What is Art Therapy? And how can it help the healing process?

Kambra Meyer is trained as an Art Therapist and is available for further questions about this therapeutic approach for your healing.

“The living image that results from the art process is the true teacher, leading the way towards greater personal understanding”, two of my teachers, Mimi Farelly-Hansen and Michael Franklin have explained beautifully.

I completely agree with these views of art therapy, and value both art as therapy and art psychotherapy as important to the therapeutic process. I choose not to psychoanalyze the marks made or colors chosen. I do, however, value holding a creative space where inner worlds can be given life. My intention is to help you find meaning and attribute your own symbolism to the process of artmaking and the very personal images that arise. I will help you interpret the messages from yourself to yourself, as articulated through a wide variety of art materials and applications. There is so much rich metaphor available, and information to access about oneself through the process. It is a joy for me to witness the journey, and to offer insight and expertise.

 

Art Therapist Cathy Malchiodi’s philosophy is simple and poignant – Art has the potential to transform lives and often in profound ways. When words are not enough, we turn to images and symbols to tell our stories. And in telling our stories through art, we can find a path to healing, recovery, and transformation”.

 

From Malchiodi’s ‘Art Therapy Sourcebook’: Although art therapists have generated many specific definitions of art therapy, most of them fall into one of two general categories. The first involves a belief in the inherent healing power of the creative process of art making. This view embraces the idea that the process of making art is therapeutic; this process is sometimes referred to as art as therapy. Art making is seen as an opportunity to express oneself imaginatively, authentically, and spontaneously, an experience that, over time, can lead to personal fulfillment, emotional reparation, and transformation.

 

manifest-counseling-artThe second definition of art therapy is based on the idea that art is a means of symbolic communication. This approach, often referred to as art psychotherapy, emphasizes the products–drawings, paintings, and other art expressions–as helpful in communicating issues, emotions, and conflicts. The art image becomes significant in enhancing verbal exchange between the person and the therapist and in achieving insight; resolving conflicts; solving problems; and formulating new perceptions that in turn lead to positive changes, growth, and healing. In reality, art as therapy and art psychotherapy are used together in varying degrees. In other words, both the idea that art making can be a healing process and that art products communicate information relevant to therapy are important.

 

A helpful website, ArtTherapyBlog.com offers the following FAQ section:

 

What is Art Therapy?

Definition: 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.

 

The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.

 

Anyone can use it, you don’t need to be talented or an artist, and there are professionals that can work with you and delve into the underlying messages communicated through art.

 

Art therapy can achieve different things for different people. It can be used for counseling by therapists, healing, treatment, rehabilitation, psychotherapy, and in the broad sense of the term, art therapy can be used to massage one’s inner-self in a way that may provide the individual with a deeper understanding of him or herself.

 

Who Can Use Art Therapy?

For the most part, anyone can use art therapy. In a world where there is a multitude of ways to communicate and express one’s self, expressive arts therapy is yet another. One of the major differences between art therapy and other forms of communication is that most other forms of communication elicit the use of words or language as a means of communication. Often times, humans are incapable of expressing themselves within this limited range.

 

One of the beauties of art as therapy is the ability for a person to express his/her feelings through any form of art. Though there are other types of expressive therapies (such as the performing arts), expressive art therapy as discussed here typically utilizes more traditional forms of art…such as painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, or a variety of other types of visual art expression.

 

Do You Need to be Talented?

Absolutely not. And you need not be “afraid” of expressing yourself through art. Though it may seem different and unnatural at first, it is typically because the individual is not used to communicating via the arts. The creative process can be one of the most rewarding aspects. Coupled with an art therapist, you should gradually, if not immediately, feel comfortable with this newfound form of expression. After all, the goal is not necessarily to create an art masterpiece.

 

Why Would I Use Art Therapy?

As with most any therapy, art as therapy is generally used as a treatment for something – usually as a way to improve one’s emotional state or mental well-being. Expressive arts therapy doesn’t have to be used only as a treatment though. It can be used to relieve stress or tension, or it can be used as a mode of self-discovery. Many people can stand to use some sort of creative outlet.

 

Professional Art Therapy and Art Therapists

Art therapists are trained in therapy and art. They have studied and mastered psychology and human development. Art therapists typically have a clinical practice of some sort. They are masters in this niche when it comes to using art as a springboard for everything from a general assessment of another person’s state to treatment for a serious illness. Art therapists can work with people of all ages, sex, creed, etc. They can help an individual, a couple, a family, or groups of people. Depending on the situation, there may be numerous art therapists working together as a clinical team.

 

Art therapists are trained to pick up on nonverbal symbols and metaphors that are often expressed through art and the creative process, concepts that are usually difficult to express with words. It is through this process that the individual really begins to see the effects of art therapy and the discoveries that can be made.

 

Additional Definitions of Art Therapy

Art therapy, sometimes called creative arts therapy or expressive arts therapy, encourages people to express and understand emotions through artistic expression and through the creative process. From The Free Dictionary

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, chalk and markers. Art therapy combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of the psychological aspects of the creative process, especially the affective properties of the different art materials. From Wikipedia

Art therapy involves the creation of art in order to increase awareness of self and others. This in turn may promote personal development, increase coping skills, and enhance cognitive function. It is based on personality theories, human development, psychology, family systems, and art education. Art therapists are trained in both art and psychological therapy. From The New Medicine

And from the AATA, the definition of the profession:
Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others, cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.
Art therapists are professionals trained in both art and therapy. They are knowledgeable about human development, psychological theories, clinical practice, spiritual, multicultural and artistic traditions, and the healing potential of art. They use art in treatment, assessment and research, and provide consultations to allied professionals. Art therapists work with people of all ages: individuals, couples, families, groups and communities. They provide services, individually and as part of clinical teams, in settings that include mental health, rehabilitation, medical and forensic institutions; community outreach programs; wellness centers; schools; nursing homes; corporate structures; open studios and independent practices.

Read more: www.arttherapyblog.com

 

The following are some helpful links for learning more about Art Therapy:

www.arttherapyblog.com
www.americanarttherapyassociation.org
www.cathymalchiodi.com
www.arttherapy.org
www.addictionandart.org

 

This information has been compiled by Kambra Meyer, LPC, LCAS, and Art Therapist for Manifest Counseling Collective.