An Artful Afterthought: Post-structuralism Meets Art and Narrative Therapies

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  • This article was downloaded by: ["Queen's University Libraries, Kingston"]On: 27 August 2014, At: 01:05Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Constructivist PsychologyPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/upcy20

    An Artful Afterthought: Post-structuralism Meets Art and NarrativeTherapiesCarlos Torres aa The University of Memphis , Memphis , Tennessee , USAPublished online: 20 Feb 2014.

    To cite this article: Carlos Torres (2014) An Artful Afterthought: Post-structuralism MeetsArt and Narrative Therapies, Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 27:2, 147-149, DOI:10.1080/10720537.2013.792023

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10720537.2013.792023

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  • JOURNAL OF CONSTRUCTIVIST PSYCHOLOGY, 27(2), 147149, 2014Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 1072-0537 print/1521-0650 onlineDOI: 10.1080/10720537.2013.792023

    BOOK REVIEW

    AN ARTFUL AFTERTHOUGHT: POST-STRUCTURALISM MEETS ART AND NAR-RATIVE THERAPIESA Review of Art Psychotherapy and Narrative Therapy: An Account of Practitioner ResearchBy Sheridan LinnellOak Park, IL: Bentham Science Publishers, 2010, 215 pp., $35.00 (e-book)Reviewed by Carlos Torres, The University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

    Art Psychotherapy and Narrative Therapy: An Account of Practitioner Research by SheridanLinnell is the first in Benthams e-book series, Rethinking Research and Professional Practicesin Terms of Relationality, Subjectivity, and Power. With an engaged and elegant writing style,Linnell addresses how expressive therapies could be conceptualized and practiced in relationto the mobile, unstable constellations of thought that constitute a post-structural framework.Linnells solution is to write a book of experience so as to provide the reader a space forcritique and creativity rather than an authoritative how-to manual. By weaving personal memoirwith fragments of theory, she does not attempt to say everything that can be said about a post-structuralist take on narrative and art therapy, and instead offers one exemplar.

    As a clinical psychology graduate student with an interest in post-structuralism, I appreci-ate works that exemplify the use of those intriguing yet often inaccessible concepts to informtherapeutic action. And so, as I consider how, via my subjectivities, I draw meaning from thesymbols that constitute this text, my attention moves to the period (full stop) that follows theconcluding sentence in the introductory chapter, a dense read replete with the obscure language,quotes, parentheses, and the word play that is appropriate when one abides by a subjectivist epis-temology. Readers who have some background in post-structural thought will want to experiencethis book. Linnells work is insightful, instructive, passionate, and playful. Thus, the period mayserve as a tunnel, as a passageway into new possibility for therapeutic practice. However, forthose who have little background or interest in the writers and ideas addressed in this book, theperiod may well take on its literary meaning, signaling an end, a halt, and perhaps with it, asigh of relief or a gasp of exasperation. This book is not an introduction to post-structuralism,art therapy, or narrative therapy. Little space is used to situate the reader with history or explicit,technical explanations. Linnell is interested in an intersection between aesthetics and ethics, andthus, by employing various artsy techniques, she explores ideas rather than explaining them.

    Chapters 2 and 3 acquaint the reader with theorists whose writings have informed Linnellspost-structuralist engagement with art psychotherapy and narrative therapy. Playing with the

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  • 148 BOOK REVIEW

    metaphor of a customer perusing items in a clothing store, Linnell attempts to illuminate thefabric(ations) of theories and ideas. As one would walk from one coat to another to a shirt, whilejust browsing, Linnell sets up these two chapters as brief but engaged perusals of differingpoststructuralist text(tile)s. Engagement with different authors spans a couple of paragraphs to afew pages. Sometimes she makes clear connections between a theorists work and its implicationfor expressive therapy; other times she leaves the reader only with open impressions.

