Art Therapy is a therapeutic technique used by therapists, psychologists, and counselors to facilitate healing, insight, and change in their clients. Art therapy has its roots in psychoanalysis, which is a form of therapy that aims to facilitate insight and awareness. Instead of using talk therapy alone, art therapy utilizes the creative expression of a person in order to gain perspective on a client’s unconscious patterns. This form of therapy may be healing because of the insights and awareness a client experiences, because of the client-therapist relationship, or because of the creative expression itself. Art therapy is so effective that there are psychologists and therapists who specialize in this therapeutic modality. They are known as art therapists, who get trained and certified in using the creative process to facilitate healing.
How Art Therapy Heals
Art Therapy gives a person the opportunity to express their inner conflicts and frustrations in a new way. One’s creative expression is also a way to access the unconscious mind. According to experts in the field, the unconscious mind expresses itself mostly through images, symbols, dreams, and metaphor. Since art is made up of images, it can be an easy way to access one’s unconscious material. Talking out one’s concerns can also be therapeutic; yet at times, it can be necessary to reach for those deeply rooted patterns by accessing the inner images that might reveal those patterns. Of course, the process of making art also gives one the opportunity to express thoughts and feelings. In fact, both the process itself as well as the images that are created have a therapeutic effect.
Art therapy uses art media, the creative process, as well as the finished art piece for:
- exploring feelings
- reconciling emotional conflicts
- fostering self-awareness
- managing behavior
- developing social skill
- improving one’s orientation to reality or current life circumstances
- reducing anxiety
- increasing self esteem
In addition to the above, the primary goal of Art Therapy is to improve or restore a client’s level of functioning as well as improve upon a client’s sense of personal well being. This form of therapy is used worldwide in a variety of settings including rehabilitation centers, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, wellness centers, residential treatment centers, and other types of clinical settings.
Art Therapy Activities
Depending upon the needs of the client, a therapist might invite a client to freely create using a variety of creative methods (painting, dancing, writing, sculpting, etc.). However, there are many specific art-oriented activities that an art therapist might invite a client to participate in. These include:
- painting emotions
- creating an art journal
- making a mandala
- painting in the dark
- drawing in sand
- using one’s entire body to create something
- creating a collage
- drawing a visual autobiography
- painting your dream
- painting someone one has lost
- drawing a self-portrait
- working in a group art project simultaneously with others
Finding an Art Therapist
It is not always easy to find a therapist who is trained and certified in using the creative process as a means for healing. However, the American Art Therapy Association has an online searchable directory of art therapists. Furthermore, art therapists are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Only individuals registered with this agency can call themselves an art therapist. The HCPC may be another means to find an art therapist in your area.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a psychological concern, Art Therapy might be able to help.