Saturday, February 22, 2014

Edith Kramer

Edith Kramer, a forerunner of contemporary art therapy, passed away today. She was a woman who's ideas about the function and use of art in art therapy have helped me as I begin to discover my own identity as an art therapist .

Edith Kramer
Subway SceneOil on Canvas41.5" x 61.5"Circa 1970's

Within the art therapy community there has been debate as to whether to use "art in therapy" or "art as therapy". Kramer saw the act of creativity as being therapeutic, and I agree. This influenced my decision as to which grad programs I should apply. Thus, I sought after programs that supported similar views.

Another debate within the art therapy  community has been whether the quality and aesthetics of a client's finished art product should be of any concern if it is the process of creating art that is healing.
In "The Unity of Process and Product", Kramer stated that it is not only the process which is important, but also the product (2000). She warned against pushing for product to the point at which the client, as the artist, ends up aiming for a "preconceived perfection that is both guaranteed impersonal and guaranteed bad art" (Kramer, 2000, p. 36-37). For the therapeutic benefits of art, the two, process and product, cannot be separated, but should remain connected. She ends her article by writing,

This brings us back to the false dichotomy of process and product. When concentration on process results in the systematic neglect of or disrespect for its natural culmination - the product - the patient is deprived both of his goal and of the reward of his labors. The processes that are fostered in such incomplete endeavors must remain primitive and abortive and thus they cannot serve as models of healthy functioning. (Kramer, 2000, p. 38)

Not only have her thoughts on process and product within the art therapy setting influenced me, but also her thoughts about maintaining an artist identity within the art therapist. When I started my art therapy studies I entered with fear that I would, or that I must, lose my own artistic identity in order to develop into an effective art therapist. I have learned that the loss of one identity is not necessary for the attainment of another. Kramer kept her art therapy practice and her own studio art practice separate. She was a gifted artist who continued her art practice while being an art therapist. Kramer advised art therapists to "fight for part-time that you'll have time and energy for your own art" (2000, p.24). Whether a person is a full-time or a part-time art therapist is of no matter to me, as long as they continue their own artwork.

Edith Kramer
(Title unknown)
(medium unknown)
(size unknown)
(date unknown)

Edith Kramer
Black Earth
   Oil on Canvas16" x 38"1979

I am grateful for her contributions to the field of art therapy and look forward to continuing to learn from her life.


1.  Kramer, E. (2000). The unity of process and product. In L. Gerity (Ed.), Art as therapy: Collected papers (pp. 36-38). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.

2. Kramer, E. (2000). A history and lineage of art therapy as practiced by Edith Kramer. In L. Gerity (Ed.), Art as therapy: Collected papers (p. 24). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.


  1. While an art therapy undergrad student in WI, I was a member of many conversations about art as therapy vs art as psychotherapy, product vs. product, artist as art therapist vs art therapist as artist, even Kramer vs. Naumburg. It is not a one over the other world, but a blend. I found Kramer to be a wonderful model for art therapists. Now, as I have changed direction slightly and am working to pursue my MA in drama therapy I am finding that Kramer is not just a model for art therapists, but also for all creative art therapists. Great blog!

    1. I agree. The world is not one or the other. Much of the time, especially in western culture, there is a hard line drawn between topics. These topics become almost like seperate beings and you're for one and against the other. Rather than being seperate, I see a lot of what we talk about as being conected on a continuum. I see balance as the key.

      I wish you a great journey in your drama therapy pursuit, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the blog!