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Philosophy of Expressive Arts Therapy


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Table of Contents

1. Poiesis, Therapy and the Arts. 2. Poiesis: From Phenomenology to Imagination. 3. The Way of Poiesis: A Chinese Perspective. 4. Poiesis, Improvisation, Identity. 5. Last Words.

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The first book to focus on the philosophical foundations of expressive arts therapy

About the Author

Stephen K. Levine is Professor Emeritus at York University in Toronto and Founding Dean of the Doctoral Program in Expressive Arts at the European Graduate School, Switzerland. He has authored and edited many books in the field of expressive arts therapy and is based in Toronto, Canada.


From my close perspective on Stephen K. Levine's work over the past four decades, I applaud Philosophy of Expressive Arts Therapy and its 'integration' of a lifework of poiesis (making). This volume includes seminal essays on trauma, imagination, and beauty together with new and timely writings on identity and relationships with China and East Asia.
I have always admired Levine's unique and dogged affirmation of the productive role of breaking to make anew, described here as 'unintegration', and its vital place in creative expression. I am struck by how he so clearly connects this alchemical process to our common commitment to the classical Chinese emphasis of creating ourselves through artistic expression.
Among the book's many achievements is the insistence that the creation of a person, a community, and a world is ongoing, never finished and always transcending fixed identities; it is a process where beauty is the "presence" of engagements with each other and the life we make, now.

-- Shaun McNiff, author of Imagination in Action, Art Heals, Art as Medicine, Professor at Lesley University
In his most stunning new work as a philosopher, therapist, teacher and artist, Levine offers us an invitation into the heart and soul of expressive arts, weaving a narrative both profoundly compelling and generously accessible. With his deeply lived personal experiences, he offers himself up as if a case study on the work itself. I find in this masterful work the beauty of an embodied thinker, a vulnerable risk taker, a humble seeker who, with persevering commitment, asks us to join him in looking to the arts to bring worlds and people together. -- Daria Halprin, Tamalpa Institute, Author of The Expressive Body in Life, Art & Therapy
Both personal and profound, this collection of essays and poems represents an intellectual and artistic journey through life of an important philosopher, teacher and poet of expressive arts. This is an inspiring read and a unique contribution to the field. -- Sally Atkins, Ed.D. Core Faculty, the European Graduate School, Professor Emerita, Appalachian State University
Philosopher, therapist, poet, performer and elder sage, Stephen Levine once againtakes us down the road where very few in the field of expressive arts dare to go. From his early days studying philosophy and protesting injustice, to his studies of 'Oriental' or Taoist thought, Levine makes clear that Poiesis is the Way (Tao) of expressive arts; a form of 'wu-wei', or non-doing activity that lets itself be guided by what emerges, in order to discover something new. What is always consistently central is the idea of Poiesis - the capacity to engage creatively with what we are given in life and to shape it anew. In each chapter Levine emphasizes expressive arts as a kind of social action, an essential connection from self to community to world. Woven throughout the book are also personal and vulnerable reflections on life, suffering and regeneration, in the form of his own poignant and moving poetry. This book is a must read for anyone, not just those in the field of expressive arts but for all who want to understand a deeper way to be alive and connect with their own sense of creative renewal. -- Mitchell Kossak PhD, LMHC, REAT, Associate Professor, Counseling and Expressive Therapies, Lesley University

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