Art therapy is a type of therapeutic technique that involves a combination of talking and the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, sculpting, collage, and coloring to help people express themselves artistically and develop psychological awareness and healing. It is rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and mental well-being.
Art therapy can be used to treat a wide range of mental disorders and psychological distress. In many cases, it might be used in conjunction with other psychotherapy techniques such as group therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
As an expressive medium, art can be used to help clients communicate, overcome stress, and explore different aspects of their own personalities. It is used with children, adults and the elderly to improve self-esteem, explore emotions, resolve trauma, manage addiction, relieve stress, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and cope with difficult transitions.
People have been using the arts as a way to express, communicate, and heal for thousands of years. However, art therapy only began to formalize during the middle of the 20th-century when doctors noted that individuals suffering from mental illness often expressed themselves in drawings and other artworks. It was then explored as a potential healing strategy and since then has become an important part of the therapeutic field.
No artistic talent is required to participate in art therapy. This is because the therapy is not about the artistic value of the created works. Instead, it is about finding connections between the creative choices made while making the art and what this reflects about the client’s inner life.
Just like with other forms of therapy, an evaluation is completed in the first session that includes talking about the issues that the client is struggling with, then a treatment plan is created to make appropriate, client-centered goals. The treatment will then usually consist of a combination of talk therapy and the use of art making. One can use artistic materials to explore a wide range of personal issues. Once the client begins to create art, the therapist will simply observe the work. When the piece is finished- and sometimes when it is still in process- the therapist will ask the client about the art making process, inquiring about details regarding the clients present emotions, memories that may have been brought forth, and how they feel reflecting on the art. Generally, the therapist will ask about your experience and feelings before providing any observations. Also, because art therapiy provides another form of communication outside the verbal realm, sometimes discussing the art in detail is not necessary. Instead, personal transformation can occur simply by sharing the art with a non-judgmental and supportive guide. Each week, the art should be shifting from depictions representing the struggles and difficulties to images that represent healing and growth.
Art therapy can be used to address the following issues:
- Chronic health conditions
- End of Life/ Hospice work
- Emotional Expression
- Existential Problems
- Planning for the Future
- Self Esteem
- Self Harm
- Sexual Orientation
- Social Anxiety