine integrates both mainstream as well as natural remedies, a wide range of therapies and nursing care. The holistic understanding of nature and the human being underpinning Anthroposophic Medicine is based on Anthroposophy developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861-25) and further applied to medicine in collaboration with Dr Ita Wegman, MD (1876-1943).
In addition to our physical body and psyche/cognition anthroposophy also identifies two more entities: a source of vital forces, or life energy, that keep us alive and maintains both physical and mental processes – similar to the concept of chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine – as well as the human “I”, or our individuality. All four levels interact with each other. Further to this is the concept in Anthroposophic Medicine of the interactive interplay of three subsystems: the nervous-sensory system, the motor-metabolic system – both being polar opposites of each other – and the mediating rhythmic system between them, found in the breathing and circulatory organs.
In Anthroposophic Medicine disease is not exclusively understood as physical pathology but is also considered as an opportunity for individual reflective practise and personal development. Health difficulties of any kind, be it mental or physical, can be seen as an imbalance within the above-mentioned systems of body, life, mind and individuality. This imbalance can also show in creative processes and be worked with; thus, artistic activity can help transform and rebalance.
The spiritual in Anthroposophic Therapeutic Arts is of profound relevance. The arts and spirituality have always been intertwined, as art is the truest expression of the indescribable. Through art we can attune to both ourselves and feel part of a greater whole. We can use art to explore, find meaning, express ourselves and/or create something unique. Art is understood to be an intrinsic human ability and need that can ignite insights and new perspectives, assist in stimulating self-healing forces and resilience. Visual arts, music, speech and singing are all applied therapeutically (ICAAT International Coordination of Anthroposophic Arts Therapies). The various artistic modalities have shown to bring and hold different properties and benefits.
The concept is to work therapeutically on an entirely artistic level. No previous knowledge or experience in any of the modalities is required. In a safe and contained space, the client is encouraged and supported to explore the artistic modality and express their emotions, feelings, needs and life situations artistically. Client and therapist consider these creative expressions together. The artistic processes can also be used as a tool to identify life challenges. Through working with these tendencies, a new equilibrium can be reached. The role of the therapist is to accompany and support the client through their creative journey. The therapist may suggest specific creative exercises with the aim to benefit the client in improving their health situation.
The therapeutic arts can foster deep inner experiences that can help nurture individual development. The client may then become more open to discover new perspectives and to find a greater meaning in life. Personal answers can be found in an unintentional, and sometimes playful, way and existing questions have the chance to be reframed. Long-term observations have shown that even after years following treatment health continued to improve.
Anthroposophic art therapies are applied with people of all ages and aspects of health: acute as well as chronic and progressive conditions, psychosomatic illnesses, mental health, developmental and neurological conditions, behavioural disorders, learning and physical disabilities, stress-management, addiction, rehabilitation, prison and secure hospital settings and custody services, as well as crisis-intervention and emergency-aid, life-limiting conditions and end of life care. Individual as well as group settings are applied in all areas of health, social care and educational settings.
Anthroposophic visual art therapy was first developed by the medical doctor and artist Dr Margarethe Hauschka (1896-1980) in collaboration with Dr Ita Wegman. Dr Ita Wegman also collaborated with the artist Liane Collot d’Herbois who contributed important work on the relationship to light and darkness; both based their work on J. W. von Goethe’s theory of colour.
Around a similar time, within the atmosphere of change that prevailed at the beginning of the last century, pioneering musicians were looking for new ways to engage with music, singing and speech. Especially Valborg Werbeck-Svärdström (1879-1972), Anny von Lange (1887-1959) and Maria Schüppel (1923 – 2011) who explored the intimate relationship between the human being and music for therapeutic application based on the holistic understanding of Anthroposophy.
Also developed at the beginning of the twentieth century was a new form of artistic speech formation, by the actress Marie Steiner-von Sivers (1867 – 1948) together with her husband Rudolf Steiner (1861 -1925). After training under Marie Steiner, former opera singer Martha Hemsoth (1887 – 1936) subsequently developed therapeutic speech in close collaboration with Dr Ita Wegman. Further pioneering, in mental health, developed under Hildegard Jordi (1908-1998), together with Dr Wegman.
All anthroposophic art therapies are fundamentally art-based and person centred. The therapeutic framework has much in common with the humanistic and psychodynamic approach as the therapeutic relationship is central in fostering development and growth.
Today scientifically based evidence of effectiveness together with the formation of theory and accredited training guarantee the quality-assured professional activity of anthroposophic art therapies. These integrative diagnostic and therapeutic concepts are now practised world-wide. Currently Anthroposophic therapeutic arts can be found under different professional titles:
Practitioners can be found through our Directory.