In the beginning of my education in the National Academy of Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria, I was introduced to art as unconditionally existential. In the years which I spent being an artist, I learned and practised art religiously, as part of my life and consciousness, quoting my professor Bozhidar Boyadzhiev, “Art is the most complicated thing in the world and the hardest profession to succeed in, it is a way of life and you must dedicate yours to it”. In this spirit, I decided to do a Pedagogy specialisation parallel to my main studies, in the aim to teach what I learn in the future, but the knowledge that perceived me during those years had its’ effect and I slowly started leaning towards the world of psychology.
After graduating from my Bachelor’s degree I had a choice- whether to continue pursuing Art or to undertake the challenge of Art therapy. Curiosity took its’ toll and I started studying psychology. Meanwhile, I had started teaching, which unveiled a new perspective and gave me great experience in working with various people from different age groups and backgrounds. But even after a year in the art therapy program and two years in teaching, the artist in me kept asking questions, which all led to this one: Where do I stand in art therapy, as an artist?
During my studies, I met professor Peter Tzanev , who found my question interesting and we started having discussions on the topic, which further developed in my Master’s thesis: “The effects of art therapy depending on the leading specialists”.
In my thesis, which was defended successfully February 2020, I studied art therapy from the beginning- its’ definition, and noticed that depending on the Art Therapy Association, the explanation was slightly different. For example, there was a difference between the British  and American . Associations, where the former perceived it as more of a psychoanalytical study for psychologists, while the latter saw it as a therapy, which aimed to help self-development. When reading more about it, I realised that the AA had a less scientific approach towards art therapy and considered equally the “art” part as much as the “therapy” part, in contrast to the BA, where the “therapy” part prevailed. Naturally, that was very important to me, since I am an artist, and never felt quite in place among psychologists. Having in mind that art therapy started from the artist Adrian Hill, I was very optimistic in finding my path as an artist, in helping the individual. Later, I started comparing different opinions on who should lead the therapy session. According to Rumiana Pankova, there were certain types of art therapies where the artist is not allowed to participate, and others where he is only allowed with a supervisor or psychologist. Meanwhile, Suzanne Darley . states, that art therapists could be anyone, who is qualified to consult or supervise, even a priest. In contrast to that, art therapist Joana Tan’s opinion is that artists should never be allowed to practise art therapy, and are only capable of leading art classes. In further research, I had found that in order to practise art therapy in most countries, you need to possess a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and have Art therapy as a specialisation or Master’s degree. This was very demanding on the side of psychology, and the term “art therapy”, started to sound more like “psychotherapy with artistic methods”. “Like other tools, art has the power to extend our capacities beyond those that nature has originally endowed us with. Art compensates us for certain inborn weaknesses, in this case of the mind rather than the body, weaknesses that we can refer to as psychological frailties.” .
After dwelling on why artist weren’t seen capable of leading art therapy, I began my trial to prove the importance of the artistic intuition. I thought “What do artists have as an advantage when creating a piece of art? Why are we important to the process of art therapy? A psychologist can study how to analyse art, but we have a higher sense of understanding it.” So I started reading about the artist’s mind and how he thinks while using his creativity. In his book, “Psychology of art”, prof. Peter Tzanev  analyses an experiment, where two peoples’ brain function was compared, while looking at a portrait. Person A is an artist and Person B not. The difference between their perceptions is that A recognises the facial features much quicker than B, and that leaves time to go deeper on a “cognitive-perceptive” level, which is exactly why artists understand visual information better- not only because of their devotion to the art world and their profession, but because their minds are overly satisfied and stimulated with images and colours. This has developed their sensitivity towards analysing and being aware of the concept in any art piece, which is tightly connected to the work of an art therapist, as he deals with connecting to a client through the client’s art work.
Another important note is the ability for artists to see ahead of their time and to predict certain human behaviour, sometimes to the extent of the direction of evolution. This is due to the mentioned “thinking outside of the box” or creative qualities. A good example for that is the renowned writer Ray Bradbury , who mentions futuristic events which happen to develop quite closely to reality in the early 21st century. For example, in his book “451 degrees Fahrenheit”, he describes the future utopian person being surrounded by big screens, prescribed medication and little ear shells, which all dictate his life. Almost seventy years later, we have wireless earphones, which most of the youth is constantly using, a large amount of the population in developed countries has issues with mental health, regarding types of anxiety and moodiness, for which they take drugs on a daily basis, and we are surrounded by screens, constantly, in a variety of sizes. This is all definitely not a coincidence. Another example is his book “The Martian chronicles”, in which he describes how humans decide to populate planet Mars and start to name the hills and valleys with Earth names, conquering what is not theirs and claiming it. Nowadays, we have access to “Google Mars”, which allows us to view the planet and coincidentally, we have areas named “Arrabia Terra” or “Olympus Mons”. Again, extraordinary. These few examples show how artists have an advantage when using their creativity and are crucial in understanding people and human behaviour, especially when the medium is art.
After proving to myself the important qualities of an artist in a psychological environment, I went back to what Rumiana Pankova had said about the types of art therapy. According to her, the diagnostic part of the therapy has to be led by a professional, usually a psychiatrist or psychologist, while the more “creative outcome” has to be led by an artist, usually accompanied by a psychologist. This is when I realised that as an artist, I could guide a group of people through the therapeutic effect of producing art. It gave me the idea of separating art therapy in three main parts- “Art, as therapy”, “Art therapy” and “Art psychotherapy”.