What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy where part of the expression, dialogue and emotional processing takes place through the client’s art making and creative expressions in a relationship with an art therapist.
The Aim of Art Therapy
The aim of art therapy is to facilitate wellbeing, personal development, strength, creativity, balance, self-knowledge, confidence, social skills and positive life changes for the individual who receives treatment.
The art making in art therapy is spontaneous and free, and expresses the individual’s inner world in terms of emotions, thoughts and experiences. There are no requirements regarding the client’s prior experience or knowledge of art. Visual expression can in many cases work better than words for expressing complex emotions, thoughts and memories. An individual who is dealing with certain problems, emotions and thoughts can transfer these issues beyond him/herself and into the artwork, rendering the problem visible and tangible. This aspect of art making, along with the symbolic language that emerges in the process, offers the individual an opportunity to view issues and related emotions from a safe and manageable distance, which then allows the individual to more readily engage with and process sensitive emotions and life experiences. The artwork reflects the individual’s mental and emotional states, which increases his/her self-knowledge, overall balance and acceptance. Initiative, creativity and confidence increases when creativity is activated through the art-making process.
The Client/Therapist Relationship
The cornerstone of art therapy is the relationship between the client and the art therapist, coupled with the art-making process. The art therapist endeavours to build trust and reliability through listening, understanding and supporting the client while viewing the artwork, the underlying problem and other accompanying issues and placing them in a non-judgemental context. This process facilitates a sense of safety that allows the client to create a foundation of trust with the art therapist in order to be able to share emotions, thoughts, experiences, joys, successes, fears and fantasies. The therapeutic relationship promotes improved wellbeing, healthier relationships, social skills, self-knowledge, personal insight, contentment, balance and strength.
The Art Therapy Setting
The art therapist, who is bound to confidentiality, offers a safe and tranquil space for the client, who in turn commits to participate in therapy sessions over a specific period of time. To ensure that the client feels secure enough to process often complex and difficult emotions, the views and attitude of the art therapist are important, together with confidentiality, listening, provision of a safe space and regular therapy sessions over an agreed time period.