What is Art Therapy?
Art Therapy is the process of creating art with the guidance and support of a professional art therapist, and is a type of psychotherapy. Through the process of making art, clients are able to explore their inner world, develop greater self-awareness, express thoughts and feelings, access creativity and self-esteem, and better cope with stress.
After the client makes art in therapy, the therapist and client will often discuss the art piece for further exploration. The art therapist may see and understand things that are communicated through the art, but should always ask about underlying meanings because they are often very personal and influenced by the client’s life experience.
Art can be therapeutic on a variety of levels, and a trained art therapist will help guide the process based on the needs of the client. Often, the art is a means of expression and communication, giving the client a way to share things through images, symbols, and colors that they did not know how to express verbally or were not consciously aware of. At other times, the process of making the art is the more important aspect as the client either finds the art process helpful for soothing and self-regulating. In addition, the art process can reveal patterns of behavior or mindset and then allow for a way to practice new ways of approaching things.
In my practice, I will often offer art therapy to clients as a treatment approach; however, it is up to the needs and preferences of each client how much art-making will be done in therapy. Some clients will appreciate making art in every session, some will enjoy occasional art therapy activities, and some clients will prefer primarily talk therapy.
Who can benefit from Art Therapy?
Anyone can benefit from art therapy, especially people who may not be able to fully express themselves through words. Both children and adults often do not have the words to completely explain their thoughts and feelings, so art provides another means of exploration, communication, and healing. In addition, the art process is able to access parts of the brain that are not available through verbal communication, which is especially helpful in trauma healing.
Do you have to be good at art for Art Therapy?
You do not have to be good at art in order to participate in and benefit from art therapy. Art therapy does not focus on how good the product is. The creative process and the chance to express oneself through art are the most important parts of art therapy.
Whether in therapy or at home, making art has been shown to be calming (actually lowering stress hormones) for anyone, regardless of their experience or ability level.