Invitation to contribute for a digital mural



Invitation to contribute an art or written response for a digital mural

AATA Technology Committee is looking to hear from art therapists who are using digital media in their clinical practice. We will be collating digital responses to the question: are you using digital media in clinical practice? Why or why not?

We would like you to email these responses to Natalie Carlton (Chair of Technology Committee) by February 2015. They will be viewed at the 2015 conference and also online.

Please send responses to Natalie Carlton

Human connections through digital connections


, ,

Couple years ago, I had the privilege of working with an elderly gentleman who immigrated to the U.S. more than five decades ago as a very young man.  Although he has lived in the U.S. for a very long time, it was apparent that he still strongly identified with his home country both socially and culturally.  Even the voices in his head spoke to him in his native language.

As a budding therapist, I was eager to establish a trusting therapeutic relationship with him, but it was probably very difficult for him to trust someone whom he thought was very different from him.  In fact,  we were very different in terms of gender, age, language, education, religion, family upbringing, acculturation level, etc. However, the more and more we got to know each other, we realized we had quite a few things in common, such as our love for slapstick humor, old movies, dancing, art, and spicy food. He became very nostalgic when he shared his teen years back in his home country and struggled to draw what he remembered from those years onto a piece of paper. Every little surrounding in his neighborhood embodied some kind of personal history for him: trees, walls, buildings, narrow alleys, cobble stone paths, benches, doors and even signs.  Sometimes he would get frustrated because he couldn’t convey what his hometown was really like to me.

One day, I brought an iPad to our session. I used Google Map to find his hometown and zoomed in on satellite mode and street view. He thought I was performing magic!  It felt like we were on a “magic carpet” swishing through his hometown where he was in charge of giving me a tour through time and space.  The small little shops he used to hangout, the church he used to attend, the tree where he concocted silly mischiefs with his friends…they were all in this little screen device I brought in, and he was able to navigate and tell me exactly what kind of childhood he had. We shared laughs and awes as we journeyed through the streets of his hometown that surprisingly hasn’t changed much. He was sad how some things had changed but that provided us with more insight and awareness into what was really bothering him about his current relationships.  At the end of the session, it was time for us to return back to present time and I could tell he didn’t want it to end. Both of us felt that this particular session solidified our therapeutic relationship in many ways.

It was the first and last session I ever used an iPad with this elderly gentleman because we both felt that the virtual trip was special enough. However, he told me that he wanted to learn how to use a computer to connect more with his grandkids who were too busy to visit him. That kind of thinking was truly monumental for him as he was showing motivation and taking initiative!

I don’t see anything wrong with using some help from technology to join with family members, especially during holidays. Many people theorize that technology creates social isolation and less meaningful connections between people, but perhaps it is only our fear that separates us from others and not technology itself.

Smart E-Book Interface


, , ,

There is a definite rise in e-reading as indicated by The Pew Research Center, yet the debate over “e-reading vs. regular reading” is still very lively.  Many bloggers have cited studies that were more than five years to show how e-reading is lesser, but we all know how technology can change rapidly within just a few months.  One 2011 survey seems to come up quite frequently as evidence of how paper reading is still far more effective for comprehension.  The graduate students in this survey reported that while they used the convenience of e-reading tools for research, they still printed out copies for further reading.  However, these students in the survey may have printed paper copies due to more specific reasons such as, out of behavioral or cultural habit, lack of a proper reading tablet, the convenience of paper weight, etc. Contrary to some who believe that in-depth reading can only happen with paper, a recent study revealed that the presentation format did not have an impact on reading comprehension.  Personally, when I read books at home I still prefer the paper format.  Mainly because I don’t like to expose myself to EMF for long periods of time and it is more convenient to carry around the house.  It also feels more leisurely since I am in front of a computer a lot for work-related tasks.  However, when I travel I definitely use my tablet because I can read multiple books and magazines without worrying about carryon weight.  I think we should embrace the choices we have and not try to choose one over the other.

One of the major complaints about using a tablet in art and writing is lack of tactility. In reading, tactility appears to be an important ingredient for our brain to create mental maps.  While many people are able to relocate somewhat precisely where in their paper book a particular passage was written, it is difficult to relocate a passage when using a tablet (well, unless you use search tool and have the machine do it for you).  “The implicit feel of where you are in a physical book turns out to be more important than we realized,” says Abigail Sellen of Microsoft Research Cambridge in England and co-author of The Myth of the Paperless Office.  The feeling of having physical, detailed control of what you are engaged in helps our brain not understand the material better but remember the reading experience better.

Well, we may just be able to have that experience of turning a page and thumbing through multiple pages with a tablet.  It’s called a Smart E-Book Interface and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and it mimics the paper-reading experience.  KAIST showed this prototype more than a year ago, and I don’t really know how much of it is in use or developed.  But I think this is pretty neat.  Check it out!

Digital Technology Helps Communication


, , , , , , ,

Digital technology has certainly made communication more abundant, accessible, and affordable.  When Apple introduced its first hard drive computer, the Profile, it came with a capacity of 5MB.  That was about 30 years ago.  It’s amazing to see not only how it only took three decades for computer technology to change significantly but also experience astounding changes in every part of our lives through computer technology.  Technology no longer exists in a separate lab where only engineers and scientists have access to; it is embedded in business, humanity, politics, art, education, etc.  The digital nature of technology includes almost every global citizen at every time and place in the ever-expanding digital cultural landscape.

