What is Art Therapy?

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 Definition

Definition: Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.

You don’t need to be talented or an artist to receive the benefits, and there are professionals that can work with you to dive into the underlying messages communicated through your art, which will aid in the healing process.

Art therapy can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counseling by therapists, healing, treatment, rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and in the broad sense of the term, it can be used to massage one’s inner-self in a way that may provide the individual with a deeper understanding of him or herself.

Additional Definitions of Art Therapy

Art therapy, sometimes called creative arts therapy or expressive arts therapy, encourages people to express and understand emotions through artistic expression and through the creative process. From The Free Dictionary

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, chalk and markers. Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process, especially the affective properties of the different art materials. From Wikipedia

Art therapy involves the creation of art in order to increase awareness of self and others. This in turn may promote personal development, increase coping skills, and enhance cognitive function. It is based on personality theories, human development, psychology, family systems, and art education. Art therapists are trained in both art and psychological therapy. From The New Medicine

And from the AATA, the definition of the profession:
Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.

Who Can Use Art Therapy?

For the most part, anyone can use art therapy. In a world where there is a multitude of ways to communicate and express one’s self, expressive arts therapy is yet another. One of the major differences between art therapy and other forms of communication is that most other forms of communication elicit the use of words or language as a means of communication. Often times, humans are incapable of expressing themselves within this limited range.

One of the beauties of art as therapy is the ability for a person to express his/her feelings through any form of art. Though there are other types of expressive therapies (such as the performing arts), expressive art therapy as discussed here typically utilizes more traditional forms of art…such as painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, or a variety of other types of visual art expression.

What Does an Art Therapist Do?

Art therapists are trained in both therapy and art, and have studied and mastered both psychology and human development, having received a Master’s Degree. There are various requirements for becoming an art therapist as well as certifications which means they are masters when it comes to using art as a springboard for everything from a general assessment of another person’s state to treatment for aiding serious illness. Art therapists can work with people of all ages, sex, creed, et al. They can help an individual, a couple, a family, or groups of people and depending on the situation, there may be numerous therapists working together as a clinical team.

Art therapists are trained to pick up on nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are often expressed through art and the creative process, concepts that are usually difficult to express with words. It is through this process that the individual really begins to see the effects of art therapy and the discoveries that can be made.

Why Would I Use Art Therapy?

As with most any therapy, art as therapy is generally used as a treatment for something – usually as a way to improve one’s emotional state or mental well-being. Expressive arts therapy doesn’t have to be used only as a treatment though. It can be used to relieve stress or tension, or it can be used as a mode of self-discovery. Many people can stand to use some sort of creative outlet.

Do You Need to be Talented?

Absolutely not. And you need not be “afraid” of expressing yourself through art. Though it may seem different and unnatural at first, it is typically because the individual is not used to communicating via the arts. The creative process can be one of the most rewarding aspects. Coupled with an art therapist, you should gradually, if not immediately, feel comfortable with this newfound form of expression. After all, the goal is not necessarily to create an art masterpiece.

Art: A Wonderful Form of Therapy

Expressive art therapy is the use of creative arts as a form of therapy and is a fantastic field that has proven to work wonders in many people’s lives. It can help someone express themselves, explore their emotions, manage addictions, and improve their self-esteem. It really helps children with developmental disabilities, however; art therapy is awesome because it can help anyone!

Have you ever noticed how much music, or doing an activity like drawing relaxes you after a long day? That is because it is very therapeutic. If you see a professional art therapist, they can help you interpret the feelings that pour into your design, and even help work through and resolve problems. Studies have also proven that colouring, even as an adult, has tremendous benefits. Unfortunately, colouring, drawing, painting, and playing music is very taboo in the adult world. Break away from that social expectation, and see how freeing it is to let your creativity flow.

Music, art, and dance are the main expressions for this variety of therapy. Music therapy can be a mix of playing instruments, listening to music, and singing. Dance therapy utilizes dance and movement. It makes sense that it is so effective–lots of endorphins are released into your body when you shake it! Art therapy can be a mixture of drawing, colouring, painting, sculpting and pretty much everything else you can think of that is artistic. These are all things people love to do as hobbies, so why not use it to better yourself and show yourself some love?

Besides helping someone better their emotional being, art therapy is great for many other things. It can help general illness. Art is a fabulous escape from feeling icky. Art therapy can help someone who has a cancer diagnosis. Battling cancer takes both a very physical and emotional toll, and is even a struggle accepting the diagnosis. Art and dance are powerful expressions of these emotions, and can help relieve a lot of stress, anger, and sadness. Someone in need of therapy to have some relief after a disaster would also be an excellent candidate for artistic therapy.

There are so many uses and benefits to expressive arts therapies, that can help drastically improve people’s lives for a plethora of reasons. Even if you don’t need serious help, it can be a great way to release stress after a long work week. Art therapy is a growing field that is being more widely accepted, so it is also an opportunity as a career field! Be bold, be creative, and be expressive and give art therapy a try!

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