What is Art-Psychotherapy?

Art therapy combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration, growth and understanding. Using imagery, colour and shape as part of this therapeutic process, thoughts and feelings can be expressed more effortlessly and easily at times than using words. This means that art therapy offers a different mode of working in therapy than conventional talk therapies, and can yield much greater results. 

A colleague of mine explains it this way, “We are first and foremost, therapists, and art is the way in which we communicate”. While art-making, along with cooking and other creative hobbies are inherently therapeutic, Art-Therapy is different from that. This does not exclude non-artists from treatment, a participant doesn’t have to be an artist at all. 

Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship. 

Art-therapists have a psychology Masters-degree level of training and have professional training in psychotherapy and counselling techniques. They understand, on an intimate level, how different art materials and relationships affect us on a neurobiological level. 

While the practice is within the scope of and includes psychological practice, the essence of the technique is phenomenological rather than psychological. This means that an art-therapist focusses on helping to support you to find your own guidance, rather than providing authoritative explanations.

Art therapy, facilitated by a professional art therapist, effectively supports personal and relational treatment goals as well as community concerns. Art therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem, emotional and behavioural self-awareness and self-reflection, to cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, empathy, enhance social skills, foster secure attachment, self-knowledge, reduce trauma and resolve conflicts and distress as well as advancing societal and ecological change through facilitating psycho-emotional change.

Art therapists work in hospitals, prisons, schools, mental health organizations, in disaster relief settings and can work with many other treatment issues, concerns and population sub-groups. 

It is important to pick a therapist with who you feel a sense of connection and who is appropriately qualified.

(Source : American Art Therapy Association, Canadian Art Therapy Association, Kaleidoscope Art Therapy.com)

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