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. A...
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... to have courage, to be spontaneous. Further, as art therapists we accept the fragmented, the chaotic, the abortive, the incomplete” (Kramer, 2000). Art therapists encourage patients to participate in a therapeutic, creative process and as a result are able to open up different options for the individual and facilitate change in his or her life.
American Art Therapy Association. (2013). American Art Therapy Association. Retrieved from
Edwards, D. (2004). Art therapy. London: SAGE.
Kramer, E., & Gerity, L. A. (2000). Art as therapy: Collected papers. London: Jessica Kingsley.
Malchiodi, C. A. (2002). Handbook of art therapy. New York, NY: Guilford.
Naumburg, M. (1966). Dynamically Oriented Art Therapy: Its principles and practice,
New York, NY: Grune and Stratton.
Wadeson, H. (1980). Art psychotherapy. New York, NY: Wile.
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