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What is Art Therapy?

Art Therapy is a means of visually discovering oneself. It involves the use of various art making mediums, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking and collage to explore life experiences. A natural series of changes occur during the art making process and again when reflecting on completed artworks. Art Therapy can assist clients to find meaning and insight, additionally it acts as a powerful method of communicating past and present feelings, thoughts and behaviours. It can provide hope and motivation as images have the potential to open, relay and recreate an individual's story. 

Art therapy is when a person is interested and willing to utilize creative methods to explore, discover, highlight and bring to life experiences, concerns and unrest. The art work itself can hold remarkable and distinctive messages. It is a powerful means of discovering oneself; one that can unfold and illuminate inner strengths and resources. Art Therapy is the active and creative involvement of the process of change and healing.


Here are three diverse quotes from art therapy specialists and authors I have turned to for knowledge and inspiration:-


'I have consistently discovered that the core process of healing through art involves the cultivation of the creative spirit. If we can liberate the creative process in our lives, it will always find the way to whatever needs attention and transformation' (McNiff, 2004, p.5).


'While words are inadequate for all of us in trying to express certain ideas and feelings, for some people words are less easily available, and for others they often get in the way' (Rubin, 2005, p.10).


'Art is a way of knowing what it is we actually believe...I learned that image making was a way to get at feelings and a means to sort through the facts and fiction of my life' (Allen, 1995, p. 9).


Are you curious to know what images are insider you and your potential clients, waiting to be created, to offer and communicate messages of change, hope and new life?


Australian and New Zealand Art Therapy association (ANZATA)

About Arts Therapy

The arts therapies are a form of psychotherapy utilising creative modalities, including visual art-making, drama, and dance/movement, within a therapeutic relationship to improve and inform physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Art therapists have been trained to work therapeutically using the visual arts, including drawing, painting, and sculpture.

Arts therapies are traditionally based on psychoanalytic or psychodynamic principles, and most art and arts therapists utilise varied practice-based and evidence-based theoretical frameworks in their work. These traditions include depth analytic, humanistic, behavioural, systemic, and integrative approaches.

Arts therapies can be practiced with individuals as well as groups.

Arts therapies differ from traditional art-making or performance in that the emphasis is on the process of creating and meaning-making, rather than on the end product.

The therapist and client/s develop an interpersonal relationship through the arts process, with clear boundaries and shared intentions.

American Art Therapy Association (AATA)

What is Art Therapy?


Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. A goal in art therapy is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being. Art therapy practice requires knowledge of visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and other art forms) and the creative process, as well as of human development, psychological, and counseling theories and techniques.

Today art therapy is widely practiced in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. During individual and/or group sessions art therapists elicit their clients’ inherent capacity for art making to enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Research supports the use of art therapy within a professional relationship for the therapeutic benefits gained through artistic self- expression and reflection for individuals who experience illness, trauma, and mental health problems and those seeking personal growth.


Allen, P. (1995). Art is a way of knowing. Boston: Shambhala.


McNiff, S. (2004). Art heals. Boston: Shambhala.


Rubin, J. A. (2005). Artful therapy. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

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