Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: Art of the Mental Patient

Having finished a young adult novel, I decided to try something more grownup. Dorrance has a large variety of books to choose from, and this one seemed interesting to me. I majored in psychology in college, and have watched several movies where the psychologist / teacher found meaning in childrens' drawings. I have always been fascinated with what kind of meaning psychologists found when looking at drawings.

It is a fascinating topic and I am glad that it is being studied and written about. What does it mean when a person chooses a certain color scheme, or draws jagged lines, or grotesque figures, or horrid dramatic scenes?

This book was written at a graduate degree level. Which means, since I was going from reading a young adult novel, I had to really focus to understand what I was reading. Also, the author was born and raised in Jamaica, then studied in Europe (France and England). I think the cultural differences might also have lead to some of the difficulties I had in understanding the text. I understood the sentences for the most part, but the logic seemed confusing to me. References to other psychologists seemed to be fleeting, and it has been a while since I've studied them, so I didn't always remember what that other famous psychologist said about a particular topic.

I did not like the layout of the book. The art - the drawings are at the back of the book, and I think they would have been better if they had been spaced throughout the book, used as examples, and presented larger and in color. Or at least page or plate number references, so I could see the actual picture being discussed. I am sure it is harder to properly place the drawings throughout the text, and maybe more expensive, but I think it would be worth the effort. A book about art shouldn't have the art as an afterthought in the back of the book.

Once I got over those two reservations, though, I really liked the book. I learned a lot about how art is interpreted and used in treating mental patients. I especially enjoyed reading the case studies.

When people find out I was a psychology major, it makes them nervous, because they are afraid I will psychoanalyze them. I'd rather let them stay nervous, so I don't tell them I can't, because I have no idea how. I know how they feel, though. When I am quilting, especially stippling, I always wonder what kind of meaning people will find in my doodles. They are just shapes, really, based simply on which way was easier to move the quilt sandwich. Don't look for meaning.

I received a complimentary copy of Art of the Mental patient and Its Functions as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

1 comment:

Allie said...

That looks interesting - I've always been fascinated by the mind, and probably should have gone on to study it more. I'd hate to see what my drawing says about me, lol!