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, gave a talk about how art, technology, and design inform and help leaders in our society.  This talk confirmed my belief on how digital visual media could only help our clients communicate their thought contents more efficiently and effectively.  As I was watching Maeda’s talk, I wanted to shout out so many times, “This is exactly what art therapy does!”  Digital media is a great expressive/communication tool art therapists could use to help people express and explore feelings and thoughts as well as engage in new, positive experiences.


ArtRage Review


, ,


This is one of those  “natural media” software that mimics the appearance of many traditional media.  With the use of a stylus, you can vary the line’s thickness and textural appearance.  I like the way how it has a very professional-like appearance but still being very easy to navigate and experiment.  The blending effect is quite amazing and very realistic.  However, the variety of options and sub-options may be too overwhelming and confusing to some clients.  For instance, the blending and layering options are only reserved for the very art-savvy clients or those who want to challenge themselves.

Below are some of its features:

  • Developed for all levels of artists.
  • Provides a set of natural painting tools: oil brush, paint roller, paint tube, palette knife, water color brush, and air brush that let you smear, blend, and spread paint directly on the screen.
  • Provides sketching and drawing tools: pencil, chalk, crayon, inking pen, and felt pen.
  • A variety of canvas/paper properties
  • RGB colors (full color wheel) with tint/tone picker.
  • Layer controls with opacity adjustments and transparency preservation.
  • Unlimited layers
  • Virtual pressure sensitivity
  • Variety of exporting formats such as jpg, pdf, psd, tiff, png, bmp and others.
  • Zoom and pan


For more information, please go to:

What’s in a name?


, , , ,

Digital media use in art therapy is expected to rise as devices such as tablets and phablets are becoming more prevalent in our daily lives.  More and more art therapists are discussing how they use digital tools to help their clients express themselves. So, it wasn’t surprising to see the term, Digital Art Therapy (DAT) entering art therapy’s vernacular to describe this recent phenomenon.  However, I must admit that I have great difficultly accepting this term.  I am glad that more people are aware that art therapy is not limited to using conventional art practices such as painting and sculpture, but separately labeling the use of digital media in art therapy makes it sound like it’s different from the usual art therapy people know.  When our clients use paint in art therapy, we don’t term it “Paint Art Therapy”.  Then why should we label the use of digital media as Digital Art Therapy?

The principles and theory of art therapy do not change just because a client uses a different medium.  The use of “Digital” in front of our professional field has the potential to confuse consumers who may already have some misconceptions about art therapy.  What are your thoughts about the term Digital Art Therapy.

Art Invading Traditional Art Space


, , , , , ,

An artist friend recommended I download an app called Layer which allows users to find various items based upon augmented reality technology. Basically, you can view the real world around you with layers of artificial information through your smart phone. I found out that many artists are starting to use this technology to make outdoor sculptures in public places and install artwork inside established museums. This is all of course without any permission since nobody owns another person’s visual sensory. Take a look at this video below where artists, Sander Veenhof and Mark Skwarek, decided they would circumvent the traditional art world and host their own exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art using AR.

Augmented Reality (AR) used to be only utilized by big money Hollywood studios and viewed in the movies, but now anyone with a smart phone can experience this. And anyone with basic development knowledge can make their own AR objects.

Below is an old video (since 4 years old is like decades old in the tech world) about AR which I think shows the potential to be used in some way to help treat certain psychological disorders in the future. It can help others understand what it is like to experience hallucinations. And it can help people suffering phobias if exposure therapy is needed. Perhaps it can enable a child in an isolation unit to participate in group art therapy by layering real time video of an art therapy session in a studio. The possibility is endless!

Social Networking & Clients


, , ,

As therapists, we are aware of the power of social networking and what consequences it may bring. Below are some articles that every therapists should read before posting an image, engaging in virtual contact with clients, googling our clients and reading/responding to emails from clients and their associates.

Art Therapy Articles Regarding Technology

Asawa, P. (2009). “Art Therapists’ Emotional Reactions to the Demands of Technology.” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 26(2), 58-65.

Kapitan, L. (2007). “Will Art Therapy Cross the Digital Culture Divide?” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24(2), 50-51.

Kapitan, L. (2009). “Introduction to the Special Issue on Art Therapy’s Response to Techno-Digital Culture.” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 26(2), 50-51.

Klorer, P. G. (2009). “The Effects of Technological Overload on Children: An Art Therapist’s Perspective.” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 26(2), 80-82.

Mihailidis, A., Blunsden, S., Boger J., Richards B., Zutis K., Young L., & Hoey J. (2010). “Towards the Development of a Technology for Art Therapy and Dementia: Definition of Needs and Design Constraints. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 37(4).

Orr, P. (2005). “Technology media: An Exploration for Inherent Qualities.” The Arts in Psychotherapy, 32(1), 1-11.

Peterson, B., Stovall, K., & Elkins, D. (2005). Art therapists and computer technology. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 22(3), 139-149.

Potash, Jordan S. (2009). “Fast Food Art, Talk Show Therapy: The Impact of Mass Media on Adolescent Art Therapy. ” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 26(2), 52-57.

Thong, S. A. (2007). “Redefining the Tools of Art Therapy.” Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24(2), 52-58.