A Deeper Look into Art Therapy

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Photo: CC0, Pixabay User SailDancer, 2011

What is Art Therapy and Who is it for?

A common myth is that Art Therapy is set aside for kids or artists. Although these certainly are two categories of clients, it is open to everyone! Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy, which means it’s part of a larger field of creative and alternative therapies. In these sorts of therapies, the  creative process is utilized to help clients connect with themselves in order to solve issues they may be having such as high stress or low self-esteem. Art therapy can serve people in different ways and for various reasons, but most commonly to improve mental, emotional, and even physical well-being.

Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. American Art Therapy Association

What does an art therapy session look like? 

Due to our tendency to want everything we make or do to be perfect, we often dismiss our talents and write ourselves off as not being creative. However, in art therapy, the creative process and inner experience is more important than the final result, making it a welcoming practice to everyone. In a session, a client will spend more time on how he or she feels during the process of lets say painting something, rather than critiquing the final product.

Therapy sessions can be private or in groups, usually with one therapist leading the activities. By using art as a medium, it may be easier for clients to express themselves rather than  privately talking one-on-one with a therapist. There are many techniques and variations on how a session is conducted, such as active imagination by Carl Jung, gestalt methods and the “third-hand approach.” There isn’t one way to conduct art therapy as it is adaptable to clients needs and what the therapist sees as a best fit.

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