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  • Jasmine Parker, MA, ATR

So what is Art Therapy anyway?


As an art therapist, I've been asked the question, "what is Art Therapy" many times. Usually, before I can give my well rehearsed answer, I receive their explanation disguised as a question; "so you analyze peoples art?", "you take people to museums to help them feel better?", or my favorite, "you paint pictures of your clients?" I've heard almost every guess that you can possibly think of. The reality is, unless a person has had personal experience with Art therapy, they most likely have no idea what it is.



Art therapy is a type of expressive therapy that utilizes the creative process of art making to improve physical. mental and emotional well-being. Art therapy encourages participants to express and understand emotions through artistic expression and the creative process. Art therapy uses art materials such as paint, markers, pencils, pens, collage materials, clay, and other art mediums. Experience with any of these art materials is not required to participate in Art therapy. Art therapy combines both traditional psychotherapy theory and techniques with knowledge of the therapeutic benefits of the creative process. Art therapy incorporates the creative process to create art that enhances self-awareness and awareness of others.


Art therapy is facilitated by professionally trained Art Therapist. Art therapist are professionals trained in both art and therapy. Art therapist are trained in human development, psychological theories, clinical, spiritual. multicultural and artistic practices. Art therapist are master's level clinicians, often trained in both art therapy and mental health counseling.

Art therapist are required to do post graduate studies under the supervision of trained and qualified Art therapy supervisors. Most Art therapist are either Registered Art Therapist or Board Certified Art Therapist governed by the American Art Therapy Association (www.arttherapy.org ) and the Art Therapy Credentialing Board (www.atcb.org).


Art therapist work in a variety of settings, with any and all populations. They work with people of any age, couples, families, groups and communities; provide services in mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, medical facilities, nursing homes, community programs, wellness centers, schools, corporations, in art studios and in private practice. No previous art experience is required, only a willingness to participate.


One main benefit to Art therapy is that it creates space for the individual to express their feelings non-verbally. Often, people struggle to find the words to accurately express themselves; art therapy allows for a non-traditional and non-threatening form of communication. Art therapy can help an individual express feelings and experiences that they may not have words to adequately describe. Art therapy helps to improve emotional states and overall well-being. Art therapy can help reduce stress and alleviate tension. It can help with personal insights and self-discovery.


Art therapy is very different then art-making. Art-making is definitely therapeutic and can be used by any and everyone, at any given time. However, this differs greatly from Art Therapy; first and foremost art therapy is facilitated by a trained art therapist. Art therapist rely heavily on the therapeutic relationship. Art therapist have a wide array of abilities that helps build the therapeutic relationship. Most Art therapist are compassionate and creative and will focus on building a caring and mutually respectful relationship with their clients. Art therapist are not art teachers, although basic knowledge of tools and material maybe explained, the focus is not placed on technique and product but on the process of the art making itself.


Art therapy is great for many things such as, dealing with difficult emotions, transitions, losses, medical illnesses, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, stress, sadness, relief after disasters and traumatic events, self-harm, identity, and general feelings related to imbalances in life.


There are many benefits and uses for Art therapy, that can improve one's life and well-being, whether you are dealing with a serious issue or just wanting to relieve some stress; Art therapy can be a great resource to use on your life journey. Art therapy is a growing field with great opportunities to significantly and positively improve the lives of many. If you are interested in trying out Art therapy, contact us for a free consultation and see if Art therapy is a great fit for you or your loved ones.



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