Art Therapy

Beautiful piece by Steve Johnson can be beneficial in art therapy sessions.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that combines the creative process of making art with principles of psychology. There is a scientific foundation for the therapeutic benefits of art-making. The creative process in art-making can activate various parts of the brain and help regulate emotions and behaviors. Art therapy can be a meaningful approach to improving people’s mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) says “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 and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.” You can read AATA’s full definition here.

What does an Art Therapist do?

An art therapist facilitates a supportive environment for people to safely explore and express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences through art-making. An art therapist is trained in both art and psychology, and uses their knowledge and skills to guide the client through the creative and therapeutic processes.

Here are some things an art therapist may do in session:

  • Assess your needs and goals for therapy, as well as, your access to supplies and experience with creativity

  • Develop a treatment plan specific to your individual needs and goals (this may be a particular art project or activity that addresses those needs and goals)

  • Provide guidance and support as you engage in art-making

  • Facilitate the exploration and expression of emotions, thoughts, and experiences through creativity

  • Help you gain self-awareness and insight through art-making

  • Offer support and curious feedback as you reflect on your artwork and experiences during the session

  • Help you develop new coping skills and strategies to manage your issues through art-making and creativity

In practice, art therapy can look like anything from:

  • Keeping our hands busy while we talk–such as squishing clay, knitting, or coloring to help us stay grounded and focused

  • Using metaphoric language to reflect on issues and find creative solutions

  • Utilizing a prompt to explore current issues, needs, and goals through art-making

  • Building upon one art project each week that addresses your specific needs and goals

  • Engaging in guided visualization or meditation exercises

I work collaboratively with you to create a safe and non-judgmental environment to express emotions and experiences through the art-making process. My role as an art therapist is to provide guidance and support throughout this process, while empowering you to actively create meaning, honor your healing, and shape your own growth.

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Who can Benefit from Art Therapy?

Art therapy can be effective for a wide range of people who are struggling with various mental and emotional challenges. This includes children, adolescents/teens, adults, and older-adults who may be dealing with:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Trauma / PTSD

  • Grief or Loss

  • Relationship issues

  • Identity issues

  • Sexual issues

  • Somatic issues

Art therapy can also be helpful for people who:

  • Have difficulty expressing themselves through words

  • Have developmental or cognitive disabilities, or neurodivergence (such as Autism, Dementia, or ADHD)

  • Are coping with chronic pain or a significant medical diagnosis

  • Do / Do Not identify as an “artist” or a “creative person”

  • Do / Do Not have prior experience or skills

An art therapist is trained to adapt the creative process to your unique needs and abilities, as well as facilitate a non-judgemental, supportive space to help you best explore and express yourself.

Ultimately, art therapy can be beneficial to anyone who is looking to explore their inner worlds, gain self-awareness, build new skills, and improve their mental, emotional, and/or spiritual wellness through the creative process of art-making.

"Art speaks where words are unable to explain."

Pam Holland