Art Therapy Through Chess

Yesterday, during a break in my hospital group session, I was interviewed by television network GMA 7 State of the Nation of Jessica Soho on the subject of “Art Therapy.” I commented to the reporter that art (i.e. drawing, writing, sculpture, dance, music, singing etc.) is an expressive medium, a symbolic speech, that is effectively being used in psychotherapy to explore hidden, internal distresses and emotional pains.

In fact, even before its formalization as “art therapy” by the behavioral sciences, art is already being used by millions of people for thousands of years for their own personal growth and “survival.” I’d like to describe art as some form of “defense against life’s tragedies.” It’s not the actual cure yet but it can serve as bridge to go to the roots of psychological/emotional disorders in mental health treatment.

I also mentioned art therapy through chess in that TV interview. I do chess therapy as one of my art forms in psychological practice. Chess, though an ancient game, is well written about as a form of art that is capable of comforting, extracting, or sublimating psychological wounds. Dr. Reuben Fine, a chess grandmaster, world champion contender, and clinical psychologist wrote “The Psychology of the Chess Player” (1958) that delves deeply on the interaction between chess and a player’s psychological state or possible issues.

In his book, psychologist/chessmaster Dr. Fine writes extensively about a facet of psychological dynamics of chess, which can be used in aid of psychotherapy and counseling for a patient. He analyzes, for example:

“Chess is a contest between two men in which there is considerable ego-involvement. In some way it certainly touches upon the conflicts surrounding aggression, homosexuality, masturbation and narcissism which become particularly prominent in the anal-phallic phases of development. From the standpoint of id psychology, Jones’ observations can therefore be confirmed, even enlarged upon. Genetically, chess is more often than not taught to the boy by his father, or a father-substitute, and thus becomes a means of working out the son-father rivalry.”

 

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