Art Therapy What Is It?

Art therapy is a therapeutic technique that incorporates various forms of visual arts (including drawing, painting, sculpture, and related techniques) as a means of communicating. Art therapy is designed to help individuals who have been struggling with addiction, trauma, depression, grief, or other types of physical, mental, or emotional challenges.

One general definition, provided by the Art Therapy Blog, is that “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.”

By using pencils, paints, clay, or various other media, art therapy patients are able to express emotions without having to put these feelings into words.  The British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) indicates that art therapy offers unique insights due to the nature of its “three way process between the client, the therapist and the image or artifact.”

Art therapy may be conducted in individual and group settings.

What are the Benefits of Art Therapy?

Art therapy offers a number of benefits to individuals who are being treated for a variety of issues and conditions.

First, as indicated above, art therapy provides patients with the opportunity to address issues or express themselves in ways that transcend spoken or written language. Significant emotional experiences such as addiction recovery and trauma recovery are likely to prompt feelings or memories that cannot easily be put into words. Art therapy resolves this by providing a unique means of expression.

Also, the act of creating visual images is a right-brain activity. The right brain is the part of the brain where visual memories are stored, as well as the area of the brain that is relied upon the most prior to the development of a person’s ability to use spoken language.

A third benefit is that art therapy takes both therapist and client out of the “traditional” therapeutic environment of one-on-one or group discussions. This change may free the patient up to identify and address issues that he or she was too guarded or hesitant to address in the course of traditional individual or group therapy.

What Conditions/Disorders Does Art Therapy Treat?

Art therapy can be beneficial in a wide range of cases, including addition recovery, trauma recovery, grief/loss treatment, sex addition recovery, compulsive gambling recovery, and treatment for mental and emotional challenges such as depression, panic, and anxiety.