What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is an integrative mental health profession that combines knowledge and understanding of human development and psychological theories and techniques with visual arts and the creative process to provide a unique approach for helping clients improve psychological health, cognitive abilities, and sensory-motor functions. Art therapists use art media, and often the verbal processing of produced imagery, to help people resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.
Art therapy has the unique ability to unlock emotional expression by facilitating non-verbal communication. This is especially useful in cases where traditional psychotherapy has been ineffectual. Art and art making are inherently perceptually and sensory based and involve the brain and the body in ways that verbal language does not. Art therapy provides an alternative means of communicating for those who cannot find the words to express anxiety, pain or emotions as a result of trauma, combat, physical abuse, loss of brain function, depression, and other debilitating health conditions.
Although use of visual imagery is the foundational tenet of art therapy, art therapists uniquely draw from multiple theoretical approaches in their understanding, design, and implementation of treatment. Art therapists understand the science of imagery and the therapeutic potentials of color, texture, and various art media and how these affect a wide range of potential clients and personalities. Rigorous clinical training in working with individuals, families, and groups prepare art therapists to make parallel assessments of clients’ general psychological disposition and how art as a process is likely to moderate conditions and corresponding behavior. Recognizing the ability of art and art-making to reveal thoughts and feelings, and knowledge and skill to safely manage the reactions they may evoke, are competencies that define art therapy as a profession. (American Art Therapy Association)