Frequently Asked Questions

F.A.Q.

What is Art Therapy?

Do I need to have artistic ability or be creative to benefit from Art Therapy?

How does Art Therapy help?

Who does Art Therapy help?

Who are Art Psychotherapists?

Where can I find an Art Psychotherapist?

What can I expect when I see an Art Psychotherapist?

How does Art Therapy help children?

WHAT IS ART THERAPY?

Art Therapy is a creative and therapeutic process which uses art materials, images and client responses to the artwork in the presence of a trained Art Psychotherapist. See also About Art Therapy

DO I NEED TO HAVE ARTISTIC ABILITY OR BE CREATIVE?

It is not necessary to be artistic or creative to benefit from Art Therapy. Everyone from very small children to the aged and dying can benefit from Art Therapy without ever having drawn or painted or modelled in clay. Art Therapy is another way of communicating, and any mark on paper, shape or form is communicating something, even without the use of words.

HOW DOES ART THERAPY HELP?

A common concern for clients who work with an Art Psychotherapist is how they can better understand and manage disturbing emotions such as sadness, grief, rage and anger. Within the safety of the therapeutic environment and the relationship with the Art Psychotherapist, clients can release emotions of varying intensities either verbally, though image making or both. This release of emotional energy allows both the client and the psychotherapist to gain a better appreciation and understanding of the emotion and it is then possible to find ways to better manage these disturbing emotions.

For example, children who might display their anger inappropriately are able to express their anger, rage, hostility, depression or rejection through art. And they can do it in a way that doesn’t harm anyone physically or emotionally. Through art, children have an opportunity to re-create past events, enact present conflicts, create scenarios of future events, worries or possibilities and master their feelings. This may lead to becoming more confident and resilient, and to feeling more in control of their world.

Art Therapy:

  • Helps to express feelings difficult to discuss
  • Develops healthy coping skills and focus
  • Stimulates imagination and creativity
  • Increases self esteem and confidence
  • Increases communication skills
  • Reconciles emotional conflicts
  • Clarifies issues and concerns
  • Helps modify behavior
  • Fosters self-awareness
  • Develops social skills
  • Fosters joy and fun

WHO DOES ART THERAPY HELP?

Art Therapy is for people of all ages and can help in a large range of situations and difficulties. Art Therapy can help those who are seeking personal growth or who may be struggling with experiences such as bereavement, death and dying, trauma, abuse, self harm, separation, addiction or substance misuse, emotional and/ or physical challenges and mental illness.

Art Therapy is used with individuals, families or groups across a wide range of settings. Clients may be seen individually or with family members or significant others; as part of a work, community or other group; in settings that include educational, mental health, rehabilitation or community programs; in wellness centres, schools, nursing homes, corporate structures, open studios and independent practices. Art Therapy is even used by Art Psychotherapists for self-therapy and individual or peer group supervision!

WHO ARE ART PSYCHOTHERAPISTS?

Art psychotherapists are professionals trained at a Masters level in Art Therapy. They usually have a strong background in both art and therapy or counselling. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art.

Many art psychotherapists try to maintain their own creative and expressive practice, which may include the visual or performing arts or other creative pursuits.

Art Psychotherapists work in a wide range of settings. These include clinical settings such as hospitals and medical clinics with diverse populations and also in non-clinical settings, such as in art studios holding workshops that focus on creative personal development.

WHERE CAN I FIND AN ART PSYCHOTHERAPIST?

A good way to find an Art Psychotherapist is to contact an Art Therapy organisation near where you live. In Australia and New Zealand, ANZATA is one of the professional bodies that will be able to give you contact details for an Art Psychotherapist in your area. http://www.anzata.org/

Another way to find someone in your area is to do an online search, stating your town or city in the search and the words ‘Art Therapy’ or ‘Art Psychotherapist’. This search may provide you with the names of psychologists and counsellors. Be sure to check if they are actually trained as Art Psychotherapists or are simply using art-based techniques as part of their therapeutic approach and calling it art therapy.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN I SEE AN ART PSYCHOTHERAPIST?

If you have especially chosen to work with an Art Psychotherapist, you will already possibly be prepared to be using some form of art or image making process. Naturally, different therapists work in different ways, and this will depend on the setting, whether the client is with a group, another person or alone and the presenting issue.

Generally a therapist will spend some time in the initial session explaining something of the process, introducing themselves and how they work and finding out what brought you to see them. The therapist may spend a little or a long time on your presenting issue. They may spend a little or a long time trying to get to know who you are before getting into the presenting issue. They may spend a little or a long time with words or images.

In whatever way the therapist works, they will endeavor to work along-side you, as your support through the process. They will expect you to tell them if you do not feel comfortable at any point of the process. They will not judge your image making in terms of ‘artistic’ quality, and will not interpret your imagery without hearing your thoughts and interpretations, or checking any ideas with you. The images you create are part of the communication process between you and the therapist, and perhaps also to yourself from yourself. The therapist will try to facilitate this communication and will treat the image with respect – as though it were another person in the room, with a voice of its own.

HOW DOES ART THERAPY HELP CHILDREN?

Seeing a counsellor or therapist, whether inside or outside of school can be daunting for some children, especially if they have not had trusting relationships with adults. Most children have had some experience of art-making and many find it enjoyable. When introduced in the therapeutic setting, the adult therapist is seen to enter into the child’s world and this can make the experience less threatening for the child. Communicating through pictures and imagery, or clay work or other construction processes gives children an opportunity to tell a story about themselves with the particular art medium they select. The process of doing the artwork slows children down and helps them to reflect more on what is going on (Liebmann, 2007) and gives them an opportunity to practice problem-solving and talk about their feelings (Rozum, 2001). Making art in a therapeutic relationship like this helps a child to learn, maybe for the first time, that it is possible to engage in a playful process with an adult (Waller, 2006).

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