Art therapists are masters-level professionals who hold a degree in art therapy or a related field. They are skilled in applying various forms of art like drawing, painting and sculpting in order to assess and treat patients.
Art therapy uses the creative art-making process to improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals. The creative process involved in artistic expression helps people resolve conflicts, manage behavior, reduce stress, and increase self-esteem and self-awareness.
In art therapy, the focus is on the client’s inner experience—feelings, perceptions, and imagination. Clients are encouraged to develop their inner world of images, feelings, thoughts and ideas.
This type of therapy is effective at treating a wide range of serious clinical problems including, but not limited to:
- low self esteem
- Attention deficit disorder
- individual psychological problems
- child-parent problems
- adult schizophrenia
- affective (mood) disorders
- alcoholism and drug abuse
- children’s conduct disorders
- adolescent drug abuse
- autism spectrum disorder
- chronic physical illness in children
What does a typical art therapy session look like?
A supportive and collaborative therapeutic relationship allows the client to create and explore their inner most thoughts and feelings by externalizing them through the act of art making.
Psychosocial benefits of art making
Artwork provides visual evidence of the course of therapy and development over time. Artwork can be reviewed periodically with the client to facilitate reflection, insight and growth. The process of creating art enhances social skills by providing an opportunity for cooperation, respectful communication, taking turns, following directions, tolerating frustrations and making compromises. Problem-solving with the materials helps to develop creative faculties needed for problem-solving in life outside of the therapy room. Successful problem-solving contributes to improved self-esteem and feelings of self-efficacy. Additionally, art-making assists self-regulation by relieving anxiety and provides a method of non-verbal communication that helps to externalize emotions in healthy ways, offering the client a sense of privacy and control. Art-making provides the opportunity to work on one’s inner critic and develop an experience of inner satisfaction rather than external approval.
Drawings in Family Evaluations
The use of drawings in family therapy promotes the exploration of family dynamics. Graphic illustrations offer all family members the opportunity to portray the unique perspective of the family relationships. Family drawings create shared enjoyment, provide a sense of intimacy, increase verbal communication and assist the family to reestablish its sense of identity. The therapist’s role is to encourage spontaneous expression and facilitate discussion among all family members. Therapists can serve as role models by practicing positive communication surrounding the creative process or the drawings.
Introducing drawings into family sessions has four main purposes:
- assessing interpersonal dynamics and roles.
- comprehending hierarchy and boundaries within the family.
- viewing how members view themselves and the entire family.
- understanding how family members communicate, support and understand one another.
Using Drawings in Group Treatment
Group therapy is a powerful therapeutic technique for both prevention and intervention with clients who benefit from feedback from various sources. When a functioning group is formed, members gain strength through its support, insight and creativity. Group work provides a special means for individuals to share their inner experiences through visual images and interact with others who share similar issues on a different and very personal level. When drawings are added to group therapy, they can:
- Portray group dynamic,
- build group cohesion,
- provide alternative ways for expressing inner opinions to others
- make feelings and experiences readily observable to better understand and communicate them.
(Some of the information on this page is from the American Art Therapy Association’s website at www.arttherapy.org)