Book by Ellen G. Horovitz and Sarah L. Eksten
Review by Nikki Allen Dyer
Student Disability Support Services
Salisbury University

Academic advisors need not be an artist or a therapist to appreciate the glimpse into the world of art therapy which Horovitz and Eksten’s text so invitingly offers. While their text was fittingly written with a mental health counseling audience in mind, the editors’ work proves to reiterate, to all readers, that when working with people in any context, effective communication, regardless of medium, is paramount to facilitating the helping process. The text also reminds readers that the onus for fostering effective communication falls upon the service provider, who must rise to the challenge of creating environments in which others can best relay and receive messages. Such could not be more of a truism than for the academic advisor, to whom this text can serve as a resource – a resource from which they can adopt methods of integrating visual arts into communication processes.

By way of this text, Horovitz and Eksten present numerous art therapy assessments to readers, along with methodologies for employing them, and rich case studies. From the editors doing so, they demonstrate how art therapy can be integrated, interpreted, and readily applied to counseling as a means of allowing clients to fully express themselves, which in and of itself can be therapeutic, and for allowing the counselor to begin to assess the client’s cognitive and emotional functioning. From using genograms as a basic, yet powerful means of visually representing the social systems in an individual’s world to the more sophisticated and specialized use of art therapy assessments such as the Silver Drawing Test, this text proves to be a cross section of the multitude of approaches which professionals can use to incorporate artistic expression into the counseling process. 

Horovitz, with over 30 years of experience in the field of human services and with widespread authorship of numerous articles, book chapters, and books, and Eksten, who makes her entrée into authorship with the present text, together, offer readers a true “primer” of how human service workers, seasoned and novice alike, can move toward communicating beyond the limits of verbal expression, using foundational principles of art therapy. Being that interpersonal communication is central to the field of academic advising, these principles of art therapy can be applied to the advisement process. Adding to the utility of this work are the appendices – which feature practical tools for the therapist, counselor, and advisor alike – to include forms, client note formats, and a legend of abbreviations of clinical and psychiatric terms, which could be easily adopted into one’s advisement practices.

Regardless of whether an advisor is working with an advisee who best expresses themselves by way of visual forms, or an advisee who is a visual learner, or if the advisor and advisee do not share a common language, many of the concepts of art therapy can be integrated into the advising process. Horovitz and Eksten remind readers that not only language barriers can come into play, when communicating, but intercultural differences can impede verbal communication modes. “For this reason, using the creative arts… could prove useful” (p. 177). From reading this text, academic advisors are left with a foundation of art therapy principles upon which to augment their advising skills. Asking advisees to communicate, visually, how they think, feel, and behave, within the context of their academic, career, and life planning could prove to change the ways in which, historically, academic advising has been limited to a strictly verbal process, and in turn, change the face of academic advising – to one that is truly inclusive to everyone, regardless of language, cognitive or emotional functioning, or learning style.

The art therapists' primer: A clinical guide to writing assessments, diagnosis, and treatment. (2009). Book by Ellen G. Horovitz and Sarah L. Eksten. Review by Nikki Allen Dyer. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher LTD. 332 pp. $85.95. ISBN 798-0-398-07840-9
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