Through the eyes of the law: What is it about art that can harm people?

In 2008, art therapist, Neil Springham published this poignant article in the International Journal of Art Therapy: Inscape. We are reminded of its continued relevance today as we reflect on twenty years of statutory regulation of the arts therapies in the UK and the continued need to protect the public from harmful or abusive practice…

The notion of arts-based risk is rarely acknowledged outside of art therapy. This paper describes an injury sustained as a result of art activity. The case was subject to legal proceedings which established arts practitioner and organisational negligence. The case was consequently settled out of court for a large sum.

The paper reports the legal argument and explores what the process tells us about how art can both help and harm participants. This specifically concerns the power of art to make the subjective seem real and the need for practitioners to able to competently assess participants’ psychological vulnerability to this.

The case represents an important milestone in the current arts and health debate, particularly with regard to the protection of the public. Lessons to be learnt for organisations seeking to deliver arts and health projects to vulnerable people are discussed.

To read this paper by Neil Springham please click here

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