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Art therapy and education

Seminar at Art Therapy Italiana in Milan, Italy.

Tutor: Dr. Unnur Ottarsdottir, art therapist, artist and teacher

Dates: Timing will be announced later

About this course

Ítalía 2020

Dr. Unnur Ottarsdottir will teach the course Art Therapy and Education at Art Therapy Italiana in Milan, Italy 16-18 October, 2020. The course is intended for art therapists who work in schools. Further information is provided through email: and by phone: +39 (0) 51 644 04 51. The maximum number of participants is 15.

The course is intended for art therapists working in schools. The participants will be given an opportunity to share their experiences, emotions and thoughts about working as art therapists in schools, thereby gaining perspectives and understanding about their work issues and projects.

Through art making, sharing, discussions and lectures the participants will gain knowledge about the basis of the methods and theories of Art Educational Therapy (AET). Coursework learning is integrated into art therapy in AET through art making with the aim of facilitating coursework learning and enhancing emotional well-being. Specific learning difficulties are observed in relation to emotional difficulties.

One of the concepts of AET, “writing-images”, will be reviewed; this concept refers to the process of drawing pictures of letters and numbers. The “writing-image stage”, which describes a phase when children experiment with drawing writing-images prior to learning to read, will be discussed. Methods of making writing-images will be introduced. The opportunity to work with writing-images in AET enables the child to reclaim the learning potential of an early developmental “writing-image” phase.

Another method of AET consists of "Memory Drawing”. Such drawing aids individuals in better memorizing various facts related to their studies. A quantitative study conducted by Ottarsdottir showed that over long time periods, it is generally five times easier to recall drawn images of word content than written words. Along with aiding memory retention, memory drawing facilitates processing of emotions and difficult experiences in the same way as the art-making process functions within art therapy.

“What you offered to us who participated in the course was an opportunity to stop, look, review and rethink. Your presence allowed us a certain freedom to be, just be present there and then in the moment, which can only be created through respect for the individual and belief in the individual's abilities.”

Sonný Hilma Þorbjörnsdóttir, teacher and artist

Course information

Milan, Italy 20th–22nd of March 2020

Friday, 16th of October 2020


Saturday, 17th of October 2020


Sunday, 18th of October 2020


Unnur Ottarsdottir

Unnur ÓttarsdóttirDr. Unnur Ottarsdottir has worked in a preschool, secondary schools and a high school as a teacher, special education teacher and art therapist. She is a part-time art therapy lecturer at the Iceland University of the Arts and at the continuing education department of the University of Akureyri. She is also a practising researcher at the Reykjavik Academy.

Unnur has practised art therapy in various institutions and in her private practice for 30 years. She runs an art therapy clinic in Iceland, specialising in treatment for children and adults dealing with traumatisation and specific learning difficulties. Her areas of research are: art therapy in education for children with specific learning difficulties who have experienced trauma, and art making as a therapeutic and learning approach, including drawing for memorisation and emotional processing.

Unnur has given lectures and written chapters and articles about art therapy and memory drawing which have been published internationally.

Unnur conducted  a research into long-term memory of drawings and words and it is the first time where comparisons between drawn images and written words over such an extended period of time has been studied worldwide.


Sixteen years ago, art teacher and compulsory school teacher Ásta Þórisdóttir attended the Introductory Course I – What is Art Therapy? She says:

"The knowledge I gained from attending the course has been of great use to me throughout my career of working with children and adolescents, and it still is. I learned to understand that the art created by the children and teenagers who I work with has important underlying meanings. What I learned in the course has proved useful for understanding a wide variety of symbols and signs in the artwork.

My understanding of the art has in some cases opened up a dialogue with the students which I have then been able to share with other professionals. For example, I have managed to present difficulties which the children express in their artwork at team meetings with other professionals.

Sometimes the message in the children’s artwork is quite clear. Art teachers and other staff are in a perfect position for developing an understanding of an individual’s condition and overall well-being through the images they create. I think the course should be part of the core of teacher education programmes. I would be the first person to attend a continuing art therapy foundation course for professionals."

Sonný Hilma Þorbjörnsdóttir, teacher and artist:

"What you offered to us who participated in the course was an opportunity to stop, look, review and rethink. Your presence allowed us a certain freedom to be, just be present there and then in the moment, which can only be created through respect for the individual and belief in the individual's abilities. You gave us a framework and I think we all adjusted to it without fear of being judged. What we learned about art therapy and the insight you provided into that world was immeasurably valuable for me. Giving keys to that world to someone who is ready to open up will increase our possibilities to work on and support ourselves and others. You are a great teacher, Unnur, and hopefully I will get the chance of meeting you again soon and experience and learn more and more and more."


You can also find me on the following website and social media platforms:

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