Art therapy involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art. With the guidance of a credentialed art therapist, clients can interpret the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which should lead to a better understanding of their feelings and behavior so they can move on to resolve deeper problems.
When It's Used
Art therapists work with individuals, couples, and groups in a variety of settings, including private counseling, hospitals, wellness centers, correctional institutions, senior centers, and other community settings.
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. The artwork can be used as a springboard for reawakening memories and telling stories that may reveal messages and beliefs from the unconscious mind.
Art therapy can help with many conditions and experiences, including:
- Emotion exploration
- Self-esteem problems
- Personality disorders
- Physical illnesses and disabilities
While art therapy is helpful for many people, the research is mixed; some studies have demonstrated its efficacy while others have found little benefit.
How It Works
Art therapy is 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 behaviors. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art 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. Art therapy integrates psychotherapy and some form of visual arts as a specific, stand-alone form of therapy, but it is also used in combination with other types of therapy.