InWorld Art Therapy

Ginger PooleI was recently introduced to colleague Ginger Poole, a User Experience specialist and Information Architect who is completing a Masters in virtual art therapy.

“I feel that with ten million girls shopping for Barbie in 3D and two million Webkins in 3D worlds, the next generation sees 3D worlds the way teens now see Text Message and YouTube. It will be expected that everything will be virtual world from shopping to researching. Art therapy has a great opportunity to be of help to a generation in the media they are accustomed to, we just have to figure out how it works and how kids are relating to it. It’s time to start researching what works and what doesn’t’ work now.”

Ginger studied fine arts and worked in graphic design for ten years before moving into web development. “It was an exciting time to be involved with technology and I put down my personal art.” Five years later, during a personal crisis, she picked up her camera and started to take photos of children and discovered other forms of art could give her the same therapeutic benefits. So she made the decision to study art therapy, “I decided I wanted to help others find that comfort and healing too.”

” Group virtual world art therapy (InWorld Art Therapy) is entirely new. I have found only one person working in this medium so I would love to hear from anybody who might be interested or already trying this out. I will be doing the first research in September..”

” My target audience is high school students that refuse to come to a group therapy session or are more open to electronic means of communication than verbal.

Ginger expects students to:

  • be more willing to reveal more when “hidden” behind an avatar
  • practice social skills like assertiveness, honesty, empathy as practice for face to face encounters
  • feel a sense of community and relationship (compared to being online alone)
  • express themselves through 3D art which may more familiar to them

Although not intended to be a substitute for in-person art therapy, it provides an alternative for youth who don’t like the idea of participating in traditional art therapy. “Also, safety is of utmost concern. InWorld Art Therapy can only be conducted if you know the person’s real name, location and cell phone number and of course if the person is a minor, with parental consent.”

If you know of anybody else working in this field, please leave a comment. What do you think about using virtual worlds for therapy?

3 thoughts on “InWorld Art Therapy

  1. Peter


    There are several people working on this concept including myself.

    I developed a model for thinkng of art in a cognitive science model to inform process and therapy. I did a research study on consumer preferences of an interactive art therapy website in my undergrad.

    The Center for Arts in Health Research and Education at the University of Floriday has an intranet with gallery and chat for children in their cancer unit.

    Cathy Malchiodi wrote a book on virtual art therapy in the last fifteen years.

    Most of this I did not know either until I had spent time thinking I was alone, and I found it while searching.

    Kate Collie,, did a usability study on online group art therapy while a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia.

    I have been working to get an art therapy interactive system and social networking site up, and have been encouraged to produce a newer presentation of my models and research to propose, as a lack of funding makes it difficult when one works in mental health. Which I do.

    The NIH has grants for technology transfer from small businesses who want to research efficacy of new technologies in joint effort with institutions.

    There are media labs around the world concretizing empathic, sensititive computer programs, and developing wearable computers and facial recognition programs for the virtual world.

    Be in touch.

  2. Lindsay


    I am in the UK and work as an online counsellor for yp using chat rooms. I am an integrative therapist that uses play and creative techniques in my practice and I am just starting a piece of research on the use of fantasy online games in therapy with children and young people, bases along the lines of the use of play therapy.

    Also thanks to Peter – I shall look up the auther he mentioned!

    Its nice to know that there are other people out there also looking into this kind of work.


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