What Is Art Therapy?
Most forms of therapy are centered on verbal communication. Art therapy, however, breaks that mold and introduces a more creative means of both communicating ideas and learning to grow. The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as:
Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. (AATA, 2013)
Through the use of different art media, art therapy allows for creative expression and self-discovery. It is a therapeutic, healing process, unique to any other in its field. Art therapy is not limited to drawing, sketching, or painting, but can include sand tray, clay sculpting, dance therapy, theater performance, puppet shows, music therapy, photography, and much more. It opens the doors to a multitude of new processes and ways of expression and self-discovery that one may have never before considered.
The most common misconception about art therapy is that the client must have some type of artistic ability or inclination. However, self-exploration through artistic expression can be beneficial to all, no matter what the individual’s level of artistic ability. Many people greatly benefit from the use art therapy. It is used in private practice, where is provides insight-oriented long-term therapy. Or, it may be put into practice in crisis intervention, providing short-term relieve. Art therapy is also used as a, “life review” (Wadeson, 1980), which is extremely beneficial in nursing homes for the elderly, along with drug and alcohol addiction centers, with those struggling with addiction. However, art therapy is typically the most in psychiatric wards, either individually or in groups. It is currently emerging is family art therapy, and used a lot in the education system, focusing on children who are learning disabled, mentally challenged, emotionally disturbed, socially disadvantaged. According to the AATA, art therapy is practiced in mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational, forensic, wellness, private practice and community settings. Within these settings, art therapy can be applied to an extremely diverse client population in individual, couples, family, and group therapy formats. Art therapy is an effective treatment for people experiencing developmental, medical, educational, and social or psychological impairment. Other individuals who benefit from art therapy include those who have survived trauma resulting from combat, abuse, and natural disaster, along with individuals who have adverse physical health conditions such as cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other health...