What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a means of utilizing art materials to allow thoughts and feelings to move as you dialogue with your inner canvas through lines, shapes, and colors giving image to what the experience feels and looks like in your body. The art allows you to capture a moment- a tactile representation of your thoughts, feelings, as well as further connect and reflect upon what is working, not working or perhaps missing in your life. The process of creating also allows for a cathartic experience, expelling built up stress, anger and/or grief.

As an art therapist I look further at the metaphors inherent in the art making process. For example, building a volcano out of clay and then using a variety of liquid watercolors placing drops of colors representing all the pent up thoughts and feelings percolating in ones body. Once the maker is finished they witness the volcano erupting as a symbolic experience of what happens when we bottle up emotions. The actual feelings of anger, sadness, and grief are emotions experienced by everyone, withholding these feelings and suppressing them can impact our physical and mental health, as well as relationships with others. Through the process of art therapy individuals may learn what different materials are capable of creating and how the creative process feels both physically and emotionally.

Art therapy is utilized with individuals, families and groups and can be explored with a variety of mediums to create paintings, drawings, sculptures, and collages amongst many other types of art.

Two main approaches to art therapy are utilized; art as therapy and art psychotherapy. Art as therapy allows the inherent therapeutic process of creating art to relieve an individual's suffering, where as art psychotherapy uses art to aid in the process of conventional talk therapy.

Art Therapy Groups

There are many benefits to art therapy group work. Groups are a beneficial way to instill hope in each of the members by providing them a space to feel a sense of support while relating with others through witnessing their stories of overcoming or solving problems. Art therapy groups also offer members an opportunity to interact and engage at their own comfort level regardless of verbal communication skills while sharing art surrounded by others who share similar problems, uncertainties, fears, thus helping to reduce feelings of isolation. Group work also provides individual members with a safe space to release and express feelings while contained in a supportive group helping to overcome traumatic experiences with verbal and non verbal interactions. Finally, group work can provide a sense of altruism where members heal through helping others as well as being helped personally by other group members.