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Art Therapy

three teenage girls of different races sitting in a living room doing homework

A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. For art therapists, this is often true. “Art therapy asks you to explore your inner experience, your feelings, perceptions and imagination,” says art therapist Cathy Malchiodi. Through the use of creativity and art media, art therapy provides clients the opportunity to express inner thoughts and feelings, increase self-awareness, heal from trauma, manage negative behaviors and addictions, improve social skills, and increase self-esteem.

One of the goals goal of art therapy is to improve an individual’s functioning and overall well-being. Art therapists use their knowledge of drawing, painting, sculpture and other forms of art to help clients tap into their creative processes and experience personal growth. Art therapy comprises more than just drawing or painting; art therapists also help their clients use their art and creativity to talk about their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

3 Important Facts

  • Art therapy is used in many settings including hospitals, schools, senior communities, psychiatric facilities, crisis centers, private practice and community settings.
  • Art therapists must possess knowledge of art, the creative process, human development, psychological theories, and counseling methods and techniques. Because of this, art therapists must complete graduate-level education and become certified.
  • Art therapy was recognized as a distinct form of psychotherapy in the 1940s.

Signs to Look For

Anyone suffering from physical or mental illness can benefit from art therapy. Art therapists work with people who have autism or other developmental impairments, brain injuries, chronic illness, or dementia. They also help people with depression, anxiety, survivors of trauma or abuse, eating disorders, and other mental or emotional disturbances.

What Are My Next Steps?

To discuss art therapy techniques and treatment processes, speak with a certified art therapist.

Common Questions and Answers About Art Therapy

How do I find a certified art therapist?

You can find an art therapist through Find-a-Therapist or the American Art Therapy Association’s Art Therapist Locator.

How effective is art therapy?

Art therapy can be very effective for treating physical, emotional, psychological, developmental, or social impairments. There is some research indicating that art therapy may be especially effective for treating eating disorders.

What is a typical art therapy session like?

Art therapists choose mediums and materials appropriate for the individual client. Then, the client is encouraged to explore their “inner world” through the use of the art materials. This includes expressing thoughts, feelings and experiences. Afterward, the art therapist and the client will find insight and meaning from the client’s created artwork. Art therapy can vary from person to person and in different settings or situations.

Where can I learn more about art therapy?

The American Art Therapy Association has excellent resources on art therapy uses, techniques, research, and more.