    Chapter 2 explores the works of Derrida, Foucault, Guitarri, and Deleuze. By engaging withDerridas notions of differance, other, and deconstruction, Linnell considers the ethicaluncertainties within the therapeutic relationship when there is an undoing of the deciding agencyand one commits to a radical openness to the other. Delueuzes philosophy of difference is touchedupon in order to challenge essentialist notions of psychic phenomena and to consider how therelationship between therapist, client, and artwork is constitutive rather than representational.The majority of the chapter is dedicated to exploring Foucaults notions if subjugation, power,geneology, problematization, and ethical substance. Here, Foucaults work is used to considerhow therapy is itself a discursive practice within modern rationality and how clinical practicesreinforce binaries and constitute identity by legitimizing what aspects of the self are in need oftransformation.

    Chapter 3 moves into the stores Womens and Other section and attends to the writingsof Kristeva, Clement, Cixous, Venn, Spivak, and Butler. The sections on Kristeva, Clement,and Cixous are fairly short and introduce some therapeutic possibilities of writing and drawingthat exist beyond the binaries produced by the theories that tend to inform art therapy. Thebrief section on Venns notion of embodied experience of connection argues it as relevant tonarrative therapy, and suggests that it serves as an aesthetic and ethical basis for poststructuralisttherapeutic practice. This struck me as interesting, and I was left with a desire for more. Spivakswork is called on to keep vigilance against dogmatic practices. The section on Butler, by farthe chapters longest, examines therapy through an ethics of vulnerability, accountability, andgratitude to the Other. Discussion on performativity and Butlers critical reading of Foucault areused to question the psychoanalytic assumption of a pure repetition, and argue for a repetitionconstituted by citation and the discursive production of difference. Via a questioning ofthe I, Linnell explores narrative therapys coauthoring and collaborative deconstruction ofmultiple narratives. Narrative coherence, the product of any talking cure, is proposed to lessenan appreciation of the limits of what is knowable of ones self and of others. By providing alonger tracing of theory in practice, this chapter felt more anchored in post-structuralismsapplications in therapeutic practice.

    Chapter 4 examines the writing methodologies taken up by post-structural feminists. Au-toethnography, collective biography, dream journaling, and coauthoring techniques are explored.Linnell urges a move beyond the binary of visual or verbal art forms and the romanticizing ofart as universal access to that which is unspeakable, and explains that she cannot tell you thedefinitive truth of such artwork, and neither, indeed, could the person who made it.

    Although Chapters 3 and 4 cover much theoretical ground and offer links to their relevance intherapy, they do not necessarily leave a clear understanding of how to make use of the theoriesor turn them into lifestyle in actual therapeutic practice. Chapters 5 and 6 offer much to thisend. Through poetry, memoir, visual images, and discursive analysis, the reader encounters someof the thoughts, desires, difficulties, and beautiful transformations that comprised Linnells workwith domestic violence, substance abuse, and Aboriginal families torn apart by colonialism.

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  • BOOK REVIEW 149

    Linnells well-crafted prose does an excellent job weaving together therapeutic technique withtheoretical commitment. Wanting to disrupt the normalizing and pathologizing that occurswithin mainstream therapy, Linnell critiques assessment, arguing that it does not capturethe emotional intensities that over determine such an encounter, the wayward lines that flowacross the grid of assessment criteria in excess of rationalities. In my therapeutic training, Ihave wondered what to do with the stories I create about clients, and was thus appreciative ofLinnells commentary on this, suggesting that, when used with a light touch, these speculativefictions can open avenues of possibility with clients. I further appreciated Linnell expressingthe difficulties that arise with a post-structural lifestyle. She admits becoming susceptible toessentialism and humanism. While exploring what it means to work with the other, she wonderswhen her conscious anti-racism reproduces the tactics of self-surveillance that typify modernpower and prescribe multiple versions of failure.

    Chapter 7, titled Inconclusions, considers again the limits of narrative and what post-structural research ethics may bring to expressive therapies. Linnell leaves readers with a fewof the visual and written artifacts she has collected through her personal practice of the arts ofexistence.

    Drawing on a multitude of post-structural theorists and weaving them through personal experi-ence and professional practice, this e-book considers issues raised by expressive therapy practicesbut will resonate with students and seasoned therapists who have wondered what role they play inlegitimizing or totalizing their clients identities, and what ethical commitment to take up becauseof it. This work leaves the reader not with a definitive sense of how to do post-structural therapybut, rather, with a thoughtful, well-written, and visually colorful trajectory from which to drawinspiration.

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