What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is a natural way of combining the creative art making process and psychological therapy that can be used in a  range of ways. It can be used to explore   specific problems such as loss,anxiety or depression and also  to help with personal development and  maximise health and well being. 

Isn't this just an art class?

A common misconception about art therapy is that it is the same as an art class.  In an art class the teacher will usually help the student learn techniques and the emphasis will usually be on producing something that’s “good” and on the student “learning and improving” their skills. In an art therapy session the focus will be on using art materials in a way that best supports the person’s health and well-being.  Often the art that is made isn’t shown to others and usually it is not about the art looking “good” but more about using art materials and imagery to help the client look at their life and explore difficult areas. 

Why does art therapy work?

As children we use visual language (drawing) before we use verbal language, it is a natural way of expression or connecting with others and of investigation. Many of us lose this ability to communicate through visual language as we become adults and art is seen as something that is done by artists or experts and seen in the gallery. As adults, our images are criticised and judged and not seen as a way of communicating and expressing ourselves and our feelings. Art therapy is very much about putting our image making capacity back under our own control and using it as we were meant to do as a natural form of expression. It is not about producing good art, although you may like your image. 

Why art therapy?

Sometimes people can find things difficult to talk about. They may not have the words or the thing they want to talk about may be unspeakable. Sometimes talking about things just seems to make matters worse. A crucial advantage of art therapy over conventional therapies is that it allows people to explore difficult topics without having to use words. 

For more informatin, have a look at these pages on the website of the British Association of Art Therapists. Thy also have some great videos of what clients say about how art therapy has helped them.