“What is Art Therapy?” is the most common question asked of those who are Art Therapists. It is often followed up with, “Is that when you fix paintings?” or “Do you talk to paintings?” I usually respond to these questions with a smile and say, “It is a form of counselling, but I get my clients to create works of art to help them express what they are going through.”
Art Therapy is an alternative to verbal (talking) therapy, which allows you to access your thoughts and feelings in a different way than verbal therapy would. This form of therapy deals with all of the same issues as conventional verbal therapies. It uses the creative process of art-making to improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people of all ages. What makes this therapy unique is that art provides many opportunities for insight, which creates more possibilities for healing and over-coming obstacles to personal growth. Like other forms of therapy or counselling, Art Therapy can help with your concerns and goals.
Art Therapy is most commonly thought to be only for children as it is similar to, and often associated with Play Therapy. Although it is true that Art Therapy is very successful with children, it is also extremely effective with people of all ages from all walks of life, as creating things is a universal activity. It is especially helpful for people who are not comfortable with verbal counselling, or those who have difficulty finding the words to express what they are going through. Art Therapy is used to help children, teens, adults, seniors, couples, families, and groups; it is beneficial to anyone!
Art Therapy can help with all of the same issues, goals, and concerns that you would take to any other type of counsellor. It is used to help with recognizing and managing emotions, monitoring moods and thoughts. Many Art Therapists treat those who are struggling with depression, stress, and anxiety. Art Therapy can help with life transition, family disputes, and relationship issues of all kinds. It helps with skill building, identity issues, and self-esteem. It is successful with dealing with violence, trauma, PTSD, abuse, and anger management. Art Therapy is used to help with loss, grief, illness, addiction. It can also help people to center themselves, and go through a process of self-discovery. Art Therapy gives voice to the issues in life that sometimes there are no words to express.
No! You don’t have to have a background in painting or drawing to participate in Art Therapy or for it to help you. It is designed to help promote healing and insight, not to create artistic masterpieces. The point of Art Therapy is to help you understand your emotional experiences through making art. Often people who have no experience in art benefit greatly from Art Therapy because they learn new skills and discover hidden talents.
Art Therapy uses multiple therapeutic techniques depending on the Therapist’s skill with the technique and your needs. Some of the techniques (to name a few) used by Art Therapists include; psychoanalysis, CBT, Person-centered Therapy, Solution-focused Therapy, Family Systems, Narrative Therapy, etc.
An Art Therapy session uses therapeutic art-making; where you would be asked to create art work combined with talking to the Therapist, during which the Therapist would employ one of the techniques mentioned above. In a session the Therapist could ask you to draw, paint, or sculpt something specific, or you may even be allowed to create whatever you feel like creating in the session. An Art Therapist might offer suggestions or themes based on what you came in for counselling about. Sometimes an Art Therapist may notice that their client is in emotional distress before the session and suggest an art direction that will help relieve them of that emotion, other times the Art Therapist will see these feelings arise during the session and suggest an art direction at the end of the session to maintain that particular emotion. The order in which creating a work of art and talking with the Therapist is flexible to allow for the most benefit to you and your needs.
Connect with Michelle Pennells HBA, DTATI; Art Therapist/Counsellor Bayridge Family Center