Art Therapy – A Creative Approach To Change

Art therapy is a healthcare profession that uses artistic creation as a tool to facilitate the expression and resolution of emotions and emotional or psychological conflicts. Art therapy is practised in individual sessions or in small groups under the guidance of an art therapist. 

Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to describe your emotions or how you are feeling.

Art has the potential to heal. The artmaking process and creative therapies can be a reparative and a holistic approach for people to develop new ways of being and relating, while gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of yourself, and building on self-empowerment.

Art therapy may also be used to support or as a precursor to talking therapies, as it may be easier to express yourself visually before verbally. Art therapy combines visual art and psychotherapy in a creative process using the created image as a foundation for self-exploration and understanding. Thoughts and feelings often reach expression in images rather than in words. Through the use of art therapy, feelings and inner conflicts can be projected into visual form. In the creative act, conflict is re-experienced, resolved and integrated.

Art therapy is a profession with more than 70 years of history that fits within the care professions. Art therapy is practised following a strict methodology and under a defined therapeutic framework or setting. This therapeutic framework and the aforementioned methodology are mainly based on the theory of art therapy, analytic group psychotherapy, dynamic psychotherapies and contemporary art theory.

Art therapy is for everyone. It can be used with anyone of any age as long as there is the willingness in the person to start therapy in which they will be encouraged to undertake an artistic process.

The use of art media enables self-exploration and the expression of emotions in a non-verbal way. This non-verbal approach is particularly helpful for people who feel uncomfortable with more traditional “talking” therapies. 

The advantages of art therapy/art psychotherapy are that clients can be encouraged to:  

  • express feelings a client may find difficult to verbalise

  • explore their imagination and creativity

  • develop healthy coping skills and focus

  • improve self-esteem and confidence

  • identify and clarify issues and concerns

  • increase communication skills

  • share in a safe nurturing environment

  • identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth

The psychological value of art therapy explores how past relationships and experiences affect an individual’s current circumstances. In order for this to be facilitated, a trusting relationship is built between therapist and client, and “art making” provides a form of expression so that personal development or growth can occur in a safe and supportive environment.

Written by Eden O. Shoro  2018

Art Psychotherapist MA, HCPC, BAAT

Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash