A review of Sculpting the Heart: Surviving Depression with Art Therapy by Joyce White

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Sculpting the Heart
Surviving Depression with Art Therapy
by Joyce White
Paperback: 96 pages, July 2008, ISBN-13: 978-1434320667

According to recent World Health Organization studies, 10% of men and 25% of women are suffering from depression, one fo the fourth main causes of disability around the world. Treating depression, both directly and in a complementary sense, with art has been around for a long time. In the early twentieth century Freud wrote about the catharsis and therapeutic value of art to heal the most deep seated and unconscious issues. The AATA – American Art Therapy Association in the United States (http://www.americanarttherapyassociation.org) states that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Similar organisations exist around the world encouraging those under emotional and physical stress to use art to open up patients to new perspectives and solutions to depression.

Joyce White’s book Sculpting the Heart: Surviving Depression with Art Therapy takes a personal approach, using anecdote and different artistic media to express the power of art in healing. The book is rich with poetry, photographs and images of sculptures, and even cartoons, all designed to encourage the reader to take up her or her own pen, hunk of clay, gel pens or watercolours and start creating. Although peppered with poetry, the book is very down to earth and encouraging, showing the reader that art is anything but elitist, and open to everyone. It’s hard to disagree with her statement: “Words are healers, whether we are reading or writing them.”

The book is an encouragement to risk, go deep, and try new ideas. Practising what she preaches, White opens up about her own struggles with depression, divorce, and health problems. Despite the honesty that underlies the book, White is never dour, using herself as an example, and asserting the unique voice that every person has:

Each of ours in our subjective consciousness has a story of love and survival that is uniquely ours just like my story. Like fingerprints, every person, event, circumstance and situation that affected us deeply traced itself into our soul where it waits to be turned into poetry, song, or some other form of creative expression.

Throughout the book are exercises, ideas, tips, and suggestions on ways in which the reader can explore, test and try new types of art to find healing, self-expression, and personal joy. Sculpting the Heart is a spirtually powerful, upbeat book to encourage the artist in everyone.