Art Therapy is an interdisciplinary form of Psychotherapy.  Generally based on psychoanalytical or psychodynamic principles, art therapists are able to utilize theoretical frameworks in which they feel comfortable to work.  Other modes of working include Jungian, humanistic, behavioral, systemic and integrative approaches.

How Art Therapy Works.

The practice of Art Therapy works across health and medical fields and may incorporate clients’ use of various visual art forms such as drawing, painting, sculpture and collage.  Some art therapists also offer phototherapy, play and sand tray.

Art therapy is a therapeutic and diagnostic tool where therapist and client’s develop a dynamic interpersonal relationship, with clear boundaries and goals.  It differs from traditional art in that the emphasis is on the process of creating rather than the end product.

Art therapy is a creative process, suitable for all ages, and particular for those who may be experiencing life changes, trauma, illnesses or disabilities causing distress for the individual and their family.

Art therapy works by contributing to changes in the clients’ inner world, and towards the development of a clinets more interrelated sense of self, with increased self-awareness and acceptance. 

The Advantages

The advantage of art therapy is that even though children and adults are not always able to verbalize what is happening for them or how they feel, interaction in art therapy may be totally non-verbal until there is confidence to communicate verbally.  The art helps hold that quite space.  Alternatively there are those who may over-verbalize, blocking feelings and thoughts which need expression; here interaction may be totally verbal until there is courage to mark a black piece of paper, work with, make a mask, or create an artwork.  In other words, art contributes to a fine balance within the relationship attending to more aspects of a personality that would otherwise be accessible.

The Artwork

The artwork (or absence of) in each session is a confidential record showing patterns of feelings, thoughts and behaviors.  While the therapist and client work together to understand the product of each session, this product must be seen as a reflection of the meaning for that person, through their own discovery.

The art therapist provides a safe, non-threatening space and invites the individual (or group) to explore their issues by using whatever variety of media he or she feels is appropriate and comfortable during the session.  Art therapists have specialized training that reflects their interdisciplinary practice ad prepares them to provide such a space.

Some art therapists have a first degree in fields such as Visual arts, Psychology, Psychiatry, Nursing, Social Work, Occupational Therapy or Education.  Many have some Certificates of Diplomas in such areas as Mental Health, Dug and Alcohol, Counseling, Gerontology, Family Therapy, and Child Psychotherapy, for example.  Most will have a Masters Degree in Art Therapy from a course in Australia or an overseas Masters or Postgraduate Diploma.

The Art Therapist in the Workplace

Art therapists currently work in public and private agencies with other allied health professionals and in multi -disciplinary teams.  For example: public and private psychiatric hospitals, prisons, family welfare agencies, nursing homes, rehabilitation centre’s, drug and alcohol units, women’s health centre’s and community health centers.  They also work in private practices.

How does Art Therapy Help?

  • Ability to express feelings to difficult to discuss
  • Stimulates imagination and creativity
  • Develops health coping skill and focus
  • Increases self esteem and self confidence
  • Clarifies issues and concerns
  • Increases communication skills
  • Ability to share a nurturing environment
  • Assists the development of motor skills and co-ordination
  • Ability to identify feelings and blocks to emotional expression and personal growth.