What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses the creative process as a tool for self-exploration. The artwork created during therapy acts like a container for memories, thoughts and feelings that may be too complex or confusing to put into words. These can then gradually be processed and transformed into a clearer narrative with the support of a therapist. Though the therapist may gently guide this process, the ownership of a person’s narrative remains in their hands at all times. For this reason, the therapist does not make interpretations about the artwork created but rather offers ideas aimed at helping the person reach their own conclusions.
While sometimes challenging, the therapeutic process can help a person identify what isn’t working in their life, such as areas that have become stuck in unhelpful patterns. This is the first step towards making changes that over time can lead a person closer to where they would like to be in their life. Changes might involve learning new coping strategies, improving relationships, building self-esteem, processing past traumas, developing a sense of identity, finding meaning or purpose, developing emotional resilience, or working to resolve inner conflicts. Everyone is different and the therapist provides a safe, supportive and confidential space for each person’s unique process of personal growth to unfold.
Who Benefits from Art Therapy?
Anyone can benefit from art therapy but people who feel less comfortable expressing themselves verbally may find it particularly beneficial. It is suitable for all ages and can help people struggling with serious mental health conditions as well as those with less severe difficulties. The duration of a course of art therapy is flexible and depends on each person’s situation.
Art therapy doesn’t require artistic ability or prior experience of art-making. The aim of art therapy isn’t to create accomplished artwork, but rather to use art-making as a visual language. As such, the artwork is valued for its power to express an internal mental state over its aesthetic quality. Many people find that this visual language comes naturally to them once they let go of any judgments they have about their art-making ability.