ART INFORMED THERAPY

Talking about our feelings can seem challenging when we are struggling, but words are not the only tools we have for communicating.

In Art informed therapy sessions, clients create art with a therapist, affording them the opportunity to process complex experiences, emotions, thoughts, and feelings without sole reliance on words.

Art informed therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapeutic intervention in which creating art provides the means for self-exploration. Effective interventions are based on research and theory from the fields of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, psychology and neuroscience. Therapists respond to the strengths and needs of the clients by integrating personal training in art and therapy with knowledge of visual symbolic expression and intervention methods.

Previous experience making art is not required, and the art works are not judged or graded, but remain a source for private contemplation within the context of a safe therapeutic space. Being "good at art" is not necessary to benefit from art therapy.

A whole range of art materials are provided, and, depending on the needs and goals of the individual client, the art therapist may provide direction with the art-making process, or the client may engage in more spontaneous, expressive work. Though art therapy integrates learning art techniques and skills, the emphasis is on having an opportunity to express one’s inner world of images, thoughts, feelings, memories, and ideas.

 

Exploring art materials also gives us a chance to play: we didn’t all have the opportunity to play enough as children (some of us didn’t get to play at all), and we sometimes forget that it is important to play as adults, to have time for ourselves and enjoy creating something for the pure joy of doing so, with no expectations. Art therapy allows you to explore your inner experience—your feelings, perceptions, and imagination. Once the art piece is complete, the art therapist and client can work together to explore the feelings that might arise or the particular meaning the artwork might hold for the client.

Art informed therapy uses art media and the creative process to aid in areas such as, but not limited to: fostering self-expression, create coping skills, manage stress, and strengthen sense of self. Art therapy has provided mental health treatment for clients who have experienced trauma, grief & loss, depression, major life change, chronic illness, and anxiety. The non-verbal and experiential character of making art is a relaxed way to access the often wordless and visual nature of traumatic memories in a safe and supportive space. The process of making art can help people grow, rehabilitate, and heal.

 

Studies about art therapy consistently include clients reporting beneficial effects, such as more relaxation, externalization of memories and emotions into art work, less intrusive thoughts of traumatic experiences and more confidence in the future. Art therapy helps clients cope with loss, illness, and trauma, while building self-esteem and self-awareness.

From the Canadian Art Therapy Association: “Art therapy combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration and understanding. Using imagery, colour and shape as part of this creative therapeutic process, thoughts and feelings can be expressed that would otherwise be difficult to articulate. “

From the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute:

“Art Therapy is a mental health profession that combines the process of creative art expression with models of counselling and psychotherapy to enhance emotional, physical, and mental health. Art Therapy provides the client with an opportunity to explore personal problems and potentials, resolve conflicts, and facilitate self-awareness and understanding, through the use of simple art materials. Art Therapy encourages the expression of emotions through a variety of artistic activities.”

 

Christine Trainor, 2022