What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a specialized area of mental health that helps children, adolescents, and adults seek emotional, creative, and spiritual growth. Art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal processing alone—this process gives personal experiences a voice while simultaneously empowering the individual.
How It Works
Art therapy was founded on the belief that self-expression through artistic creation has therapeutic value for those who are healing or seeking a deeper understanding of themselves and their personalities. According to the American Art Therapy Association, therapists are trained to understand the roles that color, texture, and various art media can play in the therapeutic process and how these tools can help reveal one’s thoughts, feelings, and psychological disposition. By implementing techniques such as drawing, painting, coloring, or collage, clients are able to express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art. With the guidance of their therapist, clients can “decode” the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which usually lead to a better understanding of their own feelings and behavior so they can move on to resolve deeper issues. No artistic talent is necessary for art therapy to succeed, because the therapeutic process is not about the artistic value of the work, but rather about finding associations between the creative choices made and a client’s inner life.
Benefits of Art Therapy
What to Expect
As with any form of therapy, your first session will consist of discussing therapeutic goals with your therapist. Together, you will come up with a treatment plan that includes Art Therapy. Once you begin creating art, the therapist will, at times, simply observe your process as you work, without interference or judgment. When you have finished a piece of artwork—and sometimes while you are still working on it—the therapist will ask you questions along the lines of how you feel about the artistic process, what was easy or difficult about creating your artwork, and what thoughts or memories you may have had while you were working. Generally, the therapist will ask about your experience and feelings before providing any observations. What you choose to disclose will be up to you.