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Donglim Koh

Art Therapy and Korean Ink Brush Painting:
A Convergence of Philosophies

         While I was learning about art therapy during my graduate school studies, I began to realize how art therapy and East Asian philosophy have much in common. When I was making art, I became especially aware of how the spiritually based philosophy of Korean ink brush painting always has been a major influence on my work. The influence of this philosophy became more obvious when I compared my approach to art making to that of my classmates, who were predominantly Caucasian Americans.

            I became interested in how this painting media and its underlying East Asian philosophies had influenced me, and, in turn, how my exposure to this philosophy had affected my communications and involvement with people from different cultural backgrounds. I began to question my background. How do my culturally based understandings and practices of art influence the way I engage and interact with classmates who are predominantly white Americans, and clients at my internship site who are predominantly Puerto Rican-American youth? What cultural beliefs, expectations and attitudes do I bring to these interpersonal exchanges? My enhanced awareness of cultural differences, especially when working as an intern in a school setting, led me to an important question: “What do I bring with me to these encounters?”

         I examined these questions through conducting a review of the literature, documenting my personal experiences working as an art therapy intern with Puerto Rican-American children at the Jose de Diego Community Academy, reflecting on my previous experiences as a teacher in Korea, and documenting my personal engagement in ink brush painting. These practices served as the basis for developing theoretical constructs about the convergence between Korean ink brush painting and art therapy.

          Donglim Koh received a BFA in traditional Korean painting from Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, Korea, and a BFA in graphic design from the California College of the Arts and Crafts. She received clinical training at Loretto Hospital in Chicago, a psychiatric hospital for adults, and at the Rice Child and Family Center in Evanston, a residential facility for children. She also completed a yearlong internship at the Jose de Diego Community Academy in Chicago.


Thesis Advisor: Catherine Moon, Assistant Professor, Art Therapy

Thesis Reader: Ruth Evermann, Art Therapist, Jose de Diego Community Academy, Chicago

Second Reader: Dan Anthon, Director, Creative Arts Therapy Studio, Evanston, IL




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