Art Therapy

What even is art therapy? Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through painting, drawing, or modelling, used as a remedial or diagnostic activity. Art therapists work with a variety of different people of all ages and focus on emotional, behavioural or mental problems. It can be individual or group therapy.

Art therapy can focus either on the process of making art or on analysing the outcome of it. As a mental health profession, art therapy is employed in many clinical and other settings with diverse populations. Art therapy can also be found in non-clinical settings, as well as in art studios and in creativity development workshops. Closely related in practice to marriage and family therapists and mental health counsellors, U.S. art therapists are licensed under various titles, depending upon their individual qualifications and the type of licenses available in a given state. Art therapists may hold licenses as art therapists, creative arts therapists, marriage and family therapists, counsellors of various types, psychologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, occupational therapists, or rehabilitation therapists. Art therapists may have received advanced degrees in art therapy or in a related field such as psychology in which case they would have to obtain post-master’s or post-doctorate certification as an art therapist. Art therapists work with populations of all ages and with a wide variety of disorders and diseases. Art therapists provide services to children, adolescents, and adults, whether as individuals, couples, families, or groups.

Using their evaluative and psychotherapy skills, art therapists choose materials and interventions appropriate to their clients’ needs and design sessions to achieve therapeutic goals and objectives. They use the creative process to help their clients increase insight, cope with stress, work through traumatic experiences, increase cognitive, memory and neurosensory abilities, improve interpersonal relationships and achieve greater self-fulfillment. The activities an art therapist chooses to do with clients depend on a variety of factors such as their mental state or age. Many art therapists draw upon images from resources such as ARAS (Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism) to incorporate historical art and symbols into their work with patients. Depending on the state, province, or country, the term “art therapist” may be reserved for those who are professionals trained in both art and therapy and hold a master or doctoral degree in art therapy or certification in art therapy obtained after a graduate degree in a related field. Other professionals, such as mental health counsellors, social workers, psychologists, and play therapists combine art therapy methods with basic psychotherapeutic modalities in their treatment. Therapists may better understand a client’s absorption of information after assessing elements of their artwork.